"I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially when it is politically controversial because that is inconsistent with the judicial role as I have explained," Barrett said.
Fall has tended to be California's peak wildfire season, but state officials say the season is growing longer each year.
Experts say droughts and climate change from fossil fuels have made poorly managed forests much more flammable, leading to extreme fire activity.
Slow-moving storms that deluge coasts are also becoming a regular occurrence, a development that scientists attribute to climate change.
KAMALA HARRIS: Justice Barrett, yesterday you said that, quote, you have read things about climate change, but you would not say you have firm views on it, unquote. In response to Senator Blumenthal today you said, quote, you are not competent to opine on what causes global warming. And that you don't think your views on global warming or climate change are relevant to the work you do as a judge. I certainly do believe your views are relevant, and I'm very concerned about your statements. If a case that comes before you would require you to consider scientific evidence, my question is will you defer to scientists and those with expertise in the relevant issues before rendering a judgment?
AMY CONEY BARRETT: If a case comes before me involving environmental regulation, I will certainly apply all applicable law, deferring when the law requires me to. And as I'm sure you know, Senator Harris, the Administrative Procedure Act does require courts to defer to agency fact-finding and to agency regulations when they're supported by substantial evidence.
KAMALA HARRIS: Yes.
AMY CONEY BARRETT: So yes, I would apply that law and defer when the law requires me to defer.
KAMALA HARRIS: And do you accept that COVID-19 is infectious?
AMY CONEY BARRETT: I think yes, I do accept that COVID-19 is infectious. That's something of which I feel like we could say you take judicial notice of. It's an obvious fact, yes.
KAMALA HARRIS: Do you accept that smoking causes cancer?
AMY CONEY BARRETT: I'm not sure exactly where you're going with this, but the notice that smoking--
KAMALA HARRIS: The question is what it is. You can answer it if you believe yes or no.
AMY CONEY BARRETT: Senator Harris, yes, every package of cigarettes warns that smoking causes cancer.
KAMALA HARRIS: And do you believe that climate change is happening and is threatening the air we breathe and the water we drink?
AMY CONEY BARRETT: Senator, again, I was wondering where you were going with that. You have asked me a series of questions that are completely uncontroversial, like whether COVID-19 is infectious, whether smoking causes cancer. And then trying to analogize that to eliciting an opinion on me that is a very contentious matter-- opinion from me-- that is on a very contentious matter of public debate. And I will not do that. I will not express a view on a matter of public policy, especially one that is politically controversial. Because that's inconsistent with the judicial role, as I have explained.
KAMALA HARRIS: Thank you, Judge Barrett. And you've made your point clear that you believe it's a debatable point.