The trial, which began on Tuesday, is expected to last another two weeks.
A youth coalition challenging Montana state officials over climate change policies are expected to return to court this week.
According to The Associated Press, attorneys for Montana have already sought to downplay the sparsely-populated state’s contribution to global warming.
The trial, which is expected to commence on June 13th, is scheduled to last for two weeks.
The sixteen young plaintiffs, along with their attorneys, will try to persuade U.S. District Judge Kathy Seeley that Montana’s fossil fuel-friendly policies endanger residents’ physical health an well-being while threatening future generations.
Grace Gibson-Snyder, a 19-year-old plaintiff in the claim, told the court that wildfire rates have increased as a direct result of global warming.
The smoke from such wildfires, Gibson-Snyder said, have becoming a “defining experience” of playing soccer throughout high school, with dense clouds regularly covering her hometown, provoking match cancellations and keeping asthmatic teammates off the field.
A 2009 wildfire in Yosemite National Park. Image via Wikimedia Commons/user: Salam2009. (CCA-By-4.0).“It’s not pleasant,” the teenage athlete said. “It’s so uncomfortable as you’re breathing deeper and deeper.”
“I’m thrilled about this unique opportunity to lay out the whole story of how the government promotes fossil fuel development, how those policies exacerbate climate change, and how that in turn harms me and the other youth plaintiffs,” Gibson-Snyder said.
After court opened session on Monday Gibson-Snyder said she felt empowered “to know we’re being heard.”
“We are telling our stories and I am looking forward to a shift toward a better policy and healthier future for all of us,” she added.
The lawsuit, notes The Associated Press, focuses on the Montana constitution’s guarantee to a “clean and healthful environment,” and whether that means that the state has a legal obligation to act against climate change.
The plaintiffs’ attorneys intentionally sought young claimants, hoping that—by representing youth aged between 5 and 22—they could highlight how global warming is affecting the lives, hopes, and dreams of young Americans.
Nevertheless, the state’s lawyers say that Montana’s role in global warming is “miniscule,” and that the plaintiffs cannot legitimately claim that their damages are the direct result of Helena’s policies.
“Climate change is a global issue that effectively relegates Montana’s role to that of a spectator,” a Montana attorney said.
However, Jim Nelson—a former Montana supreme court justice—told The Guardian that, in spite of its promises, the state has “never, never” fulfilled its legal duty to maintain a healthy environment.
Instead, Nelson said, the state’s Republican-dominated legislature has enacted over two dozen bills that will “adversely affect the environment” in a multitude of ways.
“The legislature basically thumbed its nose at these constitutional provisions,” the former justice said.
A favorable ruling, Nelson continued, could “force the legislature and public officials in the state administration to actually do what the constitution requires.”
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