By Chris White
President Donald Trump privately supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) so-called “red team, blue team” debate on climate change, but some within the White House are hesitant to move forward on the plan, according to a Monday report from E&E News.
“There is support for the initiative at the highest levels,” one Trump administration official told E&E News, referring to the EPA’s plan to debate the scientific consensus about climate change. Other officials are more hesitant to jump behind the idea.
“Pruitt has not been given authorization to go ahead with red team, blue team; there are still many issues to be ironed out,” another official said of EPA Chief Scott Pruitt’s proposal, which was hashed out to discuss the effects greenhouse gasses have on the climate.
Some climate skeptics are worried about Trump and the EPA’s decision to enlist the help of the Heartland Institute to help build the red team. The Institute is a type of boogeyman in liberal circles that some climate skeptics worry could hurt the debate’s credibility.
“The big question in my mind is to what extent the Heartland Institute has the ear of Scott Pruitt,” Judith Curry, a former professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech, said in an interview. Curry, who could become a member of the red team, believes having Heartland’s name affiliated with the effort detracts from its credibility.
“I hope this is set up with sensible high-level people who are outside the everyday fray of the debate,” she said. Trump’s team is gathering a bipartisan group of names to fill out the rest of the red team – the idea is to create a sheen of legitimacy within the science community.
Pruitt is floating the idea of using Steven Koonin, a former Obama administration energy official, to lead the red team effort. He suggested a red team-blue team approach in an April editorial to put the issue to rest.
“I’ve got no dog in the fight about whether [climate change] is the greatest catastrophe that’s facing the planet, or this is a nothing burger,” Koonin wrote in an editorial earlier this summer. “This is something that is a national issue, and I feel the scientific community has an obligation to see that this is accurately portrayed.”
Military and intelligence agencies use a similar debate tactic to expose vulnerabilities to strategic systems. Skeptics say it would give needed balance to climate science, a field of research many believe has been monopolized by activists.
Environmentalists and scientists are not buying Pruitt’s argument. They believe it’s “dangerous” to elevate dissenting voices, and argue that an existing peer-review process works better than a “red team vs. blue team” project.
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