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Ground Rules for a Red Team / Blue Team Climate Debate

Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Sep 26, 2017 at 6:15 AM
Climate Change

There is growing interest in a very public “Red Team / Blue Team” evaluation of the current state of climate science. The EPA Administrator has recently suggested that climate scientists participate in a televised debate regarding the state of the science. The “Blue Team”, the consensed climate science community, has dominated the climate change discussion and has largely refused to debate those who question or oppose the consensus. An open and rigorous debate of the issues regarding the science is long overdue. However, there is a need to establish a firm set of ground rules for the debate.

Dr. Judith Curry has recently presented ideas for framing the debate. She suggests that the debate must not be limited to anthropogenic climate change, but rather must be broadened to include all influences on climate, to the extent that they are known. This also implies a recognition of known unknowns and unknown unknowns, to paraphrase former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of any set of ground rules for such a debate is the separation of fact from opinion, belief, and projection. In this debate, the facts include original data, data “adjustment” methods, data analysis methods, analytical models, and their supporting documentation. The ground rules should stipulate that nothing be accepted as fact that has not been freely available for analysis by other than the original analysts for at least one year prior to the debate.

The collection, “adjustment”, and analysis of data and the development and exercise of climate models by the “Blue Team” has been funded by the US federal government and other government agencies, including the IPCC. The members of the “Red Team” should not be expected to review and analyze the material developed by the “Blue Team” at their own expense. Rather, their efforts should be funded, as required, by the same agencies which funded the “Blue Team” efforts. Also, the “Red Team” must have sufficient time and resources to conduct a thorough analysis once all of the required information has been made available to them.

Refusal to provide unrestricted access to any body of work conducted by any researcher, or team of researchers, should be grounds to preclude any portion of that body of work from being introduced into the debate; and, should also preclude any of those researchers from participating in the debate. There is absolutely no excuse for refusal to provide unrestricted access to research funded by the government, at the request of the government, in pursuit of a government effort to establish the validity of the research results.

I question the potential value of a televised debate, in that even television news has degenerated into a collection of “soundbites” and “bumper sticker” slogans. TV panels made up of those with opposing views frequently descend into shouting matches, with the participants talking over each other, both to make their points and to deter their opponents from making theirs. The result is all too frequently “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.

A debate regarding the efficacy of billions of dollars of research and of public policy potentially affecting trillions of dollars of future investment in a thorough revision of the global economic system should not be permitted to degenerate into a shouting match loaded with unsupported opinion and innuendo. The taxpayers who have funded the research and would ultimately fund the investment deserve far better.