Scott Pruitt, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, have made headlines for publicly rejecting the conclusions of climate science. But between falsely claiming that climate scientists simply don’t know how much humans are contributing to recent global warming (answer: about 100 percent), they’ve also parroted a new rule: that climate science needs a “red team.” to adopt the scientific consensus.
On Friday, E&E News reported that these are not empty words. The EPA plans to “organize a specific process in which these individuals … criticize back and forth specific new reports on climate science,” according to a government official.
The “red team” concept refers to drills where one team is formed with the aim of shooting down the blue team’s conclusions or pursuing off-the-wall ideas. Since people like Scott Pruitt argue that the cause of climate change is fundamentally unknown, they argue that it would be perfectly reasonable to bring together some of the scientists who think humans are the cause with some who disagree and have them figure it out. let’s fight.
Of course, that’s not really a reasonable way to discover how evidence has built consensus in a field (a simple Google Scholar search would be more useful), and it’s not the way science works. Thousands of scientists around the world are constantly conducting climate change studies and submitting their results to be flawed by other researchers before things are published in scientific journals. Other researchers can then test similar hypotheses with their own studies.
Climate “red teams” emerge in Senate and House of Representatives hearings, where they are often presented by scientists from a small opposing group. Because their opinions have not received the kind of evidence that would give them traction in the scientific community, they advocate using red teams who would elevate their opinions no matter what. If the EPA puts together a red team, it’s very likely to be made up of the same people.
E&E News also reports that coal executive Robert Murray (the same Robert Murray who recently sued HBO host John Oliver) hopes the effort will eventually lead the EPA to overturn the “threat finding” that gives the agency a mandate to regulate carbon dioxide. However, Pruitt has reportedly pumped on this idea in the past, which is a tall order given the legal and scientific hurdles.
An EPA spokesperson has not yet responded to a request for information about his plans.