Democratic Sen. Tom Carper is willing to meet President Trump half way on his administration's plans to create a so-called "red team" to debate the science of climate change, but only if he makes it an exercise about "climate preparedness" instead of questioning science.
Carper, the top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent a rare letter to President Trump on Friday looking to leverage the record-breaking hurricane season to get the administration to soften its stance on climate change with some minor concessions.
"I write today with concerns about protecting and preparing our communities from the very real threats posed by extreme weather events and climate change," the senator from Delaware wrote. "While our country debates how to address climate change, rising sea levels and extreme weather events are no longer a matter of debate, becoming the new norm and placing extreme burdens on the American people and economy."
One of Carper's concessions listed in the letter proposed a change in the red team/blue team approach, not an admonishment of it. Carper proposed to hold a "Red Team/Blue Team Exercise on Climate Preparedness," not to debate climate science.
"Instead of using a red team/blue team exercise to reassess internationally peer-reviewed climate science as some in the Administration would like to do, these types of exercises should be used to assess our nation's structural vulnerabilities to the expected impacts of climate change," Carper wrote. "This information could better inform the type, amount and targeting of resiliency investments that need to be made in any future infrastructure funding packages."
Carper explained that for over 50 years, the Pentagon has used "red teaming exercises" to assess the military's vulnerabilities. "More recently, other government agencies, such as the Department of Homeland Security, have used such exercises to assess cyber network vulnerabilities."
On the same day, Christine Whitman, the former head of the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, pushed back against the red team idea by calling it "shameful."
"The evidence is abundant of the dangerous political turn of an agency that is supposed to be guided by science," wrote Whitman in an op-ed published by the New York Times. The red team "will serve only to confuse the public and sets a deeply troubling precedent for policy-making at the EPA."
The EPA said in June that it was moving to create the red teams. Later, officials told the Washington Examiner that the effort to ramp up the internal climate debate was being coordinated by both the White House and EPA. The Heartland Institute, a think tank that challenges the accepted science of global warming by a majority of climate scientists, said the administration had tapped it to help staff the red team.
One senior administration official told reporters that the red team/blue team exercise will be a "back-and-forth-critique" of climate change science.
Carper also wants Trump to reverse the administration's recent decision not to renew the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, which releases reports on climate change every four years. The fourth National Climate Assessment has yet to be released. Carper said he would like the president to release the study soon.
"These reports are critical for communities to understand the near-term and future risks of climate change," Carper said. "It is our understanding that the National Academy of Sciences has peer-reviewed the fourth National Climate Assessment and agencies have already had a chance to weigh in on the document.
"I request that the Administration release the report, and reinstate the charter for the Advisory Committee for the Sustained National Climate Assessment, which advises on the development of the quadrennial assessment and whose charter expired on August 20, 2017," he wrote.
The administration said last month it would not extend the climate assessment team's charter after a dust up with the New York Times that said the administration may seek to suppress the report, even though the draft study was publicly available for months.