Young Climate Activists Suing Montana Fossil Interests. Fossils Respond with Old Climate Denier.

May 19, 2023

Green Matters:

Youth all around the world are pretty fed up with the lawmakers and older generations who have allowed the climate crisis to worsen. And in Montana, 16 young people are so fed up that they’re taking legal action. Together, they are suing the state of Montana for violating its constitution, which grants all residents the right to a healthy environment.

Held v. Montana, which is scheduled to go to trial in June 2023, will make history as “the first time in U.S. history where evidence of government actions causing and worsening the climate crisis, harming young people and violating their constitutional rights, will be heard by a judge and entered into the public record,” Nate Bellinger, Senior Staff Attorney at Our Children’s Trust, one of the law firms working on this case, tells Green Matters.

Just days before the U.S. shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 16 youth plaintiffs from all over Montana filed Held v. State of Montana, on March 13, 2020.

As explained by Our Children’s Trust, Held v. State of Montana argues that Montana is violating its residents’ “constitutional rights to a clean and healthful environment; to seek safety, health, and happiness; and to individual dignity and equal protection of the law.” The suit argues that Montana is doing this by supporting fossil fuels.

An estimated 30 percent of the country’s coal reserves are found in Montana; the state is also home to crude oil and natural gas deposits, as per the Energy Information Administration.

Held v. Montana also argues that Montana’s energy system is hurting and diminishing the public resources in Montana, from the atmosphere and natural waters to the state’s wild animals

Additionally, the case argues that the state of Montana has been aware of fossil fuels’ dangers since at least 1968; the case will also ”shine a light on government actions that have knowingly caused and made climate change worse as well as establish important legal precedent,” according to Bellinger.


Montana has hired a climate scientist turned climate contrarian to be an expert witness in an upcoming trial challenging the state’s promotion of fossil fuels.

Climatologist Judith Curry has already billed the state around $30,000 for a report filed in the case Held v. State of Montana, according to the deposition she made in December to an attorney for the 16 young Montanans suing the state. Curry also claimed that she charged $400 an hour for her consulting work, although she did not disclose the full amount Montana will pay her for appearing in court. 

Julia Olson, the lawyer who took Curry’s deposition, has described her as “the number one climate skeptic scientist that the Republicans go to for testimony in Congress, that the fossil fuel industry goes to.” Olson is the executive director of the nonprofit law firm Our Children’s Trust, which has spearheaded youth climate change lawsuits across the United States. 

At a March 2023 hearing of the Senate Budget Committee, Curry testified that calling climate change a crisis was “at odds with professional judgments of climate risk.”

Formerly a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Curry now runs a private weather forecasting company called Climate Forecast Applications Network. The company’s clients include electric utilities, energy traders in natural gas, and two petroleum companies, according to her deposition.

Montana may end up leaning heavily on Curry’s anticipated testimony, as she will be one of just a few expert witnesses defending the state at next month’s trial. Neuropsychologist Dr. Debra Sheppard and economist Terry Anderson, who is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, a free-market think tank, are also scheduled to appear for the state. 

The lawyers for the Montana youth, who first filed their complaint in 2020, intend to bring a dozen expert witnesses to the stand.

This case is set to become a landmark for U.S. climate litigation. It will be the first youth climate lawsuit against a government to go to trial, and the first trial in a case challenging fossil fuel friendly policies on constitutional grounds. The trial is scheduled to begin on June 12 at the First District Judicial Court in Helena, Montana. 

For what it’s worth, I heard Judith Curry present at the American Geophysical Union, maybe a decade ago. As I and a seasoned climate journalist walked out of the room, we were both shaking our heads with the same reaction. Not just that Curry deeply out of synch with the overwhelming majority of her peers, but that the woman was just,..plain weird.


One Response to “Young Climate Activists Suing Montana Fossil Interests. Fossils Respond with Old Climate Denier.”

  1. And who are the experts witnesses of the other side? Here’s Dr. MZJ himself:

    Click to access 22-11-28-MZJ-Rebuttal-Montana.pdf

    I, Mark Jacobson, have been retained by Plaintiffs in the above-captioned matter to provide expert
    testimony about the feasibility of transitioning the State of Montana to 100% clean, renewable
    energy in all energy sectors by mid-century. All energy sectors include electricity, transportation,
    heating/cooling, and industry. I also have reviewed the expert report made by Judith Curry
    (October 27, 2022) and have been retained to express opinions in response to the Curry report.

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