Teenagers take lawmakers to court over climate

Should climate change be a crime? In Montana, USA, young people are taking their state to court, arguing that its climate policies rob them of their rights and their future.

Grace Gibson-Snyder is afraid for her future. Sitting in a courtroom filled with other young people, the 19-year-old explained why climate change could wreck her beloved home state of Montana, USA.

The rivers are drying up. Wildfires are more common. And the state’s iconic Glacier National Park might not have any glaciers soon.

Grace’s story was at the heart of a lawsuit, filed by young people from Montana, against their state’s environmental policies.

The 16 young people argue that Montana law, which forbids the state government from taking climate change into account in its policy, goes against their rights.

This constitutional case is the first of its kind to go to trial in a US state. But it is part of a wave of action being taken in the courts around the world, from Pakistan to the UK.

In 2015, an action by Dutch young people resulted in the court mandating a 25% cut on emissions by 2020.

Montana’s defence says the small state’s actions are “miniscule” compared to total global emissions, so they are not the cause of the problem.

But critics call this claim “whataboutism”, and say Montana should take responsibility.

“As most people know who work in this space, every ton of carbon matters and that’s no different in Montana,” said Barbara Chillcott, the lawyer for the young plaintiffs.