On Climate, Amy Coney Barrett Demurs, “I’m Not a Scientist.”

Ah, that old chestnut.

Jim Loscalzo - Pool Via Cnp

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There is this existential threat facing humanity. You might have heard about it. Maybe if you’re President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court that Republicans are rushing through before the election, you will admit to having read something about it. 

Not a ton is known about Amy Coney Barrett’s views on climate change, but this exchange on day two of the Senate hearings was telling. 

Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) questioned Barrett, trying to prove a point about Democratic objections to her confirmation: “My colleagues think you’re only qualified if you’re dumb, if you have a blank slate. If you’ve never thought about the world. Have you thought about the world?”

Barrett answered that indeed she had. 

He asked her if she’d thought about social problems and economic problems. She answered yes to both.

Then he asked, “How about climate change?” and Barrett launched into a non-answer.

“I’ve read about climate change,” she said. “I’m certainly not a scientist. I mean, I’ve read things on climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

Kennedy wasn’t looking for a detailed answer here. And Barrett has found plenty of ways to dodge questions throughout the hearings. But it is clarifying that Barrett chose this answer for evasion. She didn’t even have a clever line prepared, but trotted out a classic line used by politicians like Sen. Mitch McConnell looking to dodge the actual policy and legal debate over what we should do to address climate change. It’s so prevalent that there have been an entire books written about the phrase as Republican shorthand for climate change denial. 

Kennedy certainly didn’t mean to make this point in his questioning, but this exchange helps make environmentalists’ point that a 6-3 conservative majority on the court would be disastrous for combating the climate crisis.

Update: On Wednesday, Barrett stuck with the evasive answer when Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) questioned her:

 

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