Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is reportedly taking up an idea suggested by a former Obama administration official to critique climate science using a well-established adversarial approach pioneered by the defense community.
The "back-and-forth critique," as one senior administration called it, would involve federally recruited experts acting in "red" and "blue" teams to debate opposing views on climate change, the Climatewire news service reported Friday.
The EPA "red team, blue team" exercises would conduct an "at-length evaluation of U.S. climate science," the official said. "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 told the news service.
"We are in fact very excited about this initiative. Climate science, like other fields of science, is constantly changing. A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing," the senior administration official said.
The agency is not commenting on any such program, even though Energy Secretary Rick Perry has been touting the idea over the last week, citing a Wall Street Journal column by Steve Koonin, a former Energy Department assistant secretary during the Obama administration, who recommended the approach.
Koonin, who is now the director of New York University's Center for Urban Science and Progress, outlined a process used in national security circles to test assumptions called the red team/blue team process.
"The national security community pioneered the 'Red Team' methodology to test assumptions and analyses, identify risks, and reduce — or at least understand —uncertainties," he wrote in an op-ed ahead of the March for Science in Washington. "The process is now considered a best practice in high-consequence situations such as intelligence assessments, spacecraft design and major industrial operations. It is very different and more rigorous than traditional peer review, which is usually confidential and always adjudicated, rather than public and moderated."
Perry told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week that the approach offers "a great opportunity for this country to have a conversation about the climate and get the politics out of it, and bring the scientists together."
Koonin is "offering up the idea of having a red team come in and having this conversation," Perry said. "And I would dearly love to be in the room while they're having that, not to be one of the experts, but to really listen and have that opportunity to have that conversation."