Main Takeaways from the Montana Climate Trial Decision
A recent decision in a Montana District Court has established that human-caused climate change is a real and present threat to human health and the environment. The case, brought by 16 young plaintiffs, challenged the constitutionality of provisions in Montana’s Environmental Policy Act that prevented the state from considering the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions or climate change in environmental reviews. After hearing from experts on climate, health, and energy, as well as testimony from the young plaintiffs themselves, the judge ruled definitively in favor of the youth, science, and the future.
Key Findings in the Ruling
The judge’s decision, which can be found in the Montana climate trial document, is a strong endorsement of the science and facts surrounding human-caused climate change. It highlights the state’s failure to consider the consequences of climate change in environmental reviews as an unconstitutional violation of Montana’s Constitutional provision to maintain a clean and healthful environment for present and future generations.
The court relied on the testimonies of climate scientists and other experts who provided credible evidence supporting the case. It explicitly recognizes the reality of climate change and its impacts on Montana’s environment, natural resources, and various sectors of the economy including recreation, agriculture, and tourism. The judge also notes that the state failed to challenge or refute testimony showing that climate change poses a critical threat to public health.
In contrast, the testimony of climate deniers and minimizers was either criticized or completely ignored by the court. Claims made by individuals like Terry Anderson and Judith Curry, who disputed the severity and causes of climate change, were deemed unsupported and unhelpful to the case.
Implications of the Decision
While the long-term impacts of this ruling remain uncertain, it does require Montana state officials to consider climate risks when making decisions about energy policy. Furthermore, the strong acceptance of the science and the demonstrated threat of climate change in this case will make it increasingly difficult for future attempts to dismiss climate science in court. The ruling also sets a precedent for other climate cases, potentially influencing other states considering similar constitutional provisions.
It is worth noting that a number of other states, including Pennsylvania, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Illinois, have provisions in their constitutions protecting the right to a clean and healthful environment. This ruling could provide a powerful precedent for pending or future climate cases in these states and others.
The Sabin Center for Climate Change Law maintains a database of current climate court cases, indicating a growing interest in legal action to address climate change.
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