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The EPA Is Creating a Program to Challenge Climate Science

The program pits Democrats against Republicans.

SCIENCE AF STAFF
6 SEP 2017
 

Last Friday, news broke that Scott Pruitt is organizing an Environmetal Protection Agency (EPA) program that will challenge mainstream climate science.

The news comes from a senior administration official who says the program will include a "back-and-forth critique" from experts selected by the government to identify vulnerabilities in climate science, much like the military identifies vulnerabilities in field operations.

 

Specifically, the program will pit the democratic "blue team" against the republican "red team" to conduct an "at-length evaluation of US climate science".

"The administrator believes that we will be able to recruit the best in the fields which study climate and will organize a specific process in which these individuals … provide back-and-forth critique of specific new reports on climate science," the official said.

"We are in fact very excited about this initiative," the official added. "Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing."

In a statement about the red team-blue team exercise, Pruitt said, "What the American people deserve, I think, is a true, legitimate, peer-reviewed, objective, transparent discussion about CO2 [carbon dioxide]."

Except that the scientific community already has a transparent evaluation system for scientific papers. In order for a study to be included in a peer-reviewed paper, it has to be vigorously reviewed and commented on by a range of experts from the same field. It is then either edited, rejected or accepted.

 

The creation of this new program does nothing but confirm Pruitt's deep distrust of the scientific peer-review process and his misunderstanding of scientific consensus.

If an expert disagrees with climate science and they have legitimate, sound science to back up their claims, their paper will be admitted to a scientific journal. But Pruitt's new program will cut this corner and allow climate deniers and their bogus claims equal footing with mainstream climate science.

When 97% of actively publishing climate scientists accept that humans are causing climate change, this program will inevitably give an equal voice to a skeptical minority.

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In addition, many scientists are particularly worried that pitting a blue team against a red team will make the program more partisan than scientific.

The interpretation of scientific evidence has nothing to do with what political party you subscribe to. Nor does the science change with the administration. But this new program will enforce the idea that if you are Republican you cannot accept human caused climate change.

However, the most dangerous part of Pruitt's new program is the message it sends about the legal obligations of the EPA when it comes to climate change. Several coal executives see this program as a step toward rolling back the endangerment finding, which is the EPA's legal foundation for regulating greenhouse gases.

 

The endangerment finding is the result of a 2007 Supreme Court case and is founded on strong, scientific evidence that greenhouse gases will affect the health and welfare of US citizens.

But Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., said Pruitt told him that he plans on reviewing the finding within the next few months.

"We talked about that, and they're going to start addressing it later this year," said Murray in an interview.

"They're going to start getting a lot of scientific people in to give both sides of the issue."

It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for Pruitt to roll back this finding, but if he succeeds the EPA will no longer have a legal obligation to restrict greenhouse gas emissions. 

Yet regardless of whether the endangerment finding is rolled back, Pruitt's new program will do nothing but sow scientific distrust and force the major parties further apart on climate change issues.