January 19th will be one of those moments when past, present, and future will collide, this time in the halls of the Supreme Court. The Justices will hear a case (BP P.L.C. v. Mayor and City Council of Baltimore), and the most interesting question is: How many Justices will there be? Because, as new research makes clear, Amy Coney Barrett, the junior member of that august bench, should recuse herself. The case before the Supreme Court hinges on a narrow procedural question, but the underlying lawsuit is one of almost two dozen brought by cities and states that want the oil companies to compensate them for the damages—the rising seas and the gathering winds—caused by the fossil-fuel industry’s products. They contend, and the record leaves little doubt, that the industry knew for decades that it was triggering dangerous climate change. These were the biggest lies that companies have ever told: if Philip Morris killed us one smoker at a time, BP and ExxonMobil and the rest are taking out the entire planet, as the new record that the world set for billion-dollar “natural” disasters in 2020 makes clear. That list of duplicitous companies includes Shell, which is where Barrett comes in: her father, Michael, was an attorney for Shell for almost three decades. Justice Barrett’s father potentially has direct knowledge of and operational involvement in how Shell managed climate threats.
Bill McKibben. The New Yorker. January 13, 2021.