Extreme Temperature Diary- Thursday October 15th, 2020/ Main Topic: Why The U.S. Supreme Court May Sink Our Climate Mitigation Hopes

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: Why The U.S. Supreme Court May Sink Our Climate Mitigation Hopes

Dear Diary. Anyone taking a civics class knows that the United States has three co-equal branches of government…the legislative, executive, and judiciary. My political tea leaves, as of mid October, are telling me that the Republicans will lose out big time to the Democrats this election cycle, so Joe Biden should become President, and the Senate will probably get in Democratic hands, with the Democrats picking up a few more seats in the already democratically controlled House of Representatives, the other legislative branch. So, if my rosy prediction comes true after election day on November 3rd, it’s smooth sailing for any climate initiatives put forth by the Democrats, right? Eh…wrong.

There is that third branch of government, the ever more conservative Supreme Court, which could bring climate activists to tears during the 2020s, striking down executive moves and laws made by Congress. For today’s main topic let’s see how many potential monkey wrenches the U.S. Supreme Court could throw in our direction on the climate front.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the nomination process of Trump’s third nominee, one Amy Coney Barrett, who is very likely to become the sixth consecutive justice out of nine on the Supreme Court. I was pleasantly surprised to hear vice presidential nominee, Senator Kamala Harris, ask Judge Barrett what she thought about the climate issue:

Click on this tweet by Dr. Mann to listen in:

Here is more from the Washington Post:


PowerPost Analysis

The Energy 202: Amy Coney Barrett says she’s ‘not a scientist’ when asked about climate change

By Dino Grandoni

Oct. 14, 2020 at 5:03 a.m. PDT

with Alexandra Ellerbeck

President Trump’s nominee to replace Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court demurred when asked broadly what she thought of climate change.

Amy Coney Barrett said late during her confirmation hearing Tuesday that while she has read up on the issue, she did not have “firm views” on global warming. 

“I’m certainly not a scientist,” she said when asked by Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) whether she had a personal opinion on the issue. “I mean, I’ve read things about climate change. I would not say I have firm views on it.”

Supreme Court nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

The use of a boilerplate phrase often trotted out by Republican lawmakers – who often default to insisting they are not scientists – raised eyebrows among those concerned about how the 48-year-old judge will rule on climate cases should she get a lifetime appointment. 

Jamal Raad, campaign director of the green group Evergreen Action, called her response “disqualifying.”

“It is a requirement that a Supreme Court Justice be able to review evidence to make a decision,” he said. “The scientific evidence of climate change is beyond reasonable doubt or debate, yet Amy Coney Barrett refused to acknowledge reality.”

A climate change case is already on the Supreme Court’s docket next year. It will hear a case involving several oil companies, including Dutch Royal Shell, being sued by the city of Baltimore, which is seeking to hold them financially responsible for their greenhouse gas contributions. Barrett’s father spent much of his own career as a lawyer for Shell. 

Even before the hearing, legal experts predicted Barrett will be a roadblock to tougher environmental regulations.

Barrett only joined the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit in 2017. But those examining her brief judicial record say the conservative judge would make it harder for environmentalists to win at the Supreme Court.

A high court with a more solid 6-3 conservative majority may help cement Trump’s rollbacks of environmental regulations and even make it hard for a future Democratic administration to implement a plan to combat climate change.

Yet at least one of Trump’s other Supreme Court picks has acknowledged the scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet when speaking from the bench. 

“The policy is laudable,” Brett Kavanaugh, then an appellate court judge, said in 2016 when hearing a case on Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. “The earth is warming. Humans are contributing.”

This was not the only time environmental issues were raised in the hearing. 

Earlier in the day, a Democratic senator decried a network of “dark money” donors from the oil and other industries helping pick Supreme Court nominees.

Wielding posters and a Sharpie, Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings are a “puppet theater” in which donors, including fossil fuel executives, are “pulling strings.”

Their goal, according to the senator, is to kneecap the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal agencies from issuing and enforcing strong regulations by getting judges sympathetic to corporate interests on the court.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) during Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing. (Alex Edelman/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) (Alex Edelman/Pool/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Whitehouse cited a report from our colleagues Robert O’Harrow Jr. and Shawn Boburg describing how the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo helped nonprofit organizations raise $250 million from mostly anonymous donors in recent years to promote conservative causes.

Those organizations have, in turn, cultivated a generation of right-wing judges, including Barrett, who Trump and Senate Republicans have elevated to the federal bench.

“Something is not right around the court,” he said, using his entire 30 minutes of questioning time to talk without asking Barrett anything, “and dark money has a lot to do with it.”

“If you’re a big polluter, what do you want?” he added. “You want weak regulatory agencies.”


If Barrett and the majority of the Supreme Court begin to derail climate initiatives beginning in 2021, our youth will have no patience for our system as laid out by the Constitution. There is one out, though. Biden could “pack the court,” adding more justices since the Constitution does not explicitly say that the number of justices will always be nine.

Doing so would pave the way for climate initiatives and much other needed reforms, but would undermine the integrity of the Supreme Court. Future administrations could add as many justices as they please in order to get their legislation that has been signed into law upheld, undermining the independence of the court and opening a path towards corruption. Eventually, this would mean that we would have two branches of government instead of three to carefully weigh and balance big societal issues, something I personally would view as dangerous in regards to our republic.

I’ll continue to report on the politics behind climate as we move forward in time.

Gretta sure is paying attention.😉

Unfortunately, we have a new named heatwave in the West. Here is more info, including some “ET” reports:

Here is more climate and weather news from Thursday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via the PayPal widget, which has recently been added to this site. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

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