Young environmental activists scored what experts called a groundbreaking legal victory Monday, and a Montana judge said state agencies are violated their constitutional rights Create a clean and healthy environment by allowing the exploitation of fossil fuels.

Judgment in this case first trial of its kind U.S. Legal Decision Adds to Few Legal Decisions Established Around the World Governments have a duty to protect citizens from climate change.

The ruling could set an important legal precedent if it stands, but experts say the immediate impact is limited and state officials have pledged to seek to overturn the ruling on appeal.

District Court Judge Kathy Seeley found the state’s policy of evaluating fossil fuel permit applications, which does not allow agencies to look at greenhouse gas emissions, to be unconstitutional.

Richard Lazarus, a professor at Harvard Law School, said it marked the first time a U.S. court has ruled against a government for violating constitutional rights over climate change.

“To be sure, this is a state court, not a federal court, and decisions are based on state constitutions rather than the U.S. Constitution, but that’s clearly still the case for climate plaintiffs,” Lazarus wrote in an email. A major, groundbreaking victory.”

The judge rejected the state’s argument that Montana’s emissions were insignificant, saying they were “a significant contributor” to climate change. Montana is a major producer of coal for electricity and has significant oil and natural gas reserves.

“Each additional ton of greenhouse gas emissions exacerbates plaintiffs’ harm and threatens to cause irreversible climate harm,” Seeley wrote.

However, it is up to the Montana legislature to decide how to bring the state’s policy into compliance. That makes quick change in a fossil fuel-friendly state with a Republican-dominated state legislature slim.

Only a handful of states, including Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and New York, have constitutions with similar environmental protections.

James Hoffman, dean emeritus of Portland’s Lewis and Clark School of Law, said, “This ruling provides nothing but emotional support for the many cases that seek to establish public trust rights, human rights, or federal constitutional rights to create a healthy environment. other help.”

State officials have tried to derail the case and keep it from going to trial with multiple motions to dismiss.

Claire Vlases was 17 when she became a plaintiff in the case. Now 20 and a ski instructor, she says climate change affects every aspect of her life.

“I think a lot of young people feel very helpless, especially when it comes to the future,” Frasers said, adding that she hoped Montana lawmakers would respect the state’s constitution and abide by the court’s ruling.

“Hopefully this goes down in the history books,” she said.

Emily Flower, a spokeswoman for Montana Attorney General Austin Knutson, condemned the ruling as “absurd” and said the office plans to appeal. She criticized Seeley for allowing the plaintiffs to stage what Flower called a “taxpayer-funded publicity stunt.”

“Montana cannot be blamed for climate change,” she said. “Their same legal theory has been rejected in federal court and in a dozen state courts. It should be here as well.”

Attorneys for the 16 plaintiffs, ranging in age from five to 22, presented evidence in a two-week trial that rising carbon dioxide emissions are leading to higher temperatures, more droughts and wildfires, and less snowpack.

Plaintiffs say the changes are taking a toll on their physical and mental health, with wildfire smoke choking the air they breathe and drought drying up rivers that sustain agriculture, fisheries, wildlife and recreation. Native Americans who testified for the plaintiffs said climate change had affected their rituals and traditional food sources.

The state argues that even if Montana stopped producing carbon dioxide entirely, it would Has no impact globally Because states and countries around the world emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The state said the remedy must provide relief or it would not be a remedy at all.

Seeley said state attorneys had failed to give a convincing reason why they were not assessing greenhouse gas emissions. She dismissed the notion that Montana’s greenhouse gas emissions are insignificant, noting that renewable energy is “technically feasible and economically beneficial,” and citing experimental evidence that Montana could replace 80% of existing electricity by 2030. Fossil fuel energy.

Since its inception, our Children’s Trust has raised more than $20 million for litigation in state and federal courts. None of the previous attempts reached trial.

Carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels are burned traps heat in the atmosphere and is the main cause of climate warming. this spring, carbon dioxide content in the air The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said earlier this month that carbon dioxide concentrations were at their highest level in 4 million years.

july is hottest month on record Scientists say it could be the warmest ever recorded by human civilization.


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