Amy Coney Barrett is not a scientist. That's what she told Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana on Tuesday when he asked the Supreme Court nominee if she had a personal view on the issue of climate change. "I've read about climate change," she said. "I'm certainly not a scientist. I've read things about climate change, I would not say that I have firm views on it."
Barrett's answer came in response to a series of questions posed by Senator Kennedy intended to show that the potential future Supreme Court justice has given thought to many different issues. "My colleagues think you’re only qualified if you’re dumb, if you have a blank slate," he said. "If you’ve never thought about the world. Have you thought about the world?” Barrett answered that yes, she had thought about the world. In fact, she's thought about many things. In the series of leading questions posed to her by the Senator, Barrett said she has thought about: "the social problems facing our world," economic problems, affirmative action, flat and progressive income taxes, abortion, and healthcare.
But when asked about climate change, she demurred, refusing to confirm that she has thought about the issue at all. Similarly, when asked if she had given any consideration to the idea of nuclear energy, Barrett said that no, she has not thought much about that topic.
It's telling that issues of climate change were the ones Barrett decided to shy away from, considering she has almost certainly run into the topic before. She’s college-educated and spent years in Washington, D.C. as a law clerk and lawyer. Her father, Michael Barrett, spent most of his legal career representing oil giant Shell, and Shell just happens to have a significant case in front of the Supreme Court regarding its contributions to climate change, according to The Daily Poster.
The entire premise of Kennedy's transparently silly line of questioning was to present the idea that it is okay for judges to have personal views on issues, and those views do not have to interfere with their ability to do their job. And Barrett went along with the bit. "One of the things about the judicial role that I’ve repeatedly emphasized in the hearing today," she said, "is that I’ve got personal views and personal feelings on a range of matters, just like every human does, and just like every judge or justice on the court does."
But on climate change? "I'm certainly not a scientist." Barrett also said she is not a tax lawyer when asked if she had opinions on taxation, but admitted to having thought about the issue. And her lack of expertise on the topic hasn't stopped her from issuing rulings on cases involving tax law. She also is not a doctor but has made her opinion known through her judicial rulings and dissents on a number of healthcare-related topics, including abortion.
Seeing as she is not a scientist, Barrett should have no problem leaning on the findings of those who are, should she become a Supreme Court Justice. Failing to do so and instead continuing to issue rulings that undermine environmental law or benefit the oil baron billionaires who are bankrolling efforts to put her on the court would suggest that she had an opinion on climate change the whole time — one backed by her own interests, rather than expertise.