One Team, Two Team, Red Team, Blue Team

For a few months now, well-known climate deniers have been peddling the idea of a “red team/blue team” approach to climate science.

The gist of this idea is that if there were a group of scientists who set out to challenge mainstream thinking (the red team) and what they describe as assumptions, it might bring new ideas to light, and perhaps call the consensus into question. Or if the blue team of mainstream scientists were to effectively rebut the red team’s report, then that would strengthen the public’s understanding.

There are a lot of red flags here, not least of which is that the peer review process is already set up much like the whole red/blue team thing. Reviewers are the red team who look to poke holes in submitted papers (blue team), and, if they find enough, papers doesn’t get published. In terms of climate science, the cumulative result is a peer-reviewed body of evidence that points decidedly in one direction.

Source: Flickr

This “red team” would also fulfill the fossil fuel industry’s well-known plan to inject doubt into the public and downplay the degree to which (honest) scientists agree about climate science.

Leading climate scientists have come out against this idea, stating:

“Such calls for special teams of investigators are not about honest scientific debate. They are dangerous attempts to elevate the status of minority opinions, and to undercut the legitimacy, objectivity and transparency of existing climate science.”

Today, though, this idea jumped from denier bloggers to the denier administration officials.

Source: Flickr

Emily Holden of E&E News confirmed that Scott Pruitt has started the process to create a red team. According to a “senior administration official,” Pruitt has begun the process “to recruit the best in the field” for a back-and-forth process to evaluate climate science.

Did he announce this openly to the public and scientific community? Of course not. He told 30-some board members of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. This disclosure to coal executives and not the American people or scientific community is a clear indication as to where Pruitt’s loyalties lie.

We have our doubts that the true “best in the field” are going to be willing to give their time and energy to a process designed to delegitimize their work and legitimize a fringe, fossil-fuel-funded denial perspective that can’t stand on its own merits. On top of that, the IPCC and NCA already exist to go through this process in a legitimate way.

Even if the effort were to tap legitimate, honest scientists for the red team, the very act of elevating the position of 3% of scientists to a situation in which they’re portrayed as being 50/50 with the “blue team” would be misleading. And giving equal weight to a handful of studies at the fringe and thousands of studies that underlie the consensus would be scientifically dishonest.

Because, as a reminder, here’s what an accurate debate on climate science looks like:


Phil Newell writes for I Heart Climate Scientists.