GAFTG Founder Maya van Rossum is in Montana giving live coverage of the trial from her perspective as a national expert on constitutional environmental rights. Read her breakdown of the most poignant moments in the courtroom from the trial:
Day Two of the Held v. Montana trial was just as compelling as day one.
We heard from two more of the youth plaintiffs: Mica and Badger; and three new experts speaking about the effects of the climate crisis on the health of the youth plaintiffs and the impacts to our nation’s fast dwindling glaciers.
With state attorneys once again taking a strong , and even at times a belligerent, tone. In fact, at one point the state’s legal counsel got so aggressive the judge admonished: “You need to settle down Mr. Johnson.” Later in the trial, when being pressed to take judicial notice of certain facts, including the world population, the Judge had to point out that she was unable to do so based on the document provided her, because it included an obvious error: the document said there were over 70 million people in the world, “I think you mean billions,” the judge suggested.
Climate expert Cathy Whitlock began the day. Dr. Whitlock stressed the climate changing ramifications of ongoing fossil fuel production, transportation and consumption. When pressed by the state’s attorneys to answer whether not the reduction of fossil fuel use in Montana would have an impact on climate change, Dr. Whitlock made clear, “yes it will”, the every ton of CO2 released to the atmosphere has an impact, and so too does avoiding the release of every ton of CO2. One striking fact Dr. Whitlock provided: by the end of the century Montana will have an ADDITIONAL couple of MONTHS of days that are over 90 degrees.
Youth plaintiff Mica talked about being an avid runner, hiker and outdoors person. That he first learned about climate change when he was four, he remembers that day as he remembered crying for the fear of what he had learned.
Youth plaintiff Badger talked about being an avid hunter and fisher, and that his family relied upon the meat he and his family shot and caught. The impacts of climate change threatened the way of life his family lived.
Dr. Dan Fagre, expert on the glaciers of Glacier National Park provided compelling testimony and photographic evidence, that climate change was melting away the glaciers of the Park at a stunning rate. A shocking 82% of the glaciers that existed in the park in 1850 are now gone… melted! But Dr. Fagre stressed, that with action today and a reduction of CO2, the glaciers could begin to stabilize and rebuild. There is hope, but swift action was needed his testimony stressed.
The Day ended with the testimony of Dr. Lori Byron, expert on the health affects of climate change. She stressed that youth were being disproportionately impacted by climate change, compared to adults and that they were being harmed both physically and psychologically. In fact, Dr. Byron talked not just about the many ways that youth were harmed by the intense heat, droughts, floods and smoke from wildfires, but she talked about how the heat and impacts of climate change were also impacting the yet to be born children, including causing things like heart defects, premature birth, ADHD, autism and decreased IQ.
I am expecting another powerful day of testimony today with more experts and youth witnesses, and the Our Children’s Trust and Western Environmental Law Center attorneys making the case that the Government’s actions to continue to expand the release of climate changing emissions from fossil fuels, and failure to take meaningful action to address their contribution to the climate crisis, is in fact a violation of the Montana Green Amendment and the right of the youth plaintiffs to a clean and healthful environment.