Energy Secretary Rick Perry on Wednesday proposed using a process floated by a former Obama administration official to resolve the debate over global warming by allowing government scientists to hash out the facts through an open “adversarial” process.
“It’s 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,” Perry said while answering questions at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the fiscal 2018 budget.
“As a matter of fact, the under secretary of energy for President Obama, Steven Koonin, has said, who is a theoretical physicist and was over at the department and knows this issue rather well, and he says it’s probably time for us to have a conversation with all the politics out of room.”
Perry referenced the “Red Team/Blue Team” process that Koonin had endorsed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in April as a way forward on climate change, given the differences of opinion on the issue.
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.”
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 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.”
The process usually has a red team that challenges assumptions, and tries to find weaknesses, while the blue team offers evidence to detract from the red team’s challenges.
“Moving from oracular consensus statements to an open adversarial process would shine a much-needed light on the scientific debates,” Koonin wrote.
“My perspective is that it is not settled science,” Perry said. “I don’t mind being [a] skeptic about things,” and “President Obama’s own undersecretary at DOE … says this science is not settled.”
Koonin wrote that the “public is largely unaware of the intense debates within climate science,” adding that at a recent national laboratory meeting he attended, “I observed more than 100 active government and university researchers challenge one another as they strove to separate human impacts from the climate’s natural variability. At issue were not nuances but fundamental aspects of our understanding, such as the apparent—and unexpected—slowing of global sea-level rise over the past two decades.”
Perry offered up the red team process in responding to questions by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., on “what it would take” to convince him that manmade carbon dioxide emissions are causing the Earth’s climate to warm.
“Senator I hope that we can agree that maybe it’s time for us to have a red team approach to this, set them in a room let’s listen to what they come up with,” Perry said.
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