Palo Alto High School's News and Features Publication

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Verde Magazine

Editorial: Applaud youth climate lawsuits

Sarah Sheaffer
Youth across the globe have launched legal battles to hold governments accountable for climate destruction. “Forces that are benefiting from [climate change] … thrive on apathy, indifference,and fatalism”, environmental law professor Deborah Sivas said, ”so stay engaged.”

The future is suing the past. Eighteen children from California are taking the U.S. to court over climate inaction that they claim violates their constitutional rights.

The plaintiffs, aged 8 to 17, argue in Genesis B. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, that climate change disproportionately impacts children and future generations, thus infringing upon their rights to life, liberty, property and equal protection under the law.

Allegedly, the EPA has been allowing pollution from companies that burn fossil fuels to continue despite knowing the risk it poses to American citizens.

By holding the EPA responsible, the children aim to force them to hold polluters accountable.

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We applaud and stand in solidarity with all plaintiffs in the lawsuits who took a stand against climate change. Additionally, we encourage students to take initiative and learn more about climate change to improve the health of our environment.

Effects of climate change not only include temperature and air conditioning price increases, but also arguably recent storms California experienced, which caused power outages in many Palo Alto homes.

According to the LA Times, climate change causes heat waves to feature heightened temperatures and storms that feature increases in intensity.

As stated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the average temperature worldwide has increased by more than one degree Fahrenheit, causing sea levels to rise.

Meanwhile, according to the Federal Reserve Economic Data, heating, ventilation and air conditioning prices have doubled since 2004 in the U.S.

The California lawsuit follows in the steps of other lawsuits that aim to use the courts to make the government tackle climate change.

“I saw the Montana lawsuit … and I saw how successful that was,” Butler told Verde. “So I wanted to join one.”

— Genesis Butler, plaintiff in EPA vs. Butler lawsuit

One such lawsuit was the 2020 case Held v. State of Montana. The plaintiffs, aged 5 to 22, forced the Montana government to consider climate change when deciding whether to approve or renew fossil fuel projects.

Instead of receiving financial compensation for the pollution caused by fossil fuel projects, the plaintiffs received a promise from the state to reconsider its environmental policies and practices to take into account the potential climate impacts.

Genesis Butler, a 17-year-old high school student from Long Beach, participated in the California lawsuit last December.

Coming from a family that can’t afford air conditioning, she aimed to raise awareness and advocate for action regarding climate change.

“I saw the Montana lawsuit … and I saw how successful that was,” Butler told Verde. “So I wanted to join one.”

Deborah Sivas, an environmental law professor at Stanford University who has been involved as a mentor in cases like Held v. Montana State, said she believes that climate lawsuits are a good way to raise awareness.

“It’s hard to predict whether they [climate lawsuits] would be successful at the end of the day, but I think they are a vehicle for really raising consciousness around this [climate change],” Sivas said.

Butler said she believes that the best way to combat climate change is to spread awareness that individual people can still make a difference.

“Just know that this [climate change], is a real issue,” Butler said. “Do whatever you can to speak up about it.”