Someday, we will marvel at how so many of the most influential people in this country were allowed to sashay down the halls of power, refusing all the way to acknowledge an existential threat to human civilization as we know it. It might be just a few years from now. After all, this has been going on for decades, and we're running out of time. But these conservative cutouts for industries whose business revolves around pumping carbon dioxide into the air are still scrolling through their list of dodges and feints, lying about the overwhelming body of evidence that has led scientists who actually study the climate crisis to reach a consensus that humans are contributing to the problem in decisive and destructive fashion.
One of these conservatives gliding around is Amy Coney Barrett, the latest Trumpian nominee to fill a lifetime seat on the United States Supreme Court. Barrett has consistently refused to answer what seem to be fairly basic and uncontroversial questions about the law, like whether the president should commit to a peaceful transfer of power, whether he can unilaterally delay the upcoming election, and whether voter intimidation is illegal. So maybe it should not have been a surprise when Barrett also refused to answer fairly basic questions outside the law, like, you know, any concerns about this whole climate crisis thing?
Excuse me?— James Singer (@Jemsinger) October 13, 2020
"I have read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.” pic.twitter.com/7LdfTNojs0
Here's a firm view: this crisis has already exacerbated extreme weather events that are upending life in this country. This summer, much of the Western United States was simply on fire. Paired with the escalating strength of hurricanes, it provided a neat preview of coming attractions. The crisis is and will continue to lead to mass migrations of human beings who can no longer grow crops or survive on their home soil, which will in turn lead to civil and political unrest in the areas to which they choose to flee. (I mean, look at how badly we shit our pants about The Caravan. Some of those folks were likely some of the first Central American climate refugees.) The Pentagon has classified the climate crisis as a national security threat. We are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the planet's history, which extends the world's oceans. I hope the judge isn't big on seafood, though 3 billion humans depend on the sea for food. Republican Senator John Kennedy does deserve respect for asking the question, though it's pretty much the least he can do considering he represents Louisiana, perhaps the front line on this issue in America.
Put simply, this is just totally disqualifying for any official holding public office in the year 2020. This isn't even an up-to-date Republican bullshit line on the topic. "I'm not a scientist" is so 2014, maybe because even the Elite Political Media—pockets of which are just today allowing themselves to be hoodwinked by another Emails caper—caught on to how dumb it is. Does Judge Amy Coney Barrett accept the scientific consensus that gravity is keeping her in that chair? If so, why? She's not a scientist, so how could she possibly know?
It's dumb, but it's really disqualifying because it prompts some obvious concerns about how the judge will rule from her now inevitable lifetime post on the nation's most powerful court, one which, as Congress has faltered as an institution, has steadily taken up the mantle of policymaking. We're on Day Three of the hearings now, and we're still hearing about how Barrett will adjudicate cases based on Textualism and Originalism, a nonsense costume for her obvious intent to advance conservative policy goals from the bench. Republicans have said what their intentions are for the courts quite explicitly, and there is no need to pretend the court's conservatives are channeling James Madison when they arrive at a decision that favors Big Business, monopoly power, the destruction of unions and worker protections, the erosion of a woman's right to choose, or deregulatory policy that harms the environment.
It is particularly worrying to hear this line specifically, however, because even if the upcoming elections are free and fair and Joe Biden is victorious, anything he tries to do in office will run into the buzzsaw of a 6-3 conservative Court that will by that time feature Justice Amy Coney Barrett. If Democrats take the Senate, shit-can the filibuster, and pass an infrastructure bill featuring clean energy or green infrastructure projects, how will Barrett's nonsense view on the climate crisis factor into her ruling? Perhaps we can rest easy knowing her father was a lawyer for Shell Oil.
We do know for sure that Justices Alito and Thomas will strike down pretty much any law passed and signed by Democratic officials. On issues of corporate power and the state's role in shaping the economy, it's a safe bet that the rest of the conservative crew will join them. As Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse demonstrated during Tuesday's hearing, there are hundreds of millions of dollars in dark money backing Barrett's nomination, and while she may not know the exact sources, it's safe to assume she has a good idea who's paying the bills. If not, she can start attending conferences hosted by conservative megadonors, like Justices Scalia and Thomas before her, to find out. Republicans have made a years-long, scorched-earth project of packing the courts for a reason.
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