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News brief: climate summit, Texas abortion case, Rittenhouse trial

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

World leaders can say they are doing something about climate change. But how can they do enough?

NOEL KING, HOST:

That exact question hangs over a meeting of world leaders this week in Scotland. President Biden will be there. He's made a transition to cleaner fuel a defining issue of his presidency, but he will not arrive with a U.S. commitment in hand of any big progress.

INSKEEP: NPR's Dan Charles is in Glasgow, the site of the climate summit. Hey there, Dan.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: Hi.

INSKEEP: OK. The president wanted to have agreements on a big infrastructure bill and a big budget bill by now and does not. How does that compare to the other countries represented at this meeting?

CHARLES: You know, the situation in the U.S. is very similar to what's happening in a lot of countries. Things are changing. But at the same time, they're not changing enough to meet the goal that the world's countries set for themselves. Just over the weekend, the world's biggest economic powers, the so-called G-20, met in Rome. And coming out of that meeting, Secretary of State John Kerry was saying there had been so much progress. You know, a bunch of countries committed to the goal of cutting back greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep the world from warming up more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOHN KERRY: When you get major industrial nations, the largest economies of the world - more than half of them - saying, we're on board to hit 1.5 degrees, that is a giant step forward. And it leaves me with optimism that we can still close the gap with some of these other countries - that we're working on that.

CHARLES: He talked about every country in the G-20 now agreeing to cut off financing for coal-burning power plants in other countries. That is a real change.

INSKEEP: Yeah, it does sound significant. We've reported on how China has invested a lot in coal plants outside of China. And that's one of the G-20, so that's a big change. But to get to our question at the start, is that enough?

CHARLES: No, it's clearly not enough. And there are two sides to this. I mean, some countries, like the U.S., are talking a good game, saying we will move really quickly to get off fossil fuels, get net greenhouse gas emissions down to zero in 30 years. But they've not yet managed to actually, you know, deliver the policies that would get them there 'cause it's politically tough. Right? And then there are other countries who say the goal itself isn't right for us. They say we're not ready to move that fast. At a press conference yesterday, President Biden called out some of these countries by name.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: I think you're going to see we've made significant progress, and more has to be done. But it's going to require us to continue to focus on what China's not doing, what Russia's not doing and what Saudi Arabia's not doing.

CHARLES: There are other countries, too - I mean, India, quite a few other developing countries.

INSKEEP: Biden mentioned a big coal burning country and two big oil producers there, so I get why they might be reluctant to change their economies. But why would other countries be reluctant to step up?

CHARLES: Well, some of them were saying, we don't have the money to pay for these new, cleaner power plants and transportation systems and so forth, which gets us to a big issue - what people call climate finance. Wealthier countries promise to deliver a lot of money - $100 billion a year - to help them cope with climate change, build clean energy systems. They have not done that, and that is also on the agenda here in Glasgow, how to fix that.

INSKEEP: So what is Biden going to be saying to these, these other countries?

CHARLES: He is going to say we are back, we are committed to doing our part to keep the planet from catastrophic warming. Maybe Congress hasn't approved my plan yet, but one way or another, my administration is going to get this done.

INSKEEP: Dan, thanks so much.

CHARLES: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Dan Charles at the site of a climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland.

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INSKEEP: OK. Today, the United States Supreme Court takes a deeper look at a Texas abortion law.

KING: Yeah, this is the law that bans abortions after six weeks. And because that is obviously unconstitutional, this law bans officials from enforcing it. Instead, any random person anywhere can sue. Now, in its first look at this law that was designed to evade judicial scrutiny, the court's conservative majority allowed it to take effect. Now the court is going to hear those arguments over the law.

INSKEEP: NPR national correspondent Sarah McCammon covers reproductive rights policy and is with us now. Sarah, good morning.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: Morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What exactly is before the justices today?

MCCAMMON: So just to back up a little bit, two months ago, when this law was about to take effect, reproductive rights groups sued to block it. And as we've heard, SB 8 bans abortion after any type of early cardiac activity is detectable. So that's around six weeks, which, of course, is well before many people know they're pregnant and well before current Supreme Court precedent allow states to ban abortions. But what's unique about this law is that it tries to get around a lot of that existing precedent by allowing individuals to file lawsuits against anyone involved in providing an abortion or helping someone get one after that point.

So initially, the Supreme Court declined to block the law, allowing it to take effect in September, but didn't weigh in on the larger constitutional questions at stake here. The U.S. Department of Justice also has challenged this law, and today's hearing is a result of both of those efforts to block SB 8.

INSKEEP: I just want to remember that it matters a lot in a Supreme Court setting - what is the question that is being posed, and then what are the terms of the answers that come back? There are lots of kinds of rulings you could have about abortion that might or might not touch the larger constitutional issue here. Does this case touch the larger constitutional issue?

MCCAMMON: Not directly, not the question of whether or not people should have a right to an abortion under the Constitution and to what extent states can restrict it. That will be at the heart of another case from Mississippi scheduled to be heard in a month. But today, the justices will look at some meatier issues raised by this Texas law. For example, can the federal government sue to block this law by preventing public officials in Texas from cooperating with its enforcement, which is what the DOJ is trying to do? And also, is it permissible for a state like Texas to essentially delegate law enforcement to private citizens in this way through what critics are calling a bounty hunting scheme?

INSKEEP: And it's an interesting point because you still have state courts, state court clerks who are involved in the enforcement of this, even if private citizens are filing lawsuits in those...

MCCAMMON: Right.

INSKEEP: ...Courts. What are the implications of the outcome here?

MCCAMMON: Well, there's already a huge impact on people in Texas who can't get abortions in most cases now. People are traveling out of state to get abortions. I've talked to doctors who are having a difficult time providing a full scope of patient care and fearful of being sued under this law because it is so broadly written. And finally, Steve, I want to point out there's another implication. Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted in a recent dissent from the court's decision to allow this law to stay in effect. She said this system of allowing private individuals to enforce an abortion ban could have implications for other completely unrelated issues. The court, so far, has allowed this law to be in effect for two full months, despite the fact that there has been no ruling from the court contradicting existing precedent that says that women have a right to an abortion, particularly in earlier stages of pregnancy. And Sotomayor wrote that, quote, "Every day the scheme succeeds increases the likelihood that it will be adapted to attack other federal constitutional rights." So this could be applied to other issues.

Also important to remember that even if abortion rights groups and the Justice Department are successful here, the conservative majority on the court will have another opportunity to weigh in on abortion in a month when they consider that case from Mississippi.

INSKEEP: Sarah, thanks.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Sarah McCammon.

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INSKEEP: OK. The trial begins today for a man who killed two people and wounded a third during protests that followed a police shooting in Wisconsin.

KING: Right. Jurors will examine events that happened in Kenosha. Kyle Rittenhouse carried a rifle from out of state to those demonstrations. He is now facing six charges, including homicide.

INSKEEP: And Corrinne Hess of Wisconsin Public Radio is covering the case. Good morning.

CORRINNE HESS, BYLINE: Good morning.

INSKEEP: Let's start with the basics because there were so many protests last year. What were the events in Kenosha?

HESS: In August of last year, Kenosha police officers shot a Black man named Jacob Blake several times at close range. The shooting was captured on cellphone video and widely distributed on social media.

INSKEEP: Right.

HESS: This happened only three months after widespread protests over George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis. There were three days of protests and looting in Kenosha, and self-appointed armed militia came to town. They were saying this was an effort to protect local businesses. One of the people was Kyle Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at the time. He drove to Wisconsin from nearby Antioch, Ill., carrying a semi-automatic rifle to the protests. His lawyers will argue that he shot and killed Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber and wounded Gaige Grosskreutz in self-defense.

INSKEEP: There's been a lot of discussion about the words that are to be used at this trial, what to call people. What is the dispute here?

HESS: So the judge in the case, Bruce Schroeder, has made controversial decisions that some see as favoring the defense. Just last week, he got national attention for ruling that the men Rittenhouse shot can't be called victims during the hearing. But at the same time, he ruled that they can be referred to as rioters, looters and arsonists.

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BRUCE SCHROEDER: The word victim is a loaded, loaded word. And I think alleged victim is a cousin to it. More than one of these people were engaging in arson, rioting or looting, then I'm not going to tell the defense they can't call them that.

INSKEEP: He's saying, don't call them victims because that's what at issue here, whether they were victims, in fact, or whether they were someone who were threatening Kyle Rittenhouse, who says this self-defense plea is his way out of this. What are you hearing from the community as this trial begins?

HESS: One of the observers I talked to, he's a long time activist. His name's Gregory Bennett. He says that in this city that's 80% white, there's always been concerns over racial inequity and unequal policing.

GREGORY BENNETT JR: You know how you push somebody, push somebody, push somebody. And you say, hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me. And then you finally get hit, then you wonder, why'd I get hit? But this whole time, the city's been screaming and begging something to be changed.

HESS: And this has been an issue that's been debated over and over on social media. And you know, some of the defenders of Kyle Rittenhouse are just, you know, portraying him as this martyred patriot.

INSKEEP: Yeah, divisive case. So how does this week go?

HESS: Well, jury selection begins today, and Judge Schroeder is saying that he's going to treat this case as a normal homicide case. But of course, it's not in many ways. Amateur video will likely be played throughout the trial to portray the chaos surrounding the shootings. But ultimately, this trial will determine whether a 17-year-old with a rifle was defending law and order during unrest or acting as a vigilante who indiscriminately shot and killed two people.

INSKEEP: Corrinne Hess of Wisconsin Public Radio, thanks for your coverage.

HESS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.