Supreme Court Nominations

Barrett won't give her opinion on 'contentious matter' of climate change

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Are climate change and global warming happening? U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett said she wouldn't comment on the "contentious matter" at her confirmation hearing Wednesday.

Barrett told Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California, who’s also the 2020 vice presidential candidate, that she couldn’t give her opinion because the issue is a matter of contentious public debate. Earlier in the day, Barrett told Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut that she didn’t feel competent to comment on whether humans cause global warning.

Harris started by asking Barrett whether she would defer to the scientific evidence on climate change if a case came before her. Barrett answered that if a case involving environmental regulation came before her, she would follow the Administrative Procedure Act. That law requires judges to defer to agency fact-finding and regulations when supported by substantial evidence.

Harris then began asking Barrett a series of questions. Does Barrett think that COVID-19 is infections? Does Barrett think that smoking causes cancer? Barrett answered yes to both questions.

Harris then asked whether Barrett thought that climate change “is happening and it’s threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink.”

Barrett said she wondered where Harris was going with her line of questions.

“You have asked me a series of questions, like, that are completely uncontroversial,” she said, then tried to get an “opinion from me that is on a very contentious matter of public debate,” Barrett said.

Barrett said she would not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial. Harris responded that Barrett made clear she thinks that climate change is a debatable point.

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