By Judith G. Fales

In a recent lawsuit brought by 16 youth in the state of Montana, the presiding judge agreed with the youth’s assertion that Montana had deprived the youngsters of their constitutional right to live in a clean and healthful environment. The lawsuit, brought by Our Children’s Trust (OCT) on behalf of the children, said the state promoted fossil fuels without regard for its impact on climate change and the environment.

Christopher Golden, Associate Professor and Director of Nutrition and Planetary Health at the Harvard T. Chan School of Public Health, led a panel discussion regarding the lawsuit. Julia Olson, the Founder, Executive Director, and OCT’s Chief Legal Counsel, said the climate crisis impacts every child born today.

Kari Nadeau, MD, PhD, a pediatrician and Chair of the Department of Environmental Health at Chan, said that rising temperatures affect a child’s brain, drought causes food insecurity, and flooding can result in diseases like cholera. Climate change also increases vector-borne diseases caused by blood-sucking insects, to which children of color are often the most vulnerable. The panelists said that each year 38 million children’s education is disrupted due to the climate crisis, due to mandatory or voluntary migration of children and families to a safe location.

The panelists also highlighted the importance of the 2015 Paris Agreement, which has set a goal of limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees C above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. Sadly, we are not on target to reach this goal. They stressed the importance of continuing to address these problems as we learn more about the relationship between climate and health.

Judith G. Fales is an editor and writer for Buffalo Healthy Living.