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 ()
Sponsored
GMO
Activists campaigning to regulate glyphosate in the European Union. Avaaz / Flickr

Monsanto 'Commands' Civic Group to Turn in All Communications Over Glyphosate

Avaaz, a civic campaigning network that counts roughly 45 million subscribers around the world, has been served with a 168-page subpoena on behalf of agribusiness giant Monsanto.

The document, dated Jan. 26 and sent from New York Supreme Court, "commands" the U.S.-based organization to turn in a decade's worth of internal communications by Friday, Feb. 23.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Radiation area from Horseshoe Mesa uranium mine tailings at Grand Canyon's South Rim. Al_HikesAZ / Flickr

Uranium Mining's Toxic Legacy: Why the U.S. Risks Repeating Mistakes

By Stephanie Malin

Uranium—the raw material for nuclear power and nuclear weapons—is having a moment in the spotlight.

Companies such as Energy Fuels, Inc. have played well-publicized roles in lobbying the Trump administration to reduce federal protection for public lands with uranium deposits. The Defense Department's Nuclear Posture Review calls for new weapons production to expand the U.S. nuclear arsenal, which could spur new domestic uranium mining. And the Interior Department is advocating more domestic uranium production, along with other materials identified as "critical minerals."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
The Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles. Simisa / Wikimedia Commons

Seychelles Creates Groundbreaking Marine Reserve With Help From Leonardo DiCaprio

The Seychelles has created two vast new marine protected areas in the Indian Ocean after a groundbreaking finance deal brokered by the Nature Conservancy and other stakeholders, including environmentalist and Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio.

In exchange for writing off a portion of its debt, the island nation agreed to protect a total of 81,000-square-miles of ocean—that's about the size of Great Britain.

Keep reading... Show less
President Trump and French President Macron review troops during the Bastille Day parade last July.

There Are Better Things in France for Trump to Emulate Than a Military Parade

By Elliott Negin

President Trump was so impressed by the military parade he saw in Paris on Bastille Day last July that he ordered the Pentagon to plan a bigger one for Washington, DC.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Bears Ears National Monument. Gannon McGhee / Flickr

Rare Fossils Discovered on Lands Cut From Bears Ears National Monument

Researchers, led by paleontologist Rob Gay, have discovered what may be one of the world's richest caches of Triassic period fossils at an extensive site within the original boundaries of Bears Ears National Monument. The team's initial excavation led to the extraordinary discovery of several intact remains of crocodile-like animals called phytosaurs. The findings were publicly announced at this week's Western Association of Vertebrate Paleontologists (WAVP) annual conference where researchers warned of a growing threat to their work in the region.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy
GE Renewable Energy

Nation's Largest Wind Farm Coming to Oklahoma

The Wind Catcher Energy Connection project, which includes a massive 800-turbine wind farm under construction in the Oklahoma panhandle, is getting closer to lift-off.

Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), a subsidiary of major utility American Electric Power, announced this week a settlement with various parties, including Walmart, allowing the $4.5 billion project to move forward.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Marine litter on a remote stretch of coastline in Rekvik, Norway. Bo Eide / Flickr

Plastic Threatens to Swamp the Planet

By Paul Brown

A ubiquitous tide of plastic particles has now swept throughout the world's oceans.

The human rights activist Bianca Jagger described to a conference in London Tuesday how a substance that was invented only in 1907 and seemed to have almost magical properties, because it was practically indestructible, is now threatening an environmental catastrophe.

Keep reading... Show less

Beachgoers Use Endangered Shark Dragged From Water for Selfies

By Zachary Toliver

Sometimes humans forget that animals have feelings, too, and cause them to suffer. Just consider some Florida beachgoers who were filmed taking photos of and selfies with an injured hammerhead shark, who an expert says most likely died after the incident.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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