June 11, 2023 -HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Whether a constitutional right to a healthy, livable climate is protected by state law is at the center of a lawsuit going to trial Monday in Montana, where 16 young plaintiffs and their attorneys hope to set an important legal precedent.
It’s the first trial of its kind in the U.S., and legal scholars around the world are following its potential addition to the small number of rulings that have established a government duty to protect citizens from climate change.
The trial comes shortly after the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature passed measures favoring the fossil fuel industry by stifling local government efforts to encourage renewable energy while increasing the cost to challenge oil, gas and coal projects in court.
By enlisting plaintiffs ranging in age from 5 to 22, the environmental firm bringing the lawsuit is trying to highlight how young people are harmed by climate change now and will be further affected in the future. Their testimony will detail how wildfire smoke, heat and drought have harmed residents’ physical and mental health.