Amy Coney Barrett won't say if climate change is human-caused, stating she's not 'competent to opine' on the matter

John Haltiwanger
·3 min read
Amy Coney Barrett
Judge Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday during the third day of her Senate confirmation hearing to the Supreme Court. Greg Nash/Reuters
  • The Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday would not say whether climate change is caused by human activities, despite overwhelming agreement among scientists that it is.

  • "I don't think I'm competent to opine on what causes global warming or not," Barrett said.

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The Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Wednesday refused to say whether climate change is caused by humans.

"I don't think I'm competent to opine on what causes global warming or not," Barrett said during the third day of her confirmation hearing in response to questioning from Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

There is overwhelming evidence that the planet is warming, and the vast majority of scientists agree this can be attributed to human activities.

Barrett also suggested that her views on global warming were not relevant to her position as a judge.

Sen. Kamala Harris of California, the 2020 Democratic vice-presidential nominee, later on Wednesday again pressed Barrett on where she stood on climate change. Harris said Barrett made it clear she believed climate science was "debatable" after the Supreme Court nominee said she would "not express a view on a matter of public controversy, especially when it's politically controversial."

Barrett described climate change as "a very contentious matter of public debate."

Barrett on Tuesday also echoed a talking point from Republican politicians who've expressed skepticism on climate science. In response to a question from GOP Sen. John Kennedy on climate change, Barrett said, "You know, I'm certainly not a scientist."

"I have read things about climate change — I would not say I have firm views on it," she went on to say.

The Supreme Court is set to hear a case related to climate change in 2021. More than four in 10 voters (42%) surveyed by Pew Research Center in late July and early August said climate change was "very important" to their vote in the 2020 election.

Ann Carlson, a faculty director of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at UCLA School of Law, told The New York Times she found Barrett's response "disturbing."

"It's a dodge that fails to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific consensus that humans are causing the planet to warm," Carlson said.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who like Barrett was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump, has explicitly acknowledged the link between humans and climate change.

"The earth is warming. Humans are contributing. I understand the international impact and the problem of the commons. The pope's involved. And I understand the frustration with Congress," Kavanaugh said in 2016 while sitting on the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and hearing a case on the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan.

Trump has routinely cast doubt on climate science, once suggesting in a tweet that climate change was a hoax created by the Chinese government.

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