AUSTIN (KXAN) — In a previous blog we reported on a lawsuit brought by 16 young people who challenged the State of Montana’s pro-fossil fuel policies.

The young environmental activists were concerned that policies put in place by state agencies were in violation of their constitutional rights to clean air by allowing for fossil fuel development with no regard for the health of the climate.

The case was heard. Arguments were made. The judge ruled in favor of the 16 young people.

At stake? A right to clean air

The ruling in Held vs. Montana was handed down on Monday, Aug. 14 by Montana District Court Judge Kathy Seeley. Her decision stated the environmentalists do have a right to clean air and a healthy environment.

The hearing raised the question of whether a government entity has a duty to protect citizens from climate change.

This is just one of a few court rulings that have found the government does have a duty to do what it can to safeguard citizens from the effects of climate change.

One of those rulings happened in December 2019 when the Netherlands’ top court sided with climate change activists trying to force the Dutch government to cut greenhouse gas emissions. The government was tasked to decrease harmful emissions by 25% before the end of 2020.

Judge Seely’s ruling included this in her opinion. “Montana’s emissions and climate change have been proven to be a substantial factor in causing climate impacts to Montana’s environment and harm and injury to the youth.”

Plaintiffs presented this as one of their arguments

She accepted the argument that as emissions from carbon dioxide increase the temperatures, and that wildfires and drought increase. In a state that gets a lot of snow, the snowpack would decrease.

She also stated it’s up to Montana’s legislators to determine what and how they can bring their current policy into compliance. However, it’s unclear on when changes will happen as Montana is fossil fuel-friendly.

The attorney representing the group of 16 called it a big victory for the youth and the state, as well as the climate.

Montana counsel had these arguments

Opposing counsel said the ruling was absurd. She said citizens of the state are not responsible for the changing climate, and that similar cases have been rejected in federal court and other states.

The state’s argument included the opinion that no matter how much the state cut back or completely stopped C02 there would be no effect across the world because of C02 emissions from other states and countries.

There will be an appeal.