It’s Friday, September 4, and Portuguese youth activists are suing Europe for its role in climate change.

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Youth activists from Portugal filed the first-ever climate change lawsuit in the European court of human rights this week, demanding that 33 European countries take bigger steps to curb climate change. The plaintiffs allege that by failing to drastically cut emissions, governments are discriminating against young people and violating their physical and psychological well-being. The crowdfunded lawsuit, filed by four children and two young adults, is the latest of more than 1,300 climate-related lawsuits filed worldwide since 1990.

This case is distinct from previous climate lawsuits due to the scale of the potential ruling. Gerry Liston, a legal officer from Global Legal Action Network, a nonprofit supporting the case, told the Guardian, “This is the most countries ever taken to a regional court in a climate change case. If we win, it will have a very significant effect throughout Europe.”

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Sofia Oliveira, a 15-year-old plaintiff in the case, said that climate change gives her anxiety about the future. “We have seen unbearable heat waves that cause water shortages and damage food production, and violent wildfires that give us anxiety and make us afraid to travel through our country’s forests,” Oliveira told the Guardian. “If we already see these extremes in 2020 what will the future be like?”

Alexandria Herr

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Emily Pontecorvo