Youth climate trial showcases science

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Science  26 Oct 2018:
Vol. 362, Issue 6413, pp. 386-387
DOI: 10.1126/science.362.6413.386

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Next week, barring a last-minute intervention by the Supreme Court, climate change could go to trial for just the second time in U.S. history. In a federal courtroom in Eugene, Oregon, 21 young people are scheduled to face off against the U.S. government, which they accuse of endangering their future by promoting policies that have increased emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other planet warming gases. The plaintiffs aren't asking for monetary damages. Instead, they want federal District Judge Ann Aiken to take the unprecedented step of ordering federal agencies to dramatically reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. Government attorneys are not expected to challenge the scientific consensus that human activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, cause global warming. But the outcome could hinge, in part, on how Aiken weighs other technical issues. Each side has recruited a roster of high-profile scientists and economists, including Nobel laureates, to bolster their argument. "It's clearly going to be a battle of the experts," says Michael Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University, who is not involved in the case.