Held v Montana; Kids Climate Lawsuit

Michigan Public Service Commissioners were not prepared for what came next
Oil & Water Don’t Mix: Keep Oil Out of the Great Lakes
June 13, 2023

Anna Stuntz is an eighth-grader from Michigan. The MPSC was hearing public comment on its pending decision to extend the life of the Enbridge Line 5 crude oil pipeline by permitting a move from the open waters of the Great Lakes into a massive tunnel. This #poem about the #climatecrisis took the commissioners by surprise.

John Vaillant@JohnVaillant:

Exxon and Shell CEOs have said, effectively, ‘We will not stop.’ They are terminators.

Reminder: The #oilandgas industry is a wholly owned subsidiary of #Fire.

Updates for the lawsuit

Climate expert: ‘The harm will get worse’, Scientific testimony figures prominently in second day of Held v. Montana climate trial by Micah Drew, June 13, 2023, Flathead Beacon

This article is part of a series on the youth-led constitutional climate change lawsuit Held v. Montana. The rest of the series can be read at mtclimatecase.flatheadbeacon.com. This project is produced by the Flathead Beacon newsroom, in collaboration with Montana Free Press, and is supported by the MIT Environmental Solutions Journalism Fellowship.

HELENA — Attorneys representing 16 youth plaintiffs in a constitutional climate-change lawsuit against the state of Montana on Tuesday morning presented testimony from Cathy Whitlock, an internationally renowned Earth scientist who told a Helena courtroom how the state’s steady temperature increase will affect future generations.

Introduced as an expert witness for the plaintiffs at the outset of the landmark trial’s second day, Whitlock drew a connection between Montana’s warming climate and the harm alleged by the youth plaintiffs, who say their constitutional right to a “clean and healthful environment” has been violated by the state’s practice of promoting and permitting the fossil fuel industry, contributing to climate change through greenhouse gas emissions. 

“The climate science is clear there’s an urgent problem,” Whitlock said during the second day of proceedings before Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Kathy Seeley, describing the increase of severe drought, major flood events and more frequent and intense wildfires, and stating “the harm will get worse.”

“Montana’s actions to promote the utilization and development of fossil fuels are inconsistent with the need to reduce emissions to stabilize the climate system,” Whitlock continued. “These ongoing actions can harm our children and future generations including the 16 youth plaintiffs. And they will be penalized as far into the future as we can imagine.”

The bench trial for the Held v. Montana case opened yesterday with testimony from three of the 16 youth plaintiffs bringing the lawsuit, as well as two expert witnesses. 

Whitlock’s testimony on Tuesday outlined Montana’s historical climate trends and cited projections for the future under scenarios in which there is no mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, a known contributing factor to global warming. 

“Montana is getting warmer, and the rate of warming is increasing,” Whitlock said during direct examination by plaintiffs’ attorney Phil Gregory. 

Citing the 2017 Montana Climate Assessment she co-authored, Whitlock stated that temperatures in the state have been trending upwards by roughly 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1900, but in recent decades that rate has increased to close to 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit per decade in some regions of the state. Whitlock said Montana’s warming rate exceeds the national average due to the state’s high elevation, northern latitude and distance from the ocean. Under the most extreme projections of global carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations, regions of Montana could see the number of days above 90 degrees Fahrenheit increase by up to 50 days, she said, drawing a distinction between weather patterns and climate trends.

“Weather determines what you reach for in your closet and what you wear that day,” Whitlock said. “Climate on the other hand is the average of weather … if you think of what you wear as the weather, the climate is all the clothes in your closet.”

Whitlock also testified to Montana’s declining snowpack in recent decades, as well as changing precipitation trends. While data shows that annual precipitation levels in the state haven’t significantly varied over the decades, precipitation type and timing have, she said, with drier winters and summers and wetter springs and falls. 

The combination of declining snowpack and drier summers can lead to widespread drought and more intense wildfire seasons, a combination Whitlock said Montana experienced in 2017 when fires burned 4.8 million acres of land and led to $2.6 billion in agricultural losses. 

While Whitlock admitted there are some upsides to a warming climate, including a longer growing season and better conditions for certain crops such as cantaloupe, she believes the negatives far outweigh the positives. 

Representing the state in its defense, attorney Thane Johnson conducted the cross-examination of Whitlock with a line of questioning aimed at casting doubt on the myriad research studies Whitlock presented. 

“The only solution is swift decarbonization of our energy system and immediate efforts to protect our hydrosphere and biosphere,” she said. “Dr. [Steven] Running and I have been warning against the dangers posed by climate change and fossil fuels for decades, and yet Montana continues to aggressively pursue an expansion of fossil fuel utilization and production. There’s little time remaining to avoid locking us into irreversible climate impacts.” 


Meet the kids in Held v Montana:

Montana Youth Prepare for Trial in Bellwether Climate Case Against State, Landmark lawsuit alleges Montana’s government knowingly contributes to climate change by approving policies and projects that promote a fossil-fuel based energy economy, violating the young plaintiffs’ constitutional right to ‘a clean and healthful environment’

Refer also to:

Ann. Who?@annwmac June 14. 2023:

White Man Weekly Magazine.
~ How to Buy Friends and Influence Corporations.
~ 5-Steps To Fool Voters Into Thinking You’re a Red Tory
~ Stephen Harper Reveals: I’ll Be Back
~ Four Premiers from Provinces With No Federal Pull Show Atlantic Canadians Their Blue Suits

Costas Halavrezos@CWNH:

Nothing says leadership for Atlantic Canada in 2023 like 4 men in business suits heading down a muddy dirt road in dress shoes. Captions welcome.

Just Neet@omgtid June 14, 2023:

LMAO I have no caption, just know that I spit my lunch halfway across the room!

I believe the major enemy of earth’s livability is the old white man politician, notably con, enabler of corporate and climate crimes

2019: Herbicide, killing of aspen likely shares blame for growing wildfire damage

Yes, climate change is real. But researchers say there’s another factor likely feeding the flames eating up Alberta’s forests.

The widespread practice of killing aspen trees, which forestry companies mechanically remove or spray with herbicide from helicopters, is also having an impact.

Aspen are the trees with white bark and small, fluttering green leaves that grow in clumps or colonies around Edmonton and through northern Alberta. They’re less likely to burn than spruce or pine and cool the forest so well that, when fully-leafed out, wildland firefighters flee to a stand of aspen if the fire unexpectedly shifts.Trembling aspen are my favourite tree. Nothing better than watching their leaves dance, while listening to birdsong in the wind. I’ve planted many, most are dying – they do not tolerate extreme heat well. Human greed is the worst cruelty on earth, whether greed by priests raping kids, or greed by politicians enabling frac’ing permanently insanely destroying potable water, or greed by forestry intentionally wiping out a vital tree – just to make more money.

They’re also food for moose in winter.

Different trees have different wood fibres. Forestry companies consider aspen to be a weed when growing conifers, spruce or pine. So roughly 30,000 hectares a year of forest are sprayed witha carcinogen (sickening many of us, and other species, notably insects and birds),glyphosate, the active ingredient in RoundUp. That’s roughly half the size of Edmonton or 40 per cent of the 80,000 hectares of forest harvested annually.

It creates a monoculture, killing all broad-leafed plants, making a coniferous tree plantation instead of a forest.

Jen Beverly, assistant professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta, spent the last years measuring how wildfire creates a protective effect in the forest. Land burned one year is unlikely to burn again for 25 to 45 years when left to regrow naturally. Aspen reclaims the charred earth and only slowly adds fuel to the landscape as they die and are replaced with spruce.

The forestry industry used to think harvesting had a similar effect because it removes fuel. But Beverly’s new research focus finds that theory wanting.

Harvesting doesn’t take out all the dead grass, brush and twigs, and the practice of trying to regrow conifers instead of the pioneering aspen is risky.

“You have this planted conifer in a field of grass. A fire is going to move through that really well,” said Beverly, who started gathering satellite images, visiting cutblocks and tracking burn patterns.

The impact of spraying glyphosate is better known west of the Rockies, where it’s been done for decades. B.C. Liberal MLA Mike Morris, of Prince George-Mackenzie, plans to introduce a private member’s bill to ban the practice there this fall.

“It’s too indiscriminate,” said Morris, a trapper for 40 years. He believes glyphosate spray is a big reason why moose populations fell 80 per cent in his area. Fur-bearing animals and bird populations are also down dramatically throughout the interior of B.C.

Eighty-nine species of animals nest or den in hollowed out aspen. They’re suffering. And the insect infestations sweeping the province — pine beetle and now spruce beetle — make the situation worse.

Here in Alberta, the widespread use of glyphosate in forestry started in the 1990s but now outpaces B.C. Local trappers complain it devastates their lines.

The government allows companies to spray a forest twice, which ensures aspen won’t return.

“Any time they plant conifers, most of the time they spray them,” said Victor Lieffers, U of A professor of silviculture and forest ecology.

He says part of the issue is provincial regulations.Wanna bet industry wrote those regulations for gov’t? Alberta analyzes the forest by satellite photo, mapping patches of forest as small as two hectares. They’re labelled as mixed, aspen or coniferous and companies are expected to return the forest to the same state as quickly as possible, regardless of natural succession.

The rules assume having this patchwork quilt of a landscape is good enough. It’s likely not, said Lieffers, who presented this week on the topic at a forest ecology conference in Flagstaff, Ariz.

“All you have to do is look at the level of disturbance. We ate smoke for five years every summer,” he said. He is calling for a new industry-wide dialogue. Forestry companies need to be willing to change, even just to protect their investment.

There’s no simple answer here. One could say simply ban the practices of stripping out aspen, but thousands of good-paying jobs in northern Alberta depend on quality timber.

Plus, the science of fire and forestry is complex, as is the regulatory framework where private companies are logging on Crown land. It gets doubly complex in the face of climate change, a political wedge. Blame forest management for the intensity of wildfires and risk getting called a climate change denier. But most catastrophes have multiple causes.

In Alberta’s case, researchers and industry experts have already seen warmer, drier conditions. There’s been a 20-year drought. Could it help to let more aspen grow? What about planting drought-resistant trees, sourcing seed from forests further south, and encouraging mixed forests to hedge our bets?

This is all part of a climate emergency. All parties need to act fast.Alberta, SK and BC politicians just keep making it worse. Now with Danielle Smith at the helm, I expect nothing but escalating con/libertarian hell will be unleashed.

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