Courtesy of Layna Lapikas / The Highlander

The climate case Genesis B. vs. EPA was initially filed in December 2023 by 18 plaintiffs between the ages of 8-years-old and 17-years-old in which they argued their Fifth Amendment rights were being violated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The case focuses on the lack of action the EPA has taken to mitigate future climate change catastrophes and their system of calculating how much pollution to allow, which unfairly implies that the lives of the future generation are less important than the lives of current adults. The case was dismissed by the court on May 1, but the reasons for this dismissal seem more like an excuse. It seems as if the court’s real intention is to strike down the case before it can reach a courtroom. 

Judge Michael Fitzgerald of the United States (U.S.) District Court for the Central District of California reasoned that the plaintiffs did not show how an admittance of wrongdoing by the EPA would be impactful or significant. Essentially, the ruling suggests that the plaintiffs should be asking for more from the EPA than an acknowledgment of their wrongdoings. Otherwise, there’s no point. There was no comment about why the court would dismiss a case based on how helpful a win would be for the plaintiffs since it’s not a comment on the strength or legality of the case. This makes one wonder if the real reason is that the court doesn’t want the case to go forward and will make excuses to ensure this outcome.

This ruling shows the blatant dismissal of the known long-term dangers of climate change by the EPA, U.S. presidents and previous generations. It also demonstrates a lack of respect for and neglect toward the younger generation’s opinion on important matters even when their lives are on the line. The EPA, which publishes numerous articles and findings on the long-term effects of climate change, has been focusing disproportionately on the present in this matter while ignoring the needs of the future or the young people it will affect. Specifically, the calculations utilized by the EPA in predicting future impacts of climate change rely on data that only includes the deaths of those above 30-years-old. There is a data gap for those under the age of 30 who suffered a climate-related death and the EPA has not fixed it.

The dismissal allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint by May 20. According to the general counsel for Our Children’s Trust, the Oregon-based non-profit law firm that put together the case, the plaintiffs and their lawyers plan to file an amended complaint by the deadline. This isn’t their first case of this nature, as they have already taken legal action in all 50 states and have similar lawsuits pending in other states, including Hawaii, Florida, Utah and Virginia. 

The non-profit law firm has already won a case in Montana requiring the state to abolish laws promoting fossil fuel usage and push for greater consideration before approving future fossil fuel development permits. Montana’s state court decision proves that some judges consider the case strong enough, even if there are differences in cases on a state-by-state basis. This example only calls the California court’s decision into question even more. The California court’s ruling implies there is no point in recognizing the damage of the EPA’s actions rather than implying the case needs adjustment and improvement. However, to actually fix something, it must first be acknowledged as existent.

Despite the California state court’s attempt to silence their valid complaints, the younger generations are not planning to stand down anytime soon. Their determination and resilience in the face of such dismissals is a beacon of hope, inspiring all to take action on the climate crisis.