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What EPA chief’s “red teaming” of “climate change” debate really means

What EPA chief’s “red teaming” of “climate change” debate really means

Red is the new blue

Last week, Scott Pruitt, EPA Administrator, stated he intended to form a ‘red team’ to debate climate science.

“U.S. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is leading a formal initiative to challenge mainstream climate science using a “back-and-forth critique” by government-recruited experts, according to a senior administration official.

The program will use “red team, blue team” exercises to conduct an “at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science,” the official said, referring to a concept developed by the military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations.

“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 source said.

The origin of this initiative stems from a proposal offered in The Wall Street Journal:

In an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in April, Steven Koonin, a physicist at New York University, proposed that a “red team” of dissenting scientists be established to critique major scientific reports on climate change. A “blue team” of climate scientists would then rebut the criticisms, and the resulting back-and-forth would unfold in public view.

Dr. Koonin, who was an under secretary at the Department of Energy in the Obama administration, said the process “would produce a traceable public record that would allow the public and decision makers a better understanding of certainties and uncertainties.”

He drew an analogy to red-team exercises used by the military to test assumptions and analyze risks.

Joseph Majkut of the Niskanen Center for Climate and Energy Policy believes this approach has a great deal of merit.

A properly-done red team exercise could both elevate the status of climate science in the Trump administration and among Republicans, and reset how we approach climate science as a nation.

Many climate skeptics suspect that the climate science community is caught up in political conformity that leans toward alarmism, and that alternative ideas about the causes and risks of climate change cannot break through peer review. Red teaming is designed to address such a situation. As Micah Zenko writes in his authoritative book Red Team [How to Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy]: in institutions that are supposed to police themselves through internal processes, like the scientific community with peer-review, “even longtime analysts are susceptible to adopting the assumptions and biases of the institutions and subjects they are supposed to be objectively studying.”

Whether climate science is caught in such a morass or not, many people in power think that it is. We have to find a way to unstick that belief if the climate debate is to move forward. A red team exercise is a fine way to do it.

Majkut reviews several instances in which the “red team” approach was successfully used in analyzing climate science data.

Noted climate scientist Dr. Judith Curry is intrigued, and recently devoted an entire post to what constitutes a good “red team”. She makes some excellent recommendations for the approach Pruitt’s groups should take if he proceeds with this initiative.

…If this red team exercise had been conducted under the Obama administration, it would be very clear who is ‘red’ and who is ‘blue’. Obama and his administration slagged off on anyone with a different perspective as a ‘denier,’ hence a red team would have been antithetical to Obama’s strategy on this issue.

Now the Trump administrate is challenging the established perspective of Obama and the UNFCCC/IPCC. Red is the new blue. The good news is that red teaming on this issue is needed (something that would have been impossible under the Obama administration.) However, the risk is that the over enthusiasm of the Trump administration for overthrowing pretty much everything from the Obama administration and the UNFCCC/IPCC will bias the proceedings and diminish the legitimacy of the outcome in influencing the national dialogue on this topic. This means that the blue team needs to serve as a ‘red team’ on the red team.

Another words, red is the new blue!


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stevewhitemd | July 8, 2017 at 11:03 am

Healthy debate in science? What a novel concept!

I think it’s almost a given that the climatistas will refuse to participate and will call this a ruse to debunk “settled science.”

    sabril in reply to Dave. | July 9, 2017 at 1:32 pm

    Yes, they face 2 problems by engaging in an actual debate:

    First, their main argument is “Anyone who disagrees with us is a bad person.” By engaging in a debate, it’s a concession that reasonable people can disagree with them.

    Second, and perhaps more importantly, engaging in a debate might require them to actually lay out their position precisely, something that they are loath to do. Because their entire strategy depends on strategic ambiguity.

      Coolpapa in reply to sabril. | July 9, 2017 at 3:34 pm

      A third problem they will face may be the most important: The climate data and measurement methodologies currently in use will finally see the light of day.

Since red and blue are political labels these days, the better phrase would have been Tiger Team.

    Unknown3rdParty in reply to snopercod. | July 8, 2017 at 11:58 am

    Actually, “tiger team” tends to refer to a team that ferrets out procedural or process problems in an attempt to streamline said procedures/processes and effect cost savings. Red teaming seems more along the lines of debate; the problem I (still) foresee is an alarmist tendency of one side that (1) fails to adequately address actual scientific findings and (2) relies too heavily on assumption through the use of the unknown.

I just hope Michael ‘hockey stick’ Mann is asked to participate, and if he agrees, they ask him to provide the data he used for the hockey stick.

    The *original* data, not his modified and tweaked and ‘normalized’ numbers, after which the original numbers seemed to just vanish into thin air.

      Valerie in reply to georgfelis. | July 8, 2017 at 12:58 pm

      The use of “normalized numbers” is a well-accepted scientific technique, which is usually based on hard information. For example, an experiment run with .1 molar solutions might be normalized to 1 molar, that is, calculated to get answers using 1 molar solutions, for the purpose of producing more intelligible results.

      This is not an arbitrary process, and a proper paper will allow a knowledgeable person to back calculate to the original data points. If that back calculation is not possible, the paper is confusing and inaccurate (that’s science dialect for “fraudulent.”

        Tom Servo in reply to Valerie. | July 8, 2017 at 1:30 pm

        Old News – it has long been known that the original algorithms were intentionally destroyed, and that it is now completely impossible to back-calculate the starting points for the global temperature index.

        Any honest scientist would admit, from that alone, that the entire database is corrupted and needs to be tossed out, and we need to start from scratch, recalculating everything.

        A lot of this was the topic of the infamous “climategate” emails which came out several years ago. Of course if you bring this up, the climate establishment starts shrieking “DENIER! HERETIC! RACIST!” and won’t stop.

          puhiawa in reply to Tom Servo. | July 8, 2017 at 4:21 pm

          Many of the original temperature readings are as easy to find as the archived newspapers in the library. Australian Warmists had thought they obliterated all original temperature readings from the 1800s. So they cooled the past. Turned out the national history museum house the original logs. That was an inconvenient truth.

          Cleetus in reply to Tom Servo. | July 9, 2017 at 5:47 am

          Mann is refusing to release his data and computer codes to the courts thereby placing him in possible contempt of cour. Should he be found in contempt of court, then he could be held liable for court costs for both sides/ ( articles/2017/07/things_get_hot_for_michael_mann.html) (Remove space for link to work.)
          If a person is facing the potential costs of tens and possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars (this has been going on for six years) that can be eliminated simply by releasing the data and computer codes, then there must be a terribly compelling reason for him to continue to refuse the release of the demanded information. There is no compelling reason for this action that paints Mann in an innocent light.
          Put Mann on the Blue Team. With Mann’s immediate fallback position of ad hominem attacks instead of discussing data, his politicized and dreadfully weak position/data, his grating personality, and his overwhelming arrogance where none is deserved, will ensure the Red Team’s victory.

          Mannie in reply to Tom Servo. | July 9, 2017 at 10:33 am

          If the original algorithms were destroyed, then no work based on them can be considered valid. That isn’t science, it is magic.

          See, we have this CO2 over here and {waving hands} Shazzam! Global warming!

          Milhouse in reply to Tom Servo. | July 10, 2017 at 11:52 am

          Put Mann on the Blue Team. […] will ensure the Red Team’s victory.

          That would defeat the whole purpose of the exercise. The point is to come closer to the truth, not, Mann-like, to predetermine an outcome

This won’t be a scientific debate but a battle between science vs scientism. Science is an independent fact-based discipline. Scientism is an organized system of goal-seeking which manipulates/invents data to arrive at a pre-determined conclusion.

Also, there was a cute trick used for some papers, where measurement stations as much as 100 miles away were “assigned” the readings from chosen data points. This is unacceptable to anybody who knows anything about USDA zones for planting.

I have lived in two different places where my front yard was 1/2 a USDA zone from my back yard. This changes the last frost dates (planting dates) and can be the difference between some plants surviving and others dying due to the difference in temperature.

I regularly drive between zones that are less than 3 miles apart. Those three miles account for a minimum of 5 degrees Fahrenheit on a very regular basis.

Well, I don’t know … this isn’t a bad way to evaluate some questions, like, should the invasion of Europe attack France’s Mediterranean or Channel coasts. Or maybe compare the arguments for making a new line of auto engines carbureted or fuel-injected.

But this is more a question like, what can we do to fight off the invasion of the Secret Space Unicorns? Despite all the public hand-wringing and self-flagellation, it’s not a scientific question at all.

The Warmunists haven’t yet earned a place at the conference table, so no useful purpose can be served by inviting them.

    “What can we do to fight off the invasion of the Secret Space Unicorns?…”

    Hire al gore, of course. But first, he said you have to send him a lot of money, while the UN debates a world tax to fund the fight. In fact, obama is going to speak at the UN hearing, accompanied by michelle, his service animal.

    Milhouse in reply to tom swift. | July 10, 2017 at 11:59 am

    The Warmenists are already at the table; until now it was their table, and nobody else was allowed to sit there. The point of this exercise is to make them defend their position. If they can, well and good; if (as seems likely) they can’t, then Pruitt will be able to change policy. Without this process they will remain in control no matter who’s running the EPA.

This is more political theater. No one will ever convince the media or Man-made Warming believers that man-mad global warming does not exist. All the empirical evidence in the world is useless for this purpose. Both of the UN Climate Change summits resulted in the same scientific conclusion; i.e. there is no evidence that observed global warming would be continual and none that it was cause by human activity. Yet, the “summaries” of both summits read exactly opposite to that. Virtually all empirical evidence that global warming is still going on has proven to be unreliable, at best, and false or even manufactured, at worst. So, regulating human activities in order to curtail global warming becomes a wholly political question, as there is no evidence that global warming even exists or, if it does, whether human activity has any significant impact upon it.

This is merely another way for scientists to earn money. The only good thing about it is that now those opposed to the theory of man-made climate change get in on the largess.

    Bone-up on this before you engage anyone on the left:

    How to Rescue Someone from a Cult:

    Milhouse in reply to Mac45. | July 10, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    The point isn’t to convince the media or the True Believers, it’s to establish a record that can guide EPA policy. Without it Pruitt cannot change the policy. He can’t just order his employees to throw out the whole warmening theory and rewrite all regs as if it were the superstition we suspect it is. He has to establish that by a rational process, and this is it. The warmenists will have a chance to defend their position, and if they can do it then it will have to be taken into account; but if they can’t then Pruitt will be able to change the policy, which will bind the next administration as well.

JackRussellTerrierist | July 8, 2017 at 2:20 pm

I can see a place for Twitter in the reportage of this debate. 🙂

healthguyfsu | July 8, 2017 at 2:28 pm

I think they’ll have a hard time recruiting young US scientists for the skepticism team.

They exist but they aren’t willing to commit career suicide, unless they are old and established enough to where it doesn’t really matter.

Mark Michael | July 8, 2017 at 3:11 pm

My thought: There are dozens of government contracts in NASA/GISS, NOAA, the Energy Dept., EPA, NSF that claim to address some aspect of global warming (or call it “climate change” if you wish). The Trump administration should give them an ultimatum: your contracts will not be renewed (or in some cases terminated) unless they provide all of the key algorithms and datasets involved free of charge in readily readable electronic formats to anyone interested in evaluating them.

Further, any larger climate change contract (multimillion dollars) must include separate independent “devil’s advocate” contracts which independently assess the validity & quality of the work as it progresses.

IMO, it’s unconscionable for government agencies to spend taxpayer dollars and let the contractors on this kind of scientific work have unlimited propriety rights to the algorithms, datasets developed. To block them from qualified, highly-credentialed fellow climatologists from going over them with a fine-toothed comb.

Here in Tucson, the records have been kept since 1895 when the airport was first opened.

    Milhouse in reply to Anchovy. | July 10, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Tucson airport opened 8 years before Kitty Hawk?!

    Milhouse in reply to Anchovy. | July 10, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    In any case, however long it’s been open, the dataset needs adjusting, both because over time the airport has grown busier and thus generates more heat, and because the city with its associated heat island has grown around it.

    notamemberofanyorganizedpolicital in reply to Anchovy. | July 11, 2017 at 3:17 pm

    Anchovy, I beg your pardon.

    Everyone knows that Chicago opened the first airport in 1757.
    Obama and Hillary told me so!


Finally, a viable challenge to the Flat Earth society.

Science by consensus. So progressive.

“Global warming” can be identified as a scam because all of its predictions are dire. What, no good can come of a warmer planet? Seems to me that we’ve done rather well by the warming that took place following the last glacial period. And there were two warm periods in historical times (the Roman climatic optimum and the Medieval warm period (WMP)), the positive effects of which are well-documented.

So even if AGW is true, we need a “red team” to look at the positive effects of any potential warming so an accurate cost/benefit analysis can be done.

Red team, blue team is a valid method of proving out complex analyses. It is akin to defending one’s dissertation. The red team’s job is to raise every objection possible, including ridiculous ones, to the proposed thesis. The blue team must refute every objection.

It is often used in the defense world where major decisions are required. It should be the standard wherever major policy decisions are made.