A group of young people are suing the state of Montana for failing to protect the environment for their future. The trial began last week. The results of the trial could be important in showing whether governments can be forced to take climate action.
The case is being brought by a group of 16 young people, ages 6 to 22. They’re being helped by a group called Our Children’s Trust. Our Children’s Trust has brought similar cases in other states, but this is the first time a case like this has actually gone to trial in the US.
Montana’s constitution is a little unusual for the US. Since 1972, the state’s constitution has said that people have the right to a “clean and healthful environment”. It is this part of the constitution that has allowed the case to go to court.
The young people claim that the state of Montana has failed to protect their future by allowing the use of fossil fuels. They say that Montana’s use of fossil fuels has added to the climate crisis, which is making their lives worse.
The young people say climate change is causing more droughts and wildfires, making it harder for them to live and breathe. They say that the climate crisis is also making it harder to get clean water, and to continue the hunting and fishing that they believe is important to their way of life.
The state’s government argues that it’s not fair for the young people to blame Montana for the effects of climate change, since it’s a global problem. The state says that Montana can’t really make any difference to the climate crisis, it can only watch as the problem continues.
But Montana has long been an important source of fossil fuels in the US. Currently, the state is the fifth-largest producer of coal in the country, and the 12th-largest for oil.
“I know that climate change is a global issue,” said Rikki Held, one of the young people. “But Montana needs to take responsibility for our part of that.”
The trial started on June 12, and is expected to last two weeks. The lawyers representing the young people went first. The young people were given a chance to tell their stories, and explain how they have been affected by the climate crisis. Climate experts were brought in to explain how human use of fossil fuels has created the climate crisis, and how this is likely to affect the future.
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This week, the state is bringing in its own experts to help present their side of the case. Some of these experts are likely to suggest that it’s not clear how much human actions have affected the climate crisis.
At the end of the trial, the young people will ask the judge to say that Montana’s support for fossil fuels actually goes against the state’s constitution.
The case is being closely watched by other groups that are hoping to force governments to take stronger climate action. If the young people win, it could encourage others to bring similar cases.
Update: On August 14, the young people won their case. The judge ruled that the young people were being harmed by climate change, and that the state’s support of fossil fuels went against Montana’s constitution. Though Montana’s government says it will challenge the decision in court, the ruling is likely to encourage other groups to bring similar climate lawsuits.
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