[Vision2020] EPA Pruitt’s 'Red Team' on Climate Science: Eight-Year-Old Talking Point Pushed by Heartland Institute

Ted Moffett starbliss at gmail.com
Sat Jun 17 15:42:43 PDT 2017

EPA Chief Pruitt’s 'Red Team' on Climate Science Is an Eight-Year-Old
Talking Point Pushed by Heartland Institute

Graham Readfearn <https://www.desmogblog.com/user/7036> | June 13, 2017
By Graham Readfearn <https://www.desmogblog.com/user/7036> • Tuesday, June
13, 2017 - 10:37


Like many of his Trump administration colleagues, Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) chief Scott Pruitt has never really been down with the whole
climate science thing.

Pruitt has denied that carbon dioxide from fossil fuel burning is the key
of climate change, instead hedging his bets with an assortment of ifs,
buts, and maybes.

Now, Pruitt is suggesting that what the American public really needs is
more debate, more false equivalence, and more delay on policies to cut
greenhouse gas emissions.

In an interview on a Breitbart online radio segment, Pruitt has backed the
idea of pitting climate science deniers up against actual climate
scientists in what he called a “Red Team, Blue Team” debate.

Citing an idea from a column in the Wall Street Journal, Pruitt suggested
“those scientists get into a room and ask, ‘What do we know? What don’t we
know? What risk does it pose to health in the United States and the world,
with respect to this issue of CO2?’”

According to Pruitt, this would be a “true, legitimate, peer reviewed,
objective, transparent discussion about CO2” — a discussion “the American
people deserve.”

On the face of it, the suggestion might seem reasonable.  What’s wrong with
a good old debate, right?

Before we look at the people who have been pushing this “red team” idea,
it’s worth clarifying something.
The Real Red Team

A version of this “red team” process already exists, and it’s called
scientific peer review.

Scientists do research, write-up their findings, and submit them to a
journal. The journal sends the paper to other qualified scientists who
critique the work, sometimes mercilessly. That work may get published; at
which point other scientists can build on the findings or find ways to
reject them.

This is partly why, after the publication of tens of thousands of research
papers going back a century or more, science academies and institutions
around the world agree that global warming is real, is caused by humans,
and is a serious problem.

So in the blue corner, you have all the credible and reasonable science,
and in the red corner, you have something else.

In reality, the climate science denial industry has been touting itself as
a viable “red team” for more than a decade.

Media Matters for America (MMFA), a think tank that monitors media outlets
for “conservative misinformation,” has traced some of the history
of the “red team” talking point back to a 2014 submission to the EPA
from Professor
John Christy <https://www.desmogblog.com/john-christy>, an atmospheric
scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

After the submission, Christy continued to promote the idea in
congressional testimony and to receptive media, says MMFA.
Heartland Institute as the Red Team

But before all this, one of America’s most notorious groups pushing climate
science denial — the Heartland Institute
<http://desmogblog.com/heartland-institute> — was touting the “red
team” concept.

Since 2009, Heartland has been paying contrarian scientists to produce a
report that specifically aims to undermine the scientific assessments
produced by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (

Heartland calls its reports the Nongovernmental International Panel on
Climate Change (NIPCC). Others call them cherry-picked
selective pseudo-science

In Heartland’s first NIPCC report in 2009, the group framed their critique
as an innocent and disinterested “Team B.”

“It is a time-honored tradition in science to set up a ‘Team B’ which
examines the same original evidence but may reach a different conclusion,”
the preface mused.

In a follow-up 2011 “interim report,” Heartland again touted its
credentials as a “Team B,” explaining its formative roots at a meeting in
Milan in 2003 organized by Fred Singer
<https://www.desmogblog.com/s-fred-singer> and his Science and
Environmental Policy Project
<https://www.desmogblog.com/science-and-environmental-policy-project> (SEPP

But in the following 2013 report — Climate Change Reconsidered II — the
language had been tweaked. What was “Team B” was now a “Red Team.”

*Heartland's 2013 NIPCC report used the term “red team.”*

Long-serving Heartland scientist and NIPCC coordinator, the late Australian
Dr. Bob Carter
wrote about the “red team” in a September 2013 column for the Rupert
Murdoch–owned tabloid, the Daily Telegraph, based in Sydney

Carter wrote: “In classic Green Team: Red Team tactical management style,
the NIPCC has the role of providing an alternative Red Team view of the
science of global warming, acting as a sort of 'defense counsel' to verify
and counter the arguments mounted for climate alarm by the IPCC's Green
Team prosecution.”
China Crisis

Later that year, Carter was in California to present the NIPCC report to
the Ayn Rand Institute <https://www.desmogblog.com/ayn-rand-institute>,
alongside Singer and Heartland president Joe Bast

Bast outlined how his institute had identified climate change in the early
90s <https://youtu.be/JZj0L9TEuv0> as “the mother of all environmental
scare stories” but then suggested the science was actually a sinister cover
for something else entirely.

“Groups on the left understand if we can control energy, you can control
human beings, and that’s what it was all about,” claimed Bast.

Environmentalists were trying to “shut down the engines of the world,” Bast
said, without saying why they might want to do any of those things.

“This was a search for a scientific justification for a political agenda,”
Bast added. “The whole idea is to control energy.” (As a group that
tirelessly defends the use of fossil fuels while attacking renewable
energy, you have to wonder if it’s actually Heartland that wants to
“control energy.”)

“We concluded we have to go after the science,” he said, adding Heartland’s
“products and programs” would look to reach “all the way down to elementary
school classrooms.” In recent weeks, Heartland has been mailing a condensed
version of its NIPCC report
to tens of thousands of school teachers across the country.

Bast told the room that two NIPCC reports had been “peer reviewed by the
authors themselves,” which, by the way, is not how peer review works.

Bast said the NIPCC report had been “translated by the Chinese Academy of
Sciences” while his communications director, Jim Lakely, held the Chinese
version aloft.

After a round of applause, Bast said he hoped “other academies of
science,” including Australia, would follow suit, implying the Chinese
Academy of Sciences had somehow endorsed the report.

At the time of the Chinese version being released, Bast had issued a press
release claiming a “historic moment” for global warming science. He sent
Heartland staff, including Carter, to Beijing for a press opportunity.

But as DeSmog reported
the CAS issued a statement saying:  “The claim of the Heartland Institute
about CAS’ endorsement of its report is completely false.”

Bast was forced to apologize
and had to pull the publication from his website and withdraw the original
press release. But once Carter was out of China, Bast re-issued the press
release and rejected the criticisms of the CAS

Oddly, none of this detail made its way into Bast’s opening remarks.
Fake Discussion

Heartland, remember, once ran a billboard campaign with a picture of
terrorist Ted “Unabomber” Kaczynski with the message: “I still believe in
Global warming. Do You.”

That ill-fated 2012 ad campaign saw many of Heartland’s corporate backers
pull their funding. But as DeSmog has shown
one of Heartland’s most generous backers is the family foundation of hedge
fund billionaire Robert Mercer — also a major financial backer of Donald
Trump’s presidential campaign as well as several of the conservative groups
the Trump administration has drawn on to fill positions

Not forgetting too, that Mercer is a major investor in Breitbart, which all
brings us neatly back to Scott Pruitt.

“The American people need to have that type of honest discussion and that’s
something that we hope to provide as part of our leadership,” Pruitt told
the Breitbart radio segment.


The people who desperately need that fake “honest discussion” are the
fossil fuel interests and conservative ideologues desperate to retain power
and influence in a world that so desperately needs a cleaner democracy and
cleaner energy.

*Main image: Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt
speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland.
Credit: Gage Skidmore <https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/>, CC
BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/>*


*Vision2020 Post: Ted Moffett*
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