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Both sides of a lawsuit on damages from climate change will today in court reaffirm the scientific consensus that human activity is extremely likely to have caused global warming over the last century.

Why it matters: EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has said he wants to host a public debate discussing to what degree humans are driving the Earth’s temperature to rise. Wednesday’s federal court hearing in San Francisco, in which California cities are suing big oil companies alleging they’re liable for damages related to climate change, is surprisingly providing that debate.

The hearing will directly contradict what Pruitt and other Trump administration officials have said, doubting human activity is a leading driver of climate change. Even the defendants in this case, including Exxon, Shell and Chevron, are expected to confirm the scientific consensus and contradict Pruitt’s positions.

The big picture: Wednesday's hearing, in a case brought by San Francisco and Oakland, is part of a broader legal push by liberal cities alleging that big oil companies have concealed what they knew about climate change and are liable for billions of dollars of damage caused by rising global temperatures.

The bottom line:

While conservative think tanks, political pundits, and industry-funded researchers are at liberty to say whatever they want, the courtroom demands a higher level of integrity. I expect the defendants will underscore points of uncertainty in the science, and highlight difficulties in attributing causation to particular actors. But the basics of climate science are not legitimately open to debate.”
— Michael Burger, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University

Go deeper: The flawed climate gambit against big oil.

Go deeper

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Americans are still spending money

Source: Census Bureau; Chart: Axios Visuals

Americans spent more money at stores and restaurants in 2020 than they did in 2019 — even in the face of a devastating global pandemic that shut down broad sectors of the economy.

Why it matters: The monthly retail sales report this morning came in well below expectations, and showed consumer spending falling on a seasonally-adjusted basis. Total expenditures were still higher in December 2020 than they were a year previously, however.

The deplatforming fight shifts to the courts

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Capitol riot and tech firms' sweeping attempt in its wake to dislodge the online far right are kicking up efforts to have the courts settle knotty questions about online speech and power.

Why it matters: Legal battles could force the people angry at Big Tech to bring more rigor to arguments that have often devolved into messy sideshows.