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Junk Science Week: Net-Zero Edition — Peter Shawn Taylor: Is climate change making judges meaner?


A person enters the Hillcrest Community Centre where they can cool off during the extreme hot weather in Vancouver in 2021. Article content

It’s a scorcher outside. Sure, you’ve got air conditioning at home and in the office, but no one can stay inside forever. Eventually you’ll have to face the heat. Can the very concept of justice survive such a situation? Article content

In a widely-cited 2019 article in American Economic Journal: Applied Economics a pair of Canadian economists — University of Ottawa’s Anthony Heyes, who holds a prestigious Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in environmental economics, and Soodeh Saberian of the University of Manitoba — declared that as temperatures rise outside courtrooms judges become less able to perform their jobs in an impartial manner. The hotter it gets, the greater the chance they’ll hand down negative verdicts. The spectre of climate change looms large and sweaty over these worrisome results.

The economists used the binary nature of final decisions on asylum claims in U.S. immigration courts to test their hypothesis that external environmental conditions impact indoor work. Their data included 207,000 yea or nay verdicts delivered between 2000 and 2004 in 43 cities across the U.S., matched to […]

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