In recent days, two major environmental events have captured our attention. On the one hand, we have the devastating wildfires that ravaged a community in Hawaii, and on the other, we witnessed a landmark ruling in a climate case from Montana, which could potentially pave the way for future climate-related lawsuits.
Hawaii’s heartbreaking wildfire disaster
The alarming news of wildfires in Hawaii has been distressing to say the least. The fact that the fires claimed over 100 lives (a number that’s sure to climb) is deeply saddening, and our hearts go out to everyone affected. For many, it’s hard to fathom how a vibrant island like Hawaii, surrounded by water, could fall victim to such a disaster.
So, what’s causing these infernos in the middle of the Pacific Ocean? The current state of affairs has been years in the making. Over the past three decades, Hawaii has seen declining rainfall, reduced cloud cover due to soaring temperatures, and changing storm patterns. Sadly, all these shifts are linked to climate change, which resulted in the arid conditions that fuel wildfires. The region’s drought conditions cause temperatures to rise, and with less moisture to absorb the heat, it further dries out the landscape, and creates a vicious cycle. And while Hurricane Dora may not have directly hit Hawaii, its strong gusts exacerbated the wildfire situation.
It’s a chilling reminder that multiple climate events can, and often do, impact one another, leading to catastrophic outcomes.
The landmark Montana climate case
Shifting our focus to Montana, a significant legal development promises to be a beacon of hope for the climate movement. In the lawsuit, “Held v. State of Montana,” young plaintiffs have achieved a monumental win.
For those unfamiliar, the case revolved around young activists challenging the state. They asserted that by overlooking climate change in their fossil fuel projects, Montana infringed upon their constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment. The verdict? The judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, deeming Montana’s approval of such projects without climate change considerations unconstitutional.
This groundbreaking decision isn’t just a victory for Montana. It establishes a powerful precedent for similar cases nationwide. The ruling solidifies the long-held understanding that climate change is a manufactured, human-created issue, and its repercussions directly influence individual lives. Importantly, it fortifies the legal framework for citizens, especially younger generations, to champion their rights and the future of our planet.
1. Axios, “Hawaii braces for crushing wildfire death toll with estimated 1,300 missing,” https://www.axios.com/2023/08/16/maui-wildfire-death-toll-missing Accessed August 17, 2023
2. The New York Times, “Judge Rules in Favor of Montana Youths in a Landmark Climate Case,” https://www.nytimes.com/2023/08/14/us/montana-youth-climate-ruling.html Accessed August 17, 2023