Trump administration officials are increasingly floating a new way to raise questions about the scientific findings that humans are driving climate change. It’s called red team, blue team.
(From Climatewire / by Scott Waldman) — The concept, which originated in the military to test assumptions and strengthen the likelihood of operational success, is on the rise as Cabinet secretaries undertake an ambitious agenda to deconstruct climate rules enacted under President Obama. Energy Secretary Rick Perry, when pressed by reporters Tuesday about his acceptance of climate science, said he’s happy to be a skeptic. He wants to have an “intellectual” conversation about science, he added.
“Let’s have a conversation about the blue team and red team getting together and talking this out,” Perry said.
In military applications, the red team is tasked with poking holes in the blue team’s work and finding vulnerabilities that can be corrected. But science already has similar processes built into it through peer review, according to researchers. Before a paper is published, colleagues review it to look for uncertainties or flaws.
Using the red team concept in a scientific setting is inappropriate because it threatens to disproportionately elevate the view of a small number of skeptics in a field dominated by researchers who agree on the general assertion that humans are contributing to global warming, critics say.
“If there’s any way to do red team, blue team about climate science, it’s sort of like doing red team and blue team about whether or not the sun is going to rise tomorrow in my opinion,” said retired Navy Rear Adm. Jon White, an oceanographer. “The facts are the facts. The sea level is rising, the air is warmer, climate is changing, the science is overwhelming in support of it.”
So, introducing the red team, blue team concept in a highly politicized field of research such as climate science could elevate doubt to an equal footing with certainty, opponents of the concept say. The majority of scientists determined years ago that humans are driving a rapid warming of the planet through fossil fuel consumption.
The concept would actually have some usefulness in preparing vulnerable areas for climate change, said White, who serves as president of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. He said the military has used the red team concept to prepare for the effects of climate change, including at the naval station in Norfolk, Va., where rising sea levels are impacting training and operations related to nuclear submarines and other vessels.
The red team exercise could also be applied to climate refugee crises and low-lying island nations that could be consumed by rising sea levels in the near future. When it comes to science, White said, the basic facts are established, and red teams could be used as an excuse to stall preparation for climate change.