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Young people today will be living with the effects of climate change for decades to come.

Some, such as 13-year-old Levi Draheim of Florida, have watched their hometowns flood as seas rise. Others, like 19-year-old Jaime Butler of Arizona, have experienced water shortages.

“And those young people deserve representation, … to stand up against the systems that are imperiling their future,” says Julia Olson, a lawyer representing Draheim, Butler, and more than a dozen other young plaintiffs.

Five years ago, they filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government asserting that it had violated their rights by permitting and supporting the burning of fossil fuels, which drives climate change.

Since then, the case has been making its way through the courts. It was most recently dealt a major blow when a federal appeals court dismissed it.

Olson and her team are in the process of appealing that decision. But she says despite the setback, the case has given the youth a public platform “to explain what’s happening to them personally … and what that means for their lives.”

And though she’s hopeful her plaintiffs will ultimately succeed in court, Olson says they’ve already helped to ignite the growing climate movement.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.