Sen. Franken eviscerates Trump’s ‘red-team’ plan to undermine climate science

The Kochs already funded a red team — and it found “global warming is real” and “essentially all” due to humans.

CREDIT: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
CREDIT: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

On Friday, it came out that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is launching a “red team, blue team” exercise to evaluate U.S. climate science. The “red team” would write a critique of the overwhelming scientific consensus, the “blue team” would rebut that critique, and so on.

But, as Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) patiently tried to explain to Energy Secretary Rick Perry in a recent budget hearing, this back-and-forth critiquing is exactly what scientists do every day. Furthermore, the petrochemical billionaire Koch brothers — the country’s top funders of climate disinformation — set up a red team of skeptics years ago, and they found that not only is global warming real, it is “essentially all” due to humans.

Perry’s responses speak volumes about the Administration’s real agenda. First he floated the “red team approach” where you “get the politicians out of the room and let the scientists and listen to what they have to say about it.”

Franken would have none of it. “It’s my understanding” that “the blue team makes an argument and red team tries to knock it down and the blue team then refines their argument and they go back and forth until consensus is reached,” Franken said.

“But that’s exactly how science works. Including climate science. Researchers collect data and make arguments, peer reviewers poke holes in the argument. The researchers respond. It goes back and forth until consensus is reached. Every peer review climate study goes through that red team, blue team treatment. And then thousands of studies have gathered into reports and those reports themselves go through rigorous red team-blue team and this is — that’s the scientific process.”

Indeed, every five or six years the world’s top climatologists assess the latest science, arguing back and forth for months. Then they present their summary findings to the world’s governments and have to defend their conclusions in the face of scrutiny from countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia. Any line they can’t defend gets edited or removed. No other branch of science goes through this rigorous a review.

Franken’s knockout punch is pointing out the Koch brothers already helped set up a “red team” of skeptics a few years ago to take a new look at all of the historical data on global surface temperatures. He then quoted what the head of that team, Dr. Richard Muller, wrote in a New York Times op-ed, “The Conversion of a Climate-Change Skeptic.”

Muller wrote they found “global warming was real,” “prior estimates of the rate of warming were correct,” and “it appears likely that essentially all of this increase results from the human emission of greenhouse gases.”

Bombshell: Koch-funded study finds ‘global warming is real’thinkprogress.orgPerry responds incredulously, sputtering “I don’t believe that” and “I don’t buy it.”

And when Franken repeated himself, saying “that was someone hired by the Koch brothers,” Perry lost his cool entirely, saying, “everybody has hired somebody that’s gotten something wrong from time to time. To stand up and say that 100 percent of global warming is because of human activity is because of human activity, I think on its face, is just indefensible.”

In fact, the latest science makes clear it’s far more than just “defensible.” The most recent assessment by the world’s top scientists concluded the best estimate is that humans are responsible for all of the warming we have suffered since 1950. Every major government in the world signed off on this — which is to say no serious objection was raised.

So Franken exposed the inconvenient truth of the Trump administration’s “red team” exercise: Neither Perry nor Pruitt are interested in any exercise to determine the actual facts or the truth.

They simply want to keep casting doubt and undermining action on the gravest preventable threat this country faces today so they can justify burning more fossil fuels and gutting U.S. climate action.