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climate change essay: NPR


Eva Lighthiser, 17, was sworn in to speak last week on the first day of a youth-led court challenge against Montana’s climate policies.

Ellis Juhlin/Montana Public Radio


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Ellis Juhlin/Montana Public Radio

climate change essay: NPR

Eva Lighthiser, 17, was sworn in to speak last week on the first day of a youth-led court challenge against Montana’s climate policies.

Ellis Juhlin/Montana Public Radio

Montana state attorneys said Friday they would not call one of their top expert witnesses in the only youth climate trial to make it to trial in the United States.

Climatologist Judith Curry, who disagrees with the scientific consensus that human activity is primarily responsible for dangerous global warming, provided written testimony but will not appear in court this week.

Sixteen young plaintiffs from Montana are suing Helena’s state leaders, claiming they ignored scientific evidence and continue to promote fossil fuels, which worsens climate change. They say it violates their right to a “clean and healthy environment,” which Montana’s constitution guarantees.

The state has tried several times to avoid going to trial, including two requests for the state Supreme Court to overturn earlier rulings.

“We’ve had to fight so hard against an administration, an entire state that doesn’t want us to be able to exercise our constitutional rights and has greedily tried to deny us that opportunity throughout this process,” he said. Lander Busse, 18-year-old plaintiff, who has been waiting for three years to appear in court.

Busse and her family depend on hunting and fishing to stock their freezers for the winter. For him, this business is about saving what he loves in Montana.

When Lander and the other plaintiffs finally walked into a Lewis and Clark County courtroom last week, supporters lined the sidewalk outside to show their support, cheering, clapping and waving signs.

Twelve of the plaintiffs spoke, sharing their experiences living in Montana’s changing climate.

“It’s smoky, the world is burning,” said Claire Vlases, 20, saying smoke from summer forest fires often blocks views of the mountains surrounding the Gallatin Valley where she lives.

Thick smoke and burnt orange skies like the East Coast recently experienced have been commonplace in Montana for years now.

Vlases says she sometimes feels like her lungs are full of fire.

“It looks like a dystopian horror movie, but it’s not a movie. It’s real life. It’s what we kids have to deal with,” she said.

Vlases and his co-plaintiffs are asking the state to set a limit on greenhouse gas emissions. Montana is the fifth-largest coal producer in the United States. The plaintiffs claim that the legislature and executive branch continue to prioritize fossil fuels.

They called 10 expert witnesses, including University of Montana researcher Steven Running. He contributed to a report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won a Nobel Prize in 2007.

“Climate change is real,” Running said. “The earth is getting warmer and the engine of that is the burning of fossil fuels.”

Lawyers representing the state were generally deferential to young plaintiffs. Their questions to expert witnesses were largely aimed at casting doubt on Montana’s ability to affect climate change.

“Montana’s emissions are just too small to make a difference and climate change is a global issue that effectively relegates Montana’s role to that of a bystander,” explained Montana Assistant Attorney General Michael Russell.

State attorneys have the opportunity to present their defense. On Friday, they announced they would not call one of their expert witnesses, a climatologist who disagrees with the scientific consensus on climate change.

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