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Scientists around the world sounded the alarm as Judge Amy Coney Barrett was appointed to the US Supreme Court. Barrett and five other conservative justices now wield a huge influence on Climate Change policy.

Based on the overwhelming evidence, it's widely agreed that climate change is an existential threat to humanity and that steps need to be taken to avoid dangerous and life-threatening environmental destruction.

The UN has called Climate Change "the defining issue of our time and we are at a defining moment." Yet while most people around the globe acknowledge this disturbing truth, the new Supreme Court appointment is treating Climate Change as a matter of opinion. When asked if Climate Change is even happening, Barrett said she didn't want to weigh in on a “very contentious matter of public debate.”

That's a dangerous view to hold in 2020, and it's especially disturbing now that she is one of the highest fact-checkers in the world.

Below we've broken down what's happening, why it's happening, what could happen, and how you can make a difference.

What's happening right now?

As Barret was appointed to the Supreme Court, the main nursery of Arctic sea ice in Siberia had yet to start freezing. This is the first time this has happened in recorded history. According to climate scientists, the delayed annual freeze is being caused by freakishly protracted warmth in northern Russia and the intrusion of Atlantic waters, and it could have knock-on effects across the polar region.

From shifting weather patterns that threaten food production to rising sea levels that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding, the impacts of Climate Change are global in scope and unprecedented in scale. In terms of numbers, the 20 warmest years on record all occurred in the past 22 years, with 2015-18 making up the top four and across the globe, meanwhile, the average sea level increased by 3.6mm per year between 2005 and 2015.

In 2018, the world’s leading climate scholars warned that we have just 12 years to act to bring down global average temperature rise and avert the direst predictions of the climate crisis. A countdown clock recently installed in Times Square estimates the years-left figure to be closer to seven.

Barrett vs. Climate Change

The evidence to support the need for action on Climate Change seems impossible to discount. Over 70 scientists and Climate Change journalists agree that “Judge Coney Barrett has displayed a profound inability to understand the ecological crisis of our times, and in so doing she enables it.”

What's more, Scientists argue that she can't rule on pending issues of climate change liability, regulation, finance, mitigation, equity, justice, and accountability if she fails to accept even the underlying premise of global warming.

Her alarming inaction and apathy towards the climate crisis could be explained by her links to the fossil fuel industry. Her father worked in oil and gas — he was the former chairman of the nation’s leading fossil fuel lobby— she has previously recused herself from cases involving Royal Dutch Shell. These ties to the fossil fuel industry have already proved problematic and her need to recuse herself from future cases will continue to undermine her effectiveness as a judge.

How the Supreme Court rules on climate change over the next ten years will change the course of human history. Worryingly, Barrett has proclaimed, “I don’t think that my views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the job I would do as a judge.”

What will happen?

Barrett's appointment could jeopardize precedent set by the Massachusetts v. EPA ruling as well as the EPA’s subsequent “endangerment finding” that greenhouse gases threaten public health and welfare — the finding that provided the legal authority for the Obama administration’s 2015 Clean Power Plan.

These rulings and findings illustrate how crucial the Supreme Court is in implementing changes that will save lives during this crisis. While it's important that individuals do their part, the most significant changes happen at the legal level, because it is here that governments and companies are truly held accountable.

On the other hand, if the Supreme Court fails to act on the crisis, marginalized people will suffer most. "The people who will be impacted the most are the low-income communities of color who already bear a disproportionate burden of our society’s industrial activities,” Shana Lazerow, legal director for Communities for a Better Environment explains. “Striking down our climate protections is a specific act of racism.”

What can be done?

Voting out Donald Trump next week is one step. The President nominates the Supreme Court Judges and Joe Biden is likely to nominate a judge competent enough to grapple with the challenge at hand. After the election, ask the federal government to invest in solutions that will reduce carbon pollution.

It's also vital to vote in your local and state elections for people who are acting on climate change. One way is to support the Green New Deal by urging your congressperson and senators to cosponsor the bill and move it forward to hearings.

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