Amy Coney Barrett refuses to tell Kamala Harris if she thinks climate change is happening
Supreme court nominee Amy Coney Barrett refused to say whether she accepts the science of climate change, under questioning from Kamala Harris, saying she lacked the expertise to know for sure and calling it a topic too controversial to get into.
On Wednesday, Barrett framed acknowledgment of a manmade climate crisis as a matter of policy, not science, when she was pressed at her confirmation hearing by Democratic senator from California.
Barrett said Harris, the Democrats’ vice-presidential nominee as well as a member of the Senate judiciary committee, was trying to get her to state an opinion “on a very contentious matter of public debate, and I will not do that”.
Barrett was responding to a series of questions from Harris, including whether she thought coronavirus was infectious, whether smoking caused cancer and whether “climate change is happening and it’s threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink”.
The federal appeals court judge responded that she did think coronavirus was infectious and smoking caused cancer. She rebuffed Harris on the climate change question, however, for seeking to “solicit an opinion” on a “matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial”.
The exchange occurred during the committee’s hearing on Barrett’s nomination to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the supreme court.
Scientists say climate change is a matter of established fact and that the damage is mostly caused by people burning oil, gas and coal. Climate experts, including federal scientists in the Trump administration, say increasingly fierce wildfires, hurricanes and other natural disasters point to the urgency of global warming.
When Harris asked Barrett “is climate change happening?” Barrett responded: “I will not answer that because it is contentious.”
Harris later tweeted: “Amy Coney Barrett will admit that Covid-19 is infectious. She’ll admit that smoking causes cancer. But whether climate change is real? Apparently that’s up for debate.”
Donald Trump, an ardent booster of the coal, oil and and gas industries, routinely questions and mocks the science of climate change, while Democratic rival Joe Biden is proposing a $2tn plan to wean Americans off fossil fuels to tackle the climate crisis.
The Trump administration has rolled back major Obama-era efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions from cars and trucks and power plants. Many of the administration’s environmental and public health rollbacks are likely to wind up before the supreme court.
On Tuesday, Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican and another member of the committee considering Barrett’s confirmation, also asked Barrett what she thought about a series of issues, including climate change.
“I’ve read about climate change,” Barrett answered.
“And you have some opinions on climate change that you’ve thought about?” Kennedy asked.
“I’m certainly not a scientist,” Barrett replied, using a frequent refrain of more conservative Republicans on the matter. “I would not say that I have firm views on it.”