EPA head Scott Pruitt has spent the last week insisting that the Trump administration never discussed climate change when debating the decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change. But now that the US has withdrawn from that agreement, he thinks it's a great time to have a public debate in what sounds like some sort of twisted game show from Hell.
Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt is a simple man. He likes denying climate change, obscuring the thousands in campaign funds he's received from the fossil fuel industry, and denying climate change some more. Bloomberg reported this morning that Pruitt is now saying he doesn't believe the overwhelming scientific consensus that CO2 is the primary contributor of global warming. What a convenient viewpoint to take when your oil buddies want you to deregulate carbon emissions!
Journalists asked Pruitt over and over again in the past few days if Donald Trump believes in man-made climate change. Again and again, Pruitt pivoted to saying all they talked about was whether or not the Paris Accord was "good for America". He never really went into any factual specifics about how it was bad for America. Anyway, he's completed his destruction of US participation in the agreement, and he's well on his way in gutting the agency he oversees, so he wants to have a healthy dialogue in which some fringe climate change deniers present their point of view.
He's taking a cue from a Wall Street Journal column by Steve Koonin which proposed a "Red Team/Blue Team" for judging climate science. Pruitt tells Breitbart News that he liked the piece and he likes the idea:
He talked about the importance of having a Red Team of scientists and a Blue Team of scientists, and those scientists get into a room and ask, 'What do we know? What don't we know? What risk does it pose to health in the United States and the world, with respect to this issue of CO2?' The American people need to have that type of honest, open discussion, and it's something that we hope to help provide as part of our leadership.
Because the scientific community has come together on the issue and almost uniformly agrees that climate change is occurring and is caused by humans, this debate is more about having the "red team" poke at the scientific conclusions of the "blue team". "It could reveal the current consensus as weaker than claimed," Koonin wrote. "Alternatively, the consensus could emerge strengthened if Red Team criticisms were countered effectively."
David Titley, a climate scientist at Penn State University, dismissed Koonin's idea because "science already has a red team: Peer review". When you hear the statistic that 97 per cent of peer-reviewed studies agreed that climate change is real, understand that the figure is coming from this peer-reviewed study that examined the abstracts of 11,944 papers. There has been some debate about whether or not this constitutes "consensus" or whether or not scientific consensus is even good for science. But know that scientists overwhelmingly agree that climate change is real. When a paper espouses climate change denial and makes it through peer-review, there's usually something shady going on.
Peter Frumhoff, director of science and policy for the Union of Concerned Scientists, told the Washington Post back in March, "The notion that we would need to create an entirely different new approach, in particular for the specific question around global warming, is unfounded and ridiculous and simply intended to promote the notion of a lack of consensus about the core findings, which in fact is a false notion."
Frumhoff is right on the money. Debate is fine. Scientists should keep doing research and publishing that research. And, hey look, they are. Any climate change denier has the opportunity to use scientific methods and present their research. This kind of debate wouldn't really advance public understanding of science. It would give a big megaphone to a tiny contingent, and when the detailed rebuttals come in, many Americans would not understand the technicalities. They'd just know that one guy sounded smart and he said climate change isn't real. And who would be the ultimate judge of the debate's winner? Scott Pruitt, of course.