Quantcast

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

Climate

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.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Artist's conception of solar islands in the open ocean. PNAS

Millions of solar panels clustered together to form an island could convert carbon dioxide in seawater into methanol, which can fuel airplanes and trucks, according to new research from Norway and Switzerland and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, PNAS, as NBC News reported. The floating islands could drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels.

Read More Show Less
Marcos Alves / Moment Open / Getty Images

More than 40 percent of insects could go extinct globally in the next few decades. So why did the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last week OK the 'emergency' use of the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor on 13.9 million acres?

EcoWatch teamed up with Center for Biological Diversity via EcoWatch Live on Facebook to find out why. Environmental Health Director and Senior Attorney Lori Ann Burd explained how there is a loophole in the The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act under section 18, "that allows for entities and states to request emergency exemptions to spraying pesticides where they otherwise wouldn't be allowed to spray."

Read More Show Less
Sponsored

Zero Waste Kitchen Essentials

Simple swaps that cut down on kitchen trash.

Sponsored

By Kayla Robbins

Along with the bathroom, the kitchen is one of the most daunting areas to try and make zero waste.

Read More Show Less
View of downtown Miami, Florida from Hobie Island on Feb. 2, 2019. Michael Muraz / Flickr

The Democratic candidates for president descended upon Miami for a two-night debate on Wednesday and Thursday. Any candidate hoping to carry the state will have to make the climate crisis central to their campaign, as The New York Times reported.

Read More Show Less
A pumpjack in the Permian Basin. blake.thornberry / Flickr

By Sharon Kelly

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal featured a profile of Scott Sheffield, CEO of Pioneer Natural Resources, whose company is known among investors for its emphasis on drawing oil and gas from the Permian basin in Texas using horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pexels

By Craig K. Chandler

The federal government has available to it, should it choose to use them, a wide range of potential climate change management tools, going well beyond the traditional pollution control regulatory options. And, in some cases (not all), without new legislative authorization.

Read More Show Less
Denis Poroy / Getty Images

By Dan Gray

Processed foods, in their many delicious forms, are an American favorite.

But new research shows that despite increasing evidence on just how unhealthy processed foods are, Americans have continued to eat the products at the same rate.

Read More Show Less

By Sarah Steffen

With a profound understanding of their environmental surroundings, indigenous communities around the world are often cited as being pivotal to tackling climate change.

Read More Show Less