Held v Montana – Day 5

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:

Dr. Mark Jacobson

Day 5 of the trial was the last day for the youth plaintiffs to put forth their testimony, evidence and experts.  And a powerful last day it was.  The Montana Green Amendment and its entitlement to a clean and healthful environment for all the people of the state, including the youth plaintiffs who had brought the case, continued as the cornerstone to which each piece of evidence, testimony and legal argument was pegged.

Professor Mark Jacobson, nationally recognized expert on climate and renewable energy solutions began the day making clear that there was an achievable pathway for Montana to  transform its energy system from one dominated by climate changing fossil fuels to one that is supported by 100% renewable energy. Professor Jacobson discussed the roadmap, already in existence, that could guide Montana’s transformation from a fossil fuel state to a wind, water and solar state and avoid the release of climate changing emissions.  He pointed out not just the health and environmental benefits of this renewable energy pathway, but its economic value as well. Using electric vehicles as one example he offered: by helping to support a transition to electric vehicle use (not mandating it overnight, but putting in place policies that advance it over time) each car owner in Montana would save $35,000 over the typical 15 year life of a car, largely because electricity is so much cheaper than gasoline.  He demonstrated that totally electrifying the state, the nation and the world does not result in instability of energy access, to the contrary, electrification supported entirely by renewable energy options supports a very stable energy system, and one that saves people significant money.

Professor Jacobson was clear: it is technologically and economically feasible for Montana to transition to a 100% wind, water and solar energy system by 2050.

Efforts by the State’s attorneys to undermine the veracity of Professor Jacobson’s testimony was ineffective.  At one point, in an effort to twist the Professor’s testimony the State’s attorney asked: “Is it your opinion the court should order the citizen’s of Montana to go out and buy electric vehicles?”  The room laughed at the amateurish effort to mischaracterize Professor Jacobson’s testimony, with some quietly (so as not to undermine the decorum of the court) blurting out “c’mon”.

Lisa van Susteren

Lisa van Susteren, internationally accomplished psychiatrist, testified to the psychological trauma the climate crisis was inflicting on the youth plaintiffs, harming both their emotional and physical health.

The two youth plaintiffs of the day once again provided a compelling picture of the harms the climate crisis was inflicting on their lives, as well as their immense disappointment in the failure of the government to honor the obligations and language of the Montana Green Amendment.

Youth Plaintiff and artist Olivia Vasovich shared two pieces of visual art, including a painting with tears pouring from her eyes in a self-portrait she said reflected the despair over climate change she was feeling at the time she painted it. But Olivia was careful to point out that the flowers and the moon (which was representational of her grandmother) also included in the painting, reflected that she still had hope, hope for a safer climate future.

Youth plaintiff Olivia Vasovich
Youth plaintiff Lander Busse

Lander Busse, an expert hunter, fisher and actor, closed out the day with strong words for Montana’s government.  Admonishing them for the disregard and disrespect they had shown the youth plaintiffs over the course of the litigation from the time of its filing through to the trial.  He testified that it had “been a difficult week to hear all the experts talk about the impacts of the climate crisis,” and was “frustrating to see such a systemic display by government not to protect our state, its people and the constitution.”  He challenged Montana’s government officials in the room and beyond to do better, to do right, and to honor the constitutional entitlement of the youth plaintiffs to a clean and healthful environment.

Next comes the State’s case.

Notably, one of the State’s experts – one whose written report the plaintiff’s experts over the course of the week had expertly disassembled for its mischaracterizations, misinformation, flawed logic, and failing arguments – was pulled from the case.  Why? We don’t’ know. But it seems obvious that their expert report and therefore testimony could not withstand honest and logical scrutiny and so its presentation would inflict more harm than good on the government’s already flawed case.