At the second day of questioning in the Supreme Court hearing, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) grilled Judge Amy Coney Barrett on how she will apply science on the bench — and got her to admit she believes climate change is a political debate as opposed to a scientific fact.
"Scientific consensus has grown even more and stronger that climate change is real, and it is caused by manmade greenhouse gas pollution and it poses significant threats to human life," said Harris. "If a case that comes before you would require you to consider scientific evidence, my question is, will you defer to scientists and those with expertise in the relevant issues before rendering a judgment?"
"If a case comes before me involving environmental regulation, I will certainly apply all applicable law, deferring when the law requires me to," said Barrett. "And as I'm sure you know, Senator Harris, the Administrative Procedure Act does require courts to defer to agency fact-finding and to agency regulations when they're supported by substantial evidence."
"Do you accept that COVID-19 is infectious?" said Harris.
"I think yes, I do accept that COVID-19 is infectious," said Barrett. "That's something I feel like we can say you take judicial notice of. It's an obvious fact, yes."
"Do you accept that smoking causes cancer?" said Harris.
"I'm not sure exactly where you're going with this," said Barrett. "But you know, the notice that's taken—"
"It's just a question," cut in Harris. "The question is what it is. You can answer if you believe, yes or no."
"Senator Harris, yes, every package of cigarettes warns that smoking causes cancer," said Barrett.
"And do you believe that climate change is happening and is threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?" Harris pressed her.
"Senator, again, I was wondering where you were going with that. You have asked me a series of questions that are completely uncontroversial, like whether COVID-19 is infectious, whether smoking causes cancer, and then trying to analogize that to eliciting an opinion from me that is on a very contentious matter of public debate, and I will not do that. I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial because that's inconsistent with the judicial role as I have explained."
"Thank you, Judge Barrett, and you've made your point clear that you believe it's a debatable point," said Harris.