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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.

FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 28, 2023

Montana court victory by young climate crusaders may have wider impact

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Find an article or photo showing how weather or climate affect our daily lives. Give an example.
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Share a quote or fact from other earth science or climate news.
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What academic training and skills does someone in a scientific or environmental protection profession use?

Environmental protection lawyers and groups are encouraged by a federal court ruling in a Montana lawsuit filed on behalf of 16 kids, teens and young adults -- the first U.S. climate case of its kind. The young activists, all under 18 when the legal action was filed in 2020, argued that their state's pro-fossil fuel policies contribute to climate change that affects them and that they have a constitutional right to a stable climate system. (Montana is one of several states with environmental protection guarantees in their constitutions.) Federal Judge Kathy Seeley this month agreed that the young residents have "experienced past and ongoing injuries resulting from the state's failure to consider [greenhouse gas emissions] and climate change." She invalidated two laws that bar agencies from considering planet-warming pollution when deciding whether to allow or renew permits for coal, oil and natural gas projects.

The state denies that burning those fossil fuels causes climate change -- despite scientific consensus that it does -- and disputes that Montana has experienced changing weather patterns. "We must focus on American innovation and ingenuity, not costly, expansive government mandates, to address our changing climate," said a spokesman for Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte. His state is a major coal and gas producer. Montana gets one-third of its energy by burning coal.

In her 103-page order Aug. 14, Seeley ruled that:

  • Fossil fuel use is the principal cause of climate change.
  • Climate change is causing serious mental and physical harm.
  • Renewables such as wind and solar power can be economically substituted for fossil fuels.
  • The youth plaintiffs have a constitutional right to a stable climate system.
The Washington Post calls it "one of the strongest decisions on climate change ever issued by a court," and prominent blogger Heather Cox Richardson of Boston College sees "a major legal victory for those combating climate change." If upheld on appeals, the decision – delivered during a summer of record heat and deadly wildfires -- would create a foundation for lawsuits elsewhere. "Putting a human face on this global problem worked well in this courtroom, and may well be followed elsewhere," says Michael Gerrard, director of Columbia University's Center for Climate Change Law. Another youth-led climate lawsuit in Hawaii is set for trial next year.

Judge says: "Plaintiffs have a fundamental constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, which includes climate as part of the environmental life support system." – Kathy Seeley, U.S. District Court

Young activist says: "Getting a ruling that listens to our stories and our voices and the best available science is just really important." – Rikki Held, 22, one of those who sued

Professor says: "This is the strongest decision on climate change ever issued by any court." – Michael Gerrard, Columbia Law School in New York

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2024

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