Amy Coney Barrett Sends Shivers Down Scientific Spines

“I am not a scientist” — ACB, Sends Shivers Down Scientific Spines

The standard climate denier follow-on to that is the false claim that scientists are in dispute over climate change or global warming.  This is still an Energy and Environment blog, although I have been distracted in trying to understand and save lives in the more immediate and hopefully shorter term pandemic threat.

It is no secret that Justice-unstoppable Amy Coney Barrett has been waving banners throughout her career that she is just what the Federalist Society wants to fulfill its conservative goals.  It is also now apparent that Charles Koch, the Oil Magnate, who is funding a publicity campaign for her, is backing her for the hundreds of trillions of dollars in profits still to be made from US fossil fuels.  So whatever progress a Democratic Congress or President’s Executive Branch makes in mitigating climate change is at the mercy of a lopsided 6-3 fossil fuel dominated Supreme Court, for the upcoming most crucial decades.

Update:  this is from her second day of questioning, reported by Li Zhao on Vox:

Climate Change is a “very contentious matter of public debate”, she has decided!  Not a scientifically settled question, which is intensifying every year.  Anybody interviewing for any lifelong federal job which will be crucial for the most important long range challenge to the US and the Planet, should know the scientific consensus, and have gotten informed about this.  I think it is time for emergency editorials in all of the science magazines about this, and from all scientific societies.

So, it turns out that her father was an attorney for Shell Oil.

There is an institute that tracks climate change litigation, at run by the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law and Arnold and Porter at Columbia University. Under Federal Statutory Claims there are 855 cases.  Under Constitutional, there are 79 cases.  Some could end up in Federal courts, and maybe some will go to the Supreme Court.  Some fall under the EPA and Trump trying to limit the pages and time for filing Environmental Impact Reports, which keep clean air and clean water.

Here is a link to the Notre Dame Urban Adaptation Assessment of 2018, showing the climate risks to 270 US cities by Climate Change.  ACB attended law school at Notre Dame, and was on the faculty there.

Debate This:  Hottest September on Record!


As a scientist learning about scientific progress and about future possibilities beyond my lifespan, the Originalist program of interpreting our constitution seems like non-sense.  I was reinforced when a law professor on CNN said the same, and emphasized that they can justify whatever they want with that outlook.  I am constantly reminded of the fundamental rule of logic:  that from a false premise, anything can be justified.

Listening for only short stretches to ACB’s hearings with the Senate Judicial Committee is the most depressing thing going on right now, and will continue as ACB continues with the Stacked Court.  The Committee Democrats are doing an excellent job showing what is at stake, and showing how deceptive ACB is in pretending she cannot know how she would rule on a case, after spending her career advertising just that.  

Instead of her thousand repeated statement that she would rule on the Originalist interpretation of the law, not her beliefs or emotions, I am wishing that someday, she would realize that her religion and emotions are a more responsible and humanitarian guide.  The Catholic Church has decided that it is not at odds with science, and in fact embraces it.  Pope Francis has written in his second encyclical on the dangers of Climate Change, and backs the Paris Agreement and process.  Pope Francis also supports the causes of immigrants and refugees, which Climate Change has forced more people into.  The Pope has even allowed exceptions to abortion when the health of the child would be severely compromised.  

Justice ACB is also aware first hand of the difficulties that her two black children could face when sent out into a less protected society.  She is also aware of the schooling difficulties of children in a mismanaged pandemic response.  Above all, her nomination ceremony will always be tied up in a possible super-spreader event, topped off by the infection and possible resignation of the President of Notre Dame, her law school, and previous faculty employer.  

She has only served as a Federal Appeals Court Justice for three years, and was not a justice before that.  She realizes that she will always be known as the Justice installed in a rush to hear the case to destroy the Affordable Care Act, and cost 23 million Americans their health insurance in the middle of a pandemic, and possibly 123 million others to lose coverage because of having pre-existing conditions.  She will also be known as the candidate of a hypocritical Republican Senate who swore that they would not induct a justice in an election year, and yet will install her with only a few days to spare.  It must take guts of steel and unbelievable ambition to accept such a lifetime position under such circumstances.  Whereas all five or six conservative justices will be equally responsible for precedent breaking decisions, she will always get the blame as the hypocritically appointed justice.

To repeat:  if you start with a false or hypocritical premise, all else can go wrong.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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