Quantcast
Climate

Red Team-Blue Team Is No Way to Conduct Climate Science

By Keith Gaby

Like a television executive peddling reality shows, Scott Pruitt has decided to stage an exercise pitting the well-established science of climate change against a grab bag of fringe theories.

It will be marketed by the Trump administration as an effort in the best traditions of scientific inquiry, but the real goal is to confuse the public and distract from the serious damage Pruitt is doing to our air, water and health.


Here's the first red flag for anyone who cares about science: A legitimate climate exercise would be organized by scientific leaders in the field—rather than by officials with a political motivation for seeding doubt.

That's like Pope Gregory trying Galileo Galilei back in 1633, OJ searching for the real killers or Trump looking for 3 million illegal votes. Pruitt's "Red Team-Blue Team" exercise—for which his agency is now soliciting participants—is a show based on everything but reality.

Science: Grueling and Unglamorous Work

Climate science is not speculation devised by a clever professor alone in his study; it's based on satellite images, ice core samples, temperatures records, sea level measurements and millions of other data points across the globe since long before we put a man on the moon.

The conclusions drawn from such data have been challenged and refined countless times by the international scientific community. That includes NASA, the National Academies of Sciences and every globally recognized scientific organization.

A new and trust-worthy science inquiry, in other words, would move on to important, still-open questions and not waste everybody's time with what's already known.

Cigarettes Don't Cause Lung Cancer, After All?

Now you're thinking, "Okay, if the science is so strong, what's the harm?"

But just imagine the U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) suddenly holding a public trial to determine whether smoking actually causes lung cancer.

Then consider the FDA letting tobacco companies appoint a team that presents clever-sounding theories "proving" that smoking isn't so dangerous, after all—just to protect their business. All that would do is sow confusion among non-experts.

It's even worse in the case of climate change, because the details are less well-known by the general public and the issue is caught up in our partisan divisions.

Beware of "Alternative Facts"

Pruitt is a clever man and will pick "reasonably-sounding" advocates for his position to build excuses for inaction. Growing doubt about whether climate change is real would be a huge victory for the polluting industries that enabled Pruitt's political career.

A real science inquiry would not solicit participation by fringe groups such as the Heartland Institute, known for comparing climate scientists with the Unabomber. It would hear from a range government agencies with deep climate expertise, such as the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA—and, of course, experts at Pruitt's own agency.

2 or 4 Degrees? Questions Remain.

So is there nothing to debate about climate science? Is every detail settled? No, of course not. Scientists around the world continue to explore the details and impact of climate change, as global decisions evolve and emissions rise or fall.

What year will Earth cross the 1.5-degree centigrade temperature threshold? Exactly what level of global sea rise should we expect by 2100?

Just as public health experts don't gather to explore whether or not viruses cause disease, climate scientists today are focused on the real questions in their field.

Treating Pruitt's reality TV show like a legitimate exercise in scientific inquiry would accomplish just two things: Setting back our effort to solve the largest environmental crisis facing us, and create baseless confusion.

Keith Gaby is senior communications director for Climate, Health and Political Affairs at Environmental Defense Fund.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Renewable Energy
Denver will get 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030. Robert Kash / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Denver to Go 100 Percent Renewable by 2030

Denver became the 73rd city in the U.S. to commit to 100 percent renewable energy when Mayor Michael Hancock announced the goal in his State of the City speech Monday, The Denver Post reported.

The commitment is part of the city's larger 80×50 Climate Action Plan unveiled by Hancock Tuesday, which seeks to reduce Denver's greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2050.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Politics
The Power Shift 2011 rally targeted primarily the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for using its money and influence to stop climate and clean energy legislation. Linh Do, CC BY 2.0

Fossil Fuel Industry Outspent Environmentalists and Renewables by 10:1 on Climate Lobbying, New Study Finds

By Itai Vardi

Industry sectors based on fossil fuels significantly outspent environmental groups and renewable energy companies on climate change lobbying, new research has found.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Climatic Change, Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle shows that between 2000 and 2016, lobbyists spent more than $2 billion trying to influence climate legislation in the U.S. Congress.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Pexels

Is Your Popcorn Laced With Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals?

By Kathryn Alcantar and Jose Bravo / Independent Media Institute

No one should be exposed to toxic chemicals in their food, particularly children. But that's exactly what the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) found in tests of microwave popcorn bags sold in Dollar Stores. These stores are frequented by communities of color and millions of poor Americans.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
The Washington Post / Contributor / Getty Images

Climate Change May Stimulate the Chesapeake’s Blue Crab Population

By Amy Mcdermott

Jason McElwain isn't afraid of a pinch. He reached calmly into a basket of live crabs one Friday this June, and kept his cool even when a claw clamped down hard on his finger. "You get used to it after a while," he said, then yanked the crab off and tossed it into a plastic bin.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
Pexels

A Brief History of the Feral Blackberry

By Sara Bir

Blackberries are perhaps the best known of all foraged wild fruits. Whether they grow modestly on the perimeters of a ramshackle farm or thrive ruthlessly along the banks of a forgotten creek, there are hundreds of hidden wild blackberry havens waiting for opportunistic berry fanatics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
Joshua Tree National Park now has more unsafe ozone days than New York City. atramos / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution in National Parks as Bad as 20 Largest U.S. Cities

A new study shows the importance of clean air regulations to prevent air pollution from reaching national parks.

A study published in Science Advances Wednesday found that, between 1990 and 2014, the ozone concentrations in 33 of the largest and most visited national parks were statistically indistinguishable from the ozone concentrations in the 20 largest U.S. cities.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Halliburton getting ready to frack in the Bakken formation, which underlies North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated

Ousted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt isn't the only polluter-friendly Trump appointee with sketchy ethics.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!