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Judge hears oral arguments on motion to dismiss youth climate lawsuit

Seven Utah youth ages 10 to 19 filed a climate lawsuit earlier this year. The Natalie R. v. State of Utah case argues the state of Utah is contributing to climate change through affirmative actions that have increased air pollution and the climate crisis. They argue that such actions will impact the health and lifespan of the children living in the state. Natalie Roberts is a resident of Utah and the lead plaintiff on the case.

“We're not suing the state government because they're not doing enough. We're not asking for any kind of like protection. We're asking them to stop actively contributing to climate change by supporting the fossil fuel industry and providing permits and authorization for projects regarding fossil fuel development,” Roberts said.

The state filed a motion to dismiss the case in May this year. In response, the youth filed an opposition, represented by the nonprofit Our Children’s Trust. Both parties presented their oral arguments on the state’s motion during a hearing Friday, Nov. 4. No decision was made; however, one is anticipated in the next few days. Andrew Welle, attorney to the youth climate activists, explained why this case should go to trial.

“When governments are taking actions that are affirmatively causing the current climate crisis and harming youth, it's the role of courts to decide whether those policies and actions violate youth fundamental rights, and that's what we're asking the court to do in this case,” Welle said.

Among other things, the state argued that this issue belongs in the legislature. Roberts explained what keeping it in court means to her.

“I'm 15 years old. They claimed that it's alleged, it's a legislator problem, but I can't vote. So we're bringing this case to the court, because so many of us young plaintiffs can’t vote. So when it's out of our hands, we'd bring it to the court to decide if it's if what the state's doing is unconstitutional,” said Roberts.

Going to trial would give the youth the opportunity to present their evidence and make their voices heard in the fight against climate change. One of the activists, Sedona Murdock, shared what it would mean to her.

“I think it'd be amazing when we get to go to trial, because that would just mean that we get to present our evidence and our points as to why we deserve clean air ,and why the state should not keep pushing things that are harming our health," Murdock said. "So I think it would just show that there is hope that it could happen and that there are people out there who do care about that in our house."

Stay tuned for part two of this story on the judge’s decision on whether or not this case will proceed to trial. For more information, visit

Erin Lewis is a science reporter at Utah Public Radio and a PhD Candidate in the biology department at Utah State University. She is passionate about fostering curiosity and communicating science to the public. At USU she studies how anthropogenic disturbances are impacting wildlife, particularly the effects of tourism-induced dietary shifts in endangered Bahamian Rock Iguana populations. In her free time she enjoys reading, painting and getting outside with her dog, Hazel.