We know that climate expertise plays an indispensable role in government decisions to reduce greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, the implicit shift of power to judicial bodies such as the US Supreme Court needs to be objectively identified and discussed, especially to avoid unwarranted questioning of climate science. The risk is that climate opinion is creeping into the same level as climate science – and could lead to devastating consequences for people and the planet.
Editors from Scientific American describe in a recent opinion how “the promise of democracy is sorely tested” by recent court decisions, including those affecting the planet. Among other decisions in the past few weeks, the US Supreme Court has ignored the scientific evidence underlying the need to stop climate change. Their decision put industry and special interests above the facts. They devalued the role of expertise.
The slow dismantling of the EPA’s climate crisis power
Editors from Scientific American they discuss how the US Supreme Court broke with established modes of scientific evaluation and instead chose judicial opinion formation as a form of problem solving through interaction rather than rational analysis.
“In removing energy from the EPA to help power plants mitigate carbon output, the majority of justices again said the evidence doesn’t matter, the science doesn’t matter. Our planet is warming. Coal is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gases in the world. Removing the EPA’s regulatory authority now puts states in charge of slowing climate change. Partial efforts will not produce the reductions we need to slow warming. Federal action, as part of a global effort, is a necessary solution to this problem. And climate change is a public health issue. An increase in wild winter storms, unbearable heat, devastating rain and wildfires all affect the health and well-being of people in the United States. The science is clear: we need to act now, and the Supreme Court has made that action more difficult.”
The reasons for the divide between climate experts and lay climate change skeptics—as evidenced by the conservative majority of the US Supreme Court—are multifaceted. Among the accepted causes, political ideology is the most pressing factor leading to questioning the true intent of the “scientific elites” – even the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which were derived from a consensus among its member governments and thousands of scientists and experts, inform international policy and climate change negotiations.
While the IPCC has become a privileged speaker – successfully disseminating knowledge to government institutions and making the climate crisis a pressing policy issue requiring multilateral solutions – it has also been criticized for failing to create and articulate knowledge in a way that resonates with society. and spur policy makers to action.
Why has climate opinion become a judicial norm?
Chief Justice John Roberts referred to the “sociological stupidity” of the research and is one of the conservative justices who “spewed out misleading scientific claims,” according to the editors Scientific American. Judge Amy Coney Barrett said: “I’m certainly not a scientist.”
No, most of us are not scientists. On the other hand, it is not necessary to be a scientist or a mathematician to make sound decisions and judgments about the climate crisis due to the vast amount of evidence available. But that didn’t stop the conservative majority of the U.S. Supreme Court from ruling against the separation of church and state in a case that now forces Maine to fund schools that teach children misinformation about evolution and climate science.
“Ignoring science and evidence is a terrible move for the highest court in the land,” he said Scientific American reports the editors. Emphasizing that “expertise matters,” the editors appeal to judges who are not self-reflective enough to know when they have gaps in knowledge and do not seek information to fill those gaps—a quality that “makes for better justice. “
“We fear that this shift away from our societal responsibility for health and well-being will lead to unnecessary suffering and death,” the editors explain. “We urge the Court to change its thinking—to value statistics, to value research, and to understand how ignoring it in decision-making violates common decency and their responsibility as lawyers to the people of the United States.
As with every level of government, there is no requirement that the US Supreme Court incorporate science into its decision-making. Recent judicial trends away from climate science and toward climate opinion are reframing climate issues through the lens of selectively applicable knowledge. Rather than serving the needs of those affected by climate change, this approach is haunted by what Coen Climate change he calls earlier Euro-American conceptions “whose meanings were shaped by historical processes of industrialization and imperial conquest”. Today’s courts seem wary that climate scientists are a “limited cadre” to be kept at arm’s length.
As a result, climate opinion gets the same amount of time as climate evidence—it’s a way to moderate the conservative social status quo. This trend of recognizing and respecting the opposition opinion on the climate is a shadow beacon of other court decisions that do not address the awareness of the climate crisis and environmental protection.
Applicable science becomes applicable only in favorable political contexts. Our judicial system is in danger of becoming an instrument of protectionist intervention, a system that gives responsibility for the viability of the fossil industry through new interpretations of precedent. Conservative rhetoric now promotes the idea that useful science depends on issuing court rulings that impose restrictions on the fossil industry according to a hierarchy of perceived assigned merit.
We’ve gotten to a point where, if you’re a justice of the United States Supreme Court, you have “the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people depending on your every opinion,” according to the editorial. of Scientific American“and you owe it to us to use data carefully collected by science to make your decisions. We must not become the dystopian future that science fiction has warned us so much about. Let the evidence decide the court.”
The current judicial trend to accept selective, actionable climate science is changing the very meaning of research and evidence. We need judicial bodies that will critically seek to evaluate the implications of climate policy and gain a better understanding of the various criteria of climate science by all actors. We need stronger enforcement of climate science recommendations and removal of manipulation by fossil industry lobbyists.
The majority conservative US Supreme Court has become a corps of constitutional purists when it suits their ideology. The result is a judiciary that ignores climate science and evidence when it suits them on a case-by-case basis.
“The United States once inspired other countries to protect human liberties,” the editors said Scientific American remind us “Now the rest of the world is watching and reacting to the decisions our Supreme Court made this term. And that’s not good.”
Do you appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality and reporting? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica member, supporter, technician or ambassador – or a patron on Patreon.