Barrett said Harris, the Democratic vice-presidential candidate and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, was trying to get her to express an opinion “on a very controversial issue of public debate, and I will not do that.”Barrett was answering a series of questions from Harris, including whether she thought the coronavirus was infectious, if smoking caused cancer, and if “climate change is happening and threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink” .
The federal court of appeal judge responded that she believed the coronavirus was infectious and that smoking caused cancer. However, she dismissed Harris on the issue of climate change for seeking to “solicit an opinion” on “a matter of public policy, particularly one that is politically controversial.”
The exchange took place during the committee hearing on the nomination of Barrett to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
Scientists say climate change is a given and the damage is mostly caused by people burning oil, gas and coal. Climate experts, including federal scientists in the Trump administration, say increasingly fierce forest fires, hurricanes and other natural disasters underscore the urgency of global warming.
President Donald Trump, a staunch proponent of the coal, oil and gas industries, regularly questions and pokes fun at the science of climate change, while his Democratic rival Joe Biden proposes a $ 2 billion plan to wean Americans off fossil fuels to fight the climate crisis.
The Trump administration has reversed major Obama-era efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions from cars, trucks, and power plants. Many of the administration’s environmental and public health setbacks are likely to end in the Supreme Court.
On Tuesday, Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana and another committee member considering Barrett’s confirmation, also asked Barrett what she thought of a range of issues, including climate change.
“I’ve read articles on climate change,” Barrett replied.
“And do you have any views on climate change that you’ve thought of?” Kennedy asked.
“I’m certainly not a scientist,” Barrett replied, using a frequent refrain from more conservative Republicans on the matter. “I wouldn’t say I have a firm opinion on this.”