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The Trump administration wants to bail out failed contrarian climate scientists

Posted on 31 August 2017 by John Abraham

Climate contrarians, like Trump’s EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry, don’t understand how scientific research works. They are basically asking for a government handout to scientists to do what scientists are should already be doing. They are also requesting handouts for scientists who have been less successful in research and publications – a move antithetical to the survival of the fitness approach that has formed the scientific community for decades.

The helping handout would be through a proposed exercise called a “red team/blue team” effort. It is a proposal that would reportedly find groups of scientists on both “sides” of the climate issue (whatever that means), and have them try to poke holes in each others’ positions. I will explain why this is a handout but first let’s talk about the plan and how it interferes with the scientific process.

I say that Pruitt and Perry don’t understand how science works because we are already doing “red team/blue team” exercises everyday in our normal line of business. Science works by challenging each other and our ideas. If we think that a colleague has made an error, we tend to be merciless and tenacious to correct the errors. This is part of the premise of the concept of peer review – where we send studies and manuscripts to journals to have other experts objectively review them for errors.

So back to the basic premise of a red team/blue team exercise – basically the “red team” would critique some conclusion of a “blue team.” The blue team would be able to respond, and there would be this back and forth exchange. On its face it sounds pretty straightforward even though scientists are already doing that in the scientific literature. But how would this work in practice? 

First, how would the red team and blue team members be selected? Would they be picked by Pruitt and Perry who have already demonstrated a commitment to unbridled fossil fuel usage? The red team would almost certainly be selected from the very small but vocal group of contrarian scientists and non-scientists who have failed in the scientific arena. The fact is, there are no credible scientists who doubt that human emissions of greenhouse gases cause global warming. They just don’t exist. 

There are some “lukewarmist” scientists who think the problem won’t be that bad, but these “lukewarmers” have failed to provide compelling evidence in the scientific literature. In many instances, their work has been shown to be wrong, the mainstream scientists have evaluated their claims and found them lacking or faulty. And this is why 97% of the world’s top climate scientists agree with each other on climate change. 

So forming a red team would basically amount to a governmental helping hand to scientists who have not succeeded in the scientific arena. Since they cannot compete in the cut-throat area of scientific research, they would be given a free pass by the government to circumvent the normal peer review process. Let’s be clear, the red team cannot make the case in the scientific arena so they would be given a free pass to make their claims in the political arena.

What would the exercise look like? Well that isn’t clear. Some ideas have been floated such as a live debate. Perhaps a red team response to a summary article such as the National Climate Report made public recently by the New York Times? Would it be special earmarked funding for contrarians to perform research? Would it be an “official” U.S. government report that is written by the contrarians? We just don’t know.

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Comments 1 to 50 out of 67:

  1. As everyone points out about this topic the red team/blue team exercise doesn't make sense in this case because that is already how science works. I don't know how the exercises usually work but I assume you select people for the teams who haveb't completely made up their mind on the topic. These people would just be rehashing research that has already been gone over a million times before. If you have worked your whole life in the field why would your opinion be changed by this exercise?

    And how will the teams be chosen? Are they going to pick simply pro-agw scientists v "skeptics"?Is that really appropriate? Or should it be those scientists with the most 'catastrophic' predictions of agw against the "skeptics"?

    It's one of those things that sounds like a common sense good idea to someone who doesn't follow all this, but really doesn't make much sense.

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  2. Red team/blue team is always an exercise in which two sides try to pitch to somebody else who ultimately makes a decision. But there is obviously no jury or referee, because that would be some party that is qualified and is abreast of the science, like the people in peer review committees. So they would be pitching to a party that has no qualifications and doesn't care much about the truth, like political campaigning for the general public. With political campaigning it helps to have the media on your side (paid or otherwise) so that a lot of built in skew ensues for certain arguments, perceptions, and people. After all, it is about winning, not about truth. The people suggesting this exercise have so little experience with objective reality (or integrity), that they think science works just like the world of politics they know — it doesn't matter who was right, even afterwards, it only matters who gets to set the rules and who controls any official reports.

    Who would like to be on the red team pitching plans to Stalin?

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  3. The criticisms in the article and postings are excellent and pretty definitive.

    But heres another issue. Firstly climate change is made complicated because we cannot put the entire planet into a laboratory and do a couple of simple experiments. The whole field relies on an enormous range of historical evidence, theory and modelling expressed in over 12,000 peer reviewed papers. You have to have a grip on all that research to really make a conclusion. Even climate sensitivity and attribution studies involves hundreds of papers.

    The IPCC process is large and extended and has large teams of people going through all this. Hundreds and hundreds of scientists and support people are involved.

    There is no way a couple of red blue teams with three people on each side can be conversant enough with the range science to ever draw satisfactory conclusions. Even ten people on each side doesn't come anywehere near whats needed. The red blue team idea is just so inadequate and weak.

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  4. Following up on my thoughts on another blog on this site (re Trump country to be hit hard by climate change), I truly think that the scientific community should not lose this opportunity to have an effect on Trump's policies going forward.

    The reality is that the Trump administration (or at least a Republican administration) will be in power both in the White House and in Congress for at least the next 3+ years.

    Although Trump has called "climate change" a hoax perpetrated on us by China we have come to learn to live with his hyperbole. He is a salesman, that is what salesmen do.  Please understand I am not an apologist for Donald Trump (I just hope we can make it through the next 3 years without any major disaster).

    But he will be moved by the public mood. From what I can understand, the American public are very ambivalent about Climate Change and how much trust can be put into climate scientists (notwithstanding the IPCC, Neil DeGrassie Tyson and Stephen Hawking).  In many, but not all, respects these differences do seem to be drawn on political lines.   I went to the Pew Research website to get my information.

    Here is the url for the Pew October 4, 2016 "The Politics of Climate" article on Americans' view on Climate Change:

    Given this diversity, it would seem to me that this "red team blue team" approach proposed by Scott Priutt could, depending on the results of the information exchange (the "debate"), move many moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats (see Pew Research) into the camp of the majority scientific view which would clearly turn the political heat up on Trump.  I personally would like to see a follow up examination on how best to deal with the impacts of climate change.

    I do not think anyone seriously argues as to whether the climate is changing (when has it not?) or whether man has had a signficant hand in it.  What this first debate should be focussed on is: (1) how much of a temperature rise should we expect until 2100 (and after)  taking into account existing model predictions of future temperature increases and whether this temperature rise will exacerbate extreme weather events; and (2) what would those specific impacts be (ie estimated sea level rise by 2100, etc) on the world assuming no action were taken to limit carbon emissions to mitigate the changing climate.  The second debate would have to focus on the best ways to deal with those impacts (ie mitigation and adaptation).   It would be too confusing to put this all in one debate.

    Given the political reality in the US today, I would hope that the scientific community would jump at this opportunity.  I think failure to do so would cause serious harm to its cause.  I can just hear Trump if that were to happen!

    As I have said in other venues, anyone asking how this could work should search "Climate Change Policy Statement" on the website, the official website of the American Physical Society, the second largest association of physicists in the world.  This panel discussion chaired  by Steve Koonin, an eminent physicist (and former Energy undersecretary in the Obama administration), along with other APS physicists, had some of the best climatologists on "both sides" giving their views on certain questions posed in something called the  Workshop Framing Document.   This Framing Document largely keyed on the IPCC 2013 Group 1 Assessment.  The three climatologists for the "majority opinion side" were all important contributors to the IPCC assessment.  On the other side were "lukewarmers" like Judith Curry,  John Christy and Richard Lindzen. 

    Based upon the final policy statement ultimately issued by the APS, the "majority side" won, so why should there be any reluctance to engage in this kind of exchange? 

    If someone like Steve Koonin were to be appointed as the chair of this red team blue team investigation I think you would have a reasonably independent person at its head.  I fully understand that after this APS panel hearing Koonin  made public statements even calling for such a red team blue team approach.  But I do not think anyone could question his integrity.

    As I have noted elsewhere, I just wonder whether Trump really has the intestinal fortitude to take a chance on this.  My guess is that he will not.

    JWRebel @ 2. Actually, my understanding is that in a red team blue team exchange there is no final "decision".  I actually find this to be a weakness of the red team blue team approach but I fully understand why.  But I would prefer to have a "majority opinion" and "minority opinion" published giving their reasons for their decision in words that are understandable to the public.  But this would then become political because who gets to appoint the full hearing panel?  I trust Steve Koonin to be a moderator but after that it would be like appointing justices to the US Supreme Court!

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  5. NorrisM @4

    You say "The reality is that the Trump administration (or at least a Republican administration) will be in power both in the White House and in Congress for at least the next 3+ years."

    I'm not so sure. What about mid term congressional elections?

    "this "red team blue team" approach proposed by Scott Priutt could, depending on the results of the information exchange (the "debate"), move many moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats (see Pew Research) into the camp of the majority scientific view which would clearly turn the political heat up on Trump. "

    I'm not convinced. I have a feeling if conservatives dont like the red blue team result, they will dismiss it and will find excuses. For example, a multi millionaire phalanthropist, and economist Gareth Morgan wrote a book in my country on climate change called "Poles Apart" where he assembled a team of climate sceptic scientists versus an equal size team of warmists (for want of a better word) who debated it out. Gareths book documented this and was thus very balanced. Gareth came down on the side of the warmists. However his book was dismissed by most conservatives I heard who claimed the process was too small, biased motives etc. 

    "What this first debate should be focussed on is: (1) how much of a temperature rise should we expect until 2100 (and after)...whether this temperature rise will exacerbate extreme weather events; and (2) what would those specific impacts be, etc,etc."

    It's interesting when you list concrete things like this, because it brings home the fact the IPCC have had huge teams of people evaluating all this over and over for the last 20 plus years, so its hard to see what the red blue team could add, and it will never be taken seriously by the liberals, because it is set up by climate denialists, and is not as large and thorough a process as the IPCC. It will always be tainted with bias. In comparison the IPCC panels roate scientists and deliberately include a mix of people, and is constructed to minimise political bias in the science teams and avoid biased selections of people etc.

    Debate also depends partly on rhetorical debating skills, appearance etc. This may suit court cases, but has less place in science. One team could win public approval purely on rhetoric, body langauge and appearance, and this is no way to decide climate matters regardless of who wins.

    You are however right that one proposal is not to have some sort of judge or jury on the red blue team findings. Rather it is to let them battle things out back and forwards until they have something they can all agree on so a compromise process of reduction. But then the IPCC have already dome something similar yet more rigorous so whats the point?

    And the panel is also stacked with equal members of sceptics and warmists who have to agree. This is utterly artificial as it does not represent views in the wider climate science community where the vast majority think we are warming the climate.

    So the blue team could win on debating style rhetoric or trickery, when real views of 90% of climate scientists are completely different, and this would be a dangerous result. And of course the same applies in the other direction!

    So in conclusion the red blue idea is unconvincing and too open to ending up with an unreliable result, that is unlikely to have credibility with the public at large.

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  6. I meant the red team could win while the views of 90% of climate scientists are different. Must proof read! But the meaning was clear I think.

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  7. Seems like the Red vs Blue exercise seeks to make non-experts the judges and encourage the "too uncertain for serious action" position that is used by those in positions of trust and responsibility to ignore or dismiss the real, abundant and consistent expert advice they don't want to hear.

    The only in depth, ground up review and critique that I think would have any hope of rising above the mire of conflicted politics would be have to be done under the auspices of the US leading science bodies - like the National Academy of Sciences. And that would have to be in conjunction with a lavish Video documentary production suited to prime time broadcast to have the reach it would need - the pdf's (that currently only those who seek them out even know exists) should be there as well, as references, every claim backed up.

    The most effective medium for communication with the greatest reach is not pdf or print, it is audio visual but few of the great many docos have the standing and credibility to be authoritative or the big budget production to make it compelling viewing. I think we should not underestimate the public's appetite for a truly authoritative video documentary on climate.

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  8. nijelj @ 6.

    Your point is taken re the mid terms but this recent by-election somewhere in the SE US for a HofR seat had both national parties spend a lot of money and time on it and the Republicans defeated a very interesting candidate put forward for the Democrats.  Things clearly can change but not yet.

    My main point is that the Pew Research survey shows that a majority of the "middle" (representing conservative Democats and liberal Republicans) presently do not trust climate scientists so it is rather academic to point to the studies of the IPCC, prepared by climate scientists. 

    What I found very astounding is that only 55% of liberal Democrats (the most liberal category) are of the view that "almost all climate scientists agree that human behaviour is mostly responsible for climate change". 

    There obviously is a lot of work to do convincing large parts of the American public even the liberal Democrats.  With the Republicans presently in power, what better time to grab the centre stage? What real choices are there to advance your position beyond this? 

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  9. NorrisM @8

    "What I found very astounding is that only 55% of liberal Democrats (the most liberal category) are of the view that "almost all climate scientists agree that human behaviour is mostly responsible for climate change".

    Well that is unique to America. The same Pew polls show greater acceptance of a consensus position and human causes of climate change in other countries in all political groups. America is unique in its scepticism among western nations. People just seem highly politicised and not good with science. I mean theres scepticism, then theres being the equivalent of a flat earther, and theres a lot of the latter in parts of america over various issues.

    But the roughly even division of opinion in America over expert consenus and other climate matters is due to a campaign of sceptical doubt and poor reporting of the consensus in the mainstream media. The red blue team debate obviously cant alter this consensus thing because its not about debating consensus position and numbers. So your point is a red herring.

    "There obviously is a lot of work to do convincing large parts of the American public even the liberal Democrats. With the Republicans presently in power, what better time to grab the centre stage? "

    Yes, theres work to be done, but as I pointed out a red blue team debate is not a good mechanism to do this. Something similar was tried and failed in my country as I pointed out.

    The red blue idea will also just create more information possibly conflicting with the IPCC, so more confusion as to who the public should listen to. I dont see how that helps change minds. Sounds more like a waste of time.

    It all reminds me of a kangaroo court. From google, kangaroo court, noun, an unofficial court held by a group of people in order to try someone regarded, especially without good evidence, as guilty of a crime or misdemeanour.

    I agree more with the comment above about a process under one of the leading national science bodies.

    Plus Norris Im going pretty easy on all this. You haven't really found fault with the IPCC (apart from not liking their conclusions) and shown specifically how a rather biased, red blue structure would be better. 

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  10. And why would anyone accept that the red blue teams findings would be final or accepted by Donald Trump or Scott Pruit? Trump has changed his position on so many things, so many times its astounding. 

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  11. If you accept Pruitt's red team/blue team debate, you accept that this science topic is debatable.  Pruitt wins before the debate ever starts.  When 'doubt is your product' you don't need to win the race to win, you just need to keep moving the finish line.  Just keep the race going so no conclusion can be reached.  So it's absurd to think Big Fossils would accept a red team debate loss.  It would be followed by ever more esoteric debates about fine points of the policy response, the economic costs, and so on.  Meanwhile, since these debates are publicly funded, the billion-dollar-a-year climate denial industry would continue casting doubt about the science, creating converts who would insist the original debate wasn't held properly, or unfairly tilted toward the warmists.  Every last penny of that money is dedicated not to winning, but to keeping the 'debate' going.  That's why their arguments are zombies that will never die until the money runs out, which it shows no sign of doing.

    Sooner or later, the public is going to step out the front door and realize the science is right, has been right all along.  Climate denial is funded to appear as an immovable object.  But physics is the original irresistable force.

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  12. Very much so. Scientists (and the human race) have nothing to gain by a Red Team / Blue Team "reassessment".  The process would bring nothing but harm.  

    Scientists should protest loudly and repeatedly [if they are pressured to "join in"] that any such "review" would be a great waste of taxpayers' money.  And point out that regular reviews are already being done by scientific organisations such as the IPCC.   If still hounded & pressured by politicians/reporters, then the scientists should keep repeating and asserting that taxpayers' money should not be wasted on duplication of effort.  No waste of taxpayers' money!  And keep returning to that phrase: No waste of taxpayers' money!  (And so on, and on.)

    Reporters and a large slice of the public are not really "up" on understanding the science, but they are certainly up to understanding "waste of taxpayers' money".  And will remember that point, and sympathise with it!

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  13. NorrisM @4,

    Much of your blather here at SkS appears to run alongside your advocacy of a Red-Team/Blue-Team exercise with "someone like Steve Koonin ... as the chair of this red team blue team investigation I think ... a reasonably independent person at its head." I consider this Steve Koonin to be a wholly fake-scientist in that his pronouncements on AGW areunscientific nonsense. (Here I cite his 2014 WSJ article "Climate Science is Not Settled" which is nonsense-ridden from start to finish.) I note your continuing RTeam/BTeam advocacy seems hemetically wed to Koonin. Is this joker essential for your RT/BT advocacy? Or would the process still work with another candidate for the job? If so, who?

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  14. NorrisM @4 — "There would be no final decision"

    I used the word "pitch", because the decision is not part of the process. But there is a final decision. The final decision with a military game is which tactics are pursued and which gear is purchased. The final decision with climate change is what society subsequently does.

    My point is that it would be completely political, but just as the science debate has already occurred (but the masses have paid no attention, too much effort), the political redTeam/blueTeam is occurring as we speak. So far the redTeam, by dint of political hack (and allied media coverage) and infinite funds, has managed to sow confusion. A red/blue team exercise would be a repeat performance by this Anglo-Saxon disease, and would establish firmly that there is something to be debated outside of the scientific discourse.

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  15. Face it, this whole issue reads like preparation for a college debate team competition.  The only science that is really appropriate for is Political Science.  So what if your presenter is slicker and more communicative than the other side's?  That may win elections, but is useless for science, and is in fact a step backwards.

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  16. If a certain Mr Pruitt and/or others want a "debate" und a whatsoever color, then why not get to it? It may be real fun and it doesn't have to be in the format Mr Pruitt thinks it has to be. In fact, for now 30 years or something the usual suspects have put up their tired gibberish on tabloids, blogs and even tried it with scientific looking papers - the "red team" (or whatever color Mr Pruitt chooses) is greatly presented right here on SkS on the left panel above. Might he and his ilk distort their offices and come up with just another list of long debunked myths - fine! The answers will stack up in no time - from all over the world alongside with a lot of laughter und media coverage.

    No "debate" for you, Mr Pruitt - but put up your fancy lists of hogwash. We'll wait...

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  17. MA Rodger @13

    I am sure there are any number of other persons who have the academic qualifications to be the chair of any such process.  I think the person should be outside the field of climate science but highly respected in his or her area of expertise.  I have to think that the person should be a highly  reputable physicist in that this seems to be the principal area of science involved when it comes to dealing with predicting the future effects of CO2 emissions.

    In the absence of actively cooperating with a Red Team/Blue Team what do you suggest as an approach during the Trump years when, on an average, only 28% of American adults believe that climate scientists understand very well the causes of climate change?  See page 2 of the Pew Research paper "The Politics of Climate Change".

     PS  On an unrelated matter, this same Pew Research paper shows that Americans are definitely signed on for more solar and wind farms.  On this point, I am clearly in a minority.  They have mixed feelings on nuclear power with a majority against (54-43).

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  18. This is clearly an attempt at misleading marketing by a group that only knows how to Win through misleading marketing (a group that knows that in a comeptition of Good Reason all they have to offer are 'Poor Excuses for understandably unjustified beliefs and actions they hope to get away with that are potentially very popular with a significant portion of the population - just enough voters in just the Right locations to achieve unjustified Overall Wins').

    The following may be a way to pro-actively criticise the attempt at misleading marketing while offering a Good Reasoned alternative that the misleading marketers would struggle to legitimately criticize:

    • The National Science Foundation with support from other scientists involved in the IPCC process (Team NSF/IPCC) should demand that instead of Team Trump/Pruitt (Team Whatever/Whoever) get their desired Red/Blue marketing ploy, they be required to formally present a specific position regarding a climate science issue with their basis/justification properly referenced (a submission for peer review, or a desired debate point presented for review/rebuttal).
    • Team NSF/IPCC would then produce a "reply/rebuttal" (present Good Reasoned evaluations/corrections).
    • Team Whatever gets one more try to improve/justify their initial presentation.
    • Team NSF/IPCC gets the last say on Team Whatever's last effort.

    Only after the back and forth is completed does the entire correspondence get presented - in full. Any media attempting to present edits or make their own summary statement would be fined for unnecessary mis-presentation, attempted misleading marketing. There would be no Good Reason for anyone to do anything other than deliver the full back-and-forth.

    The Show of a live debate would not result in a proper/complete evaluation of the issue. It may not even include presentation/correction regarding reference data. It would be A Show to Create Impressions, not an exercise meant to properly increase awareness and better understanding. The Show would prey on the popularity of the belief that everyone should be freer to believe whatever they want and do as they please. And that "Freedom of Belief/Action without Good Reason" has a history of producing popular poor excuses for understandably unacceptable beliefs/actions.

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  19. Instead of the redTeam doing some nitpicking, we could have them submit their own comprehensive climate resconstructions, temperature reconstructions, and theories to explain climate (models of current climate, models of climate in recorded history, models of longer term proxies, and models encompassing paleontological data, models of climate sensitivity, etc). Oh, wait, that would take at least ten years! After they submit their proposals, the blue team of real experts could nit pick away, see if there's anything left to publish, if there any are left: Chances are that somewhere in those ten years they will be converted, like Richard Mueller.

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  20. JWRebel@19,

    Giving Them '10 more years before They are required to take corrective actions' plays into the game that the denier/delayers want to play.

    In 10 more years the perceived harm/unfairness to the 'Their even more overdeveloped in the wrong direction' parts of America will make Them fight even harder against the larger more rapid corrections They would be required to make. And less corrective action before then, because They actually increased the rate of how harmful They were, would lock-in even larger negative future consequences to be faced by all of Us.

    Us people pursuing increased awareness and better understanding of what is going on to make Good Reasoned decisions about actions to advance humanity to a sustainable better future for everyone have to be the Winners. And that means not playing the games They want to play. It means pointing out how ridiculous (and dangerous) it is to play games the way They (the easily tempted to be greedier or less tolerant uniting to vote for each others unacceptable beliefs/desires)" want to get away with playing.

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  21. The whole red blue idea is a game to delay things, and shopping expedition to try to find a conclusion the climate denialists and sceptics want. They wont accept a result that doesn't go their way, they will just keep on looking for another debate or forum of some sort.

    Its like a court case going from one local court to a high court on and on to an appeals court, and this makes a mockery of science. Its not how science is done. 

    Let Donald Trump swear an oath he will accept the result and I might start to listen. Of course he never would and I doubt one single Republican voter would.

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  22. If I may, I would like to suggest a different approach to the problem, which Skeptical Science does very well.  The denial side is very agressive in making false claims about scientists and climate organizations being dishonest and altering data; yet, it is they (the deniers) who are the ones distorting the science through their own altered/misrepresented data and graphs.  I think that is the thing that needs to be emphasized most, and presented to the media, public, and especially the politicians.  

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  23. This appears to be about American science rather than Climate Science.

    Climate Science is a global effort. So one would assume any teams would include Russians, Chinese, Europeans, Asians etc.

    But the real problem is that the idea is the old false balance issue, this has plagued the BBC for some time due to UK government diktats regarding balance.

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  24. Recommended supplemental reading:

    EPA chief Pruitt borrows from an old but effective denialist playbook by John Cook, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Aug 18, 2017

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  25. The color team setup sounds like reality TV.  Real science is highly detailed, exhausting and dead boring to 98% of the population. Even when it will eventually reach a conclusion they like, that 98% despises the actual process of science. 

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  26. Looking through what everyone is saying there seems to be general agreement here that this is a wholly bad idea being used to further extend a pointless debate. While I don't doubt that is the case it seems there is a bit of a lack of information at the moment as to what the actual plan is. In the vacuum, there is speculation as to what form it will take.
    Getting back to the idea of a red teaming though I think it is something that deserves consideration. The idea of Red Teaming is not entirely new. Famously the Vatican has had the office of the Promoter of the Faith or the Devil’s advocate to challenge those going for sainthood. More recently red teaming has been used extensively by militaries from section level all the way through to commanders to review and improve plans. More recently it has started appearing in more corporate areas. I bring this up to show that it is used in a variety of fields to improve outcomes.
    In Science, as has been noted, this role is largely filled through the process of research, critique and publication. However, around Climate one of the biggest issues is the implementation of knowledge in the development of policy. Particularly now as both sides seem driven to further extremes. Given this maybe Red teaming has a role to play in developing policy that all sides of politics can support. I realise that this does not appear to be the context that is being proposed here but it may be worthwhile.

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  27. JW Rebel @ 19

    I do not want to make a big deal of this but there is an underlying assumption you make. You assume that because one group may citicize the explanation of some theory that it is not acceptable to criticize that theory without coming up with an alternative theory.  You are 100% wrong in that assumption.

    It is perfectly acceptable to criticize a theory without coming up with an alternative.  One may question the existence of God (for lack of evidence) without coming up with an alternative explanation of why we are here.

    In the area of climate change, it is perfectly acceptable to criticize the existing theories without coming up with an alternative explanation.  In science, it perfectly acceptable to simply say, this theory is wrong but we just do not know what the answer is.  You do not have to come up with a viable alternative.

    At this point in my personal deliberations, I am convinced that man has caused the temperature to increase because of CO2 emissions but I am not convinced that the models can accurately predict what the effects will be over the next 70 years or beyond.  What troubles me is that these computer models have to make massive assumptions about the impact of clouds because they simply do not have the computer power to properly build them into the models.  I think the term they use is "parameterizations".  Another issue is how sensitive the climate is to the massive increases in CO2, namely, how much in "positive feedbacks" are created by water vapour, etc..  I would like to hear from both sides on this issue.  I would also like to hear from both sides how successful the models have been in predicting temperatures since the models have been developed.  I read Michael Mann's support for the James Hansen predictions in an recent article in Foreign Affairs but it seems to me that he "cherry picked" his predictions.  Many of Hansen's predictions as to temperature increased in the last 20 yeas were quite far off which were not referenced.

    I would also like to hear whether the experts agree on whether there really was a Medieval Warming Period and a Little Ice Age.  According to Michael Mann there was no such thing in the promotion of this "hockey stick" which was to show that the temperature increase today is unprecedented in the last 2000 years.  A recent Chinese study has shown that certainly in China there have been periods of warming corresponding to the MWP and periods of cooling corresponding to the Little Ice Age.  This corresponds to the information we have both about Greenland and Europe.

    I am not saying that proving there was a MWP or a Little Ice Age means that we do not have a problem today but I would just like to get the facts and I am not convinced Michael Mann et al have delivered same.  I have to admit that Climategate seriously impacted my trust of Michael Mann and Phil Jones.  I do not care that their respective universities "cleared" them of any wrongdoing.  You have to have massive blinders on you not to read these emails and wince.  Are they scientists or are they going beyond the science to promote what they think is the "right thing to do"? 

    Returning to your main point, it may very well be that there are so many factors involved that it is impossible to predict what the climate will do in 30, 70 or more years.  And it may be impossible to predict what portion of today's temperature increase is attributable to anthropogenic influences.  This does not end the argument.  We clearly have polar ice caps and glaciers melting.  Oceans are rising (although they have been for 150 years). 

    So it behooves us to consider what we should do.  

    I just had to comment on your premise that the "other side" has to come up with a viable explanation otherwise you just accept the present premise and predictions of future temperature increases and the concomitant effects.

    So I am hoping that a red team blue team can deal with some of these issues.  I do not have any preconceived views on what would be achieved but I would enjoy seeing each side go at each other. 

    For those who say that it is too complicated, I say "fooey".  If you cannot hit the main points and come to a conclusion then we should not be going down the road of massive changes to our society because it is undemocratic.  If you cannot distil these issues for the public and you therefore have to rely on arguments of "trust me" or "trust the IPCC" then I do not think you have a chance at all of convincing the majority of the US public to go along with the massive changes proposed.  Gradually switching to RE, yes, but not massive changes which impact their economic well being.  It is like asking the Oracle of Delphi to tell the ruler whether he should go to battle.  I think we have got beyond that stage.


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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "In science, it perfectly acceptable to simply say, this theory is wrong but we just do not know what the answer is.  You do not have to come up with a viable alternative."

    Certainly, in science you are allowed to take a contrary position to a scientific theory.  But without credible evidence for your position, you will be immediately dismissed as a crank.

    It would behoove you to better acquaint yourself with the scientific definition of a theory (as some use terms without knowing what they mean):

    NCSE definition

    Another helpful link

    A good explanation of the scientific method

    Defining terms

    Multiple off-topic snipped.

  28. Bravo, NorrisM !

    16 at one blow — yes, by my count, your post #27 has delivered a gish-gallop of approximately sixteen points.   All of which have been rebutted years ago.

    Question: Is a gish-gallop actually a form of "blather" or is it simply a gish-gallop? [in the way that Freud's cigar is sometimes just a cigar]

    Please lift your game, NorrisM.  For the amount of effort you put into your posts, you ought to be able to achieve a much higher quality output.

    Your first few posts at SkS were transparently bogus.  But you obviously put a lot of work into concocting them, and they did provide entertainment of a sort plus some stimulation to readers (to make brief review of their own ideas).  However, your persuasiveness was zero, because you generally pursued things in a nonsensical way and to a nonsensical conclusion.  (Yes, and I realise that your basic desire was not persuasiveness.)

    If I may advise you: Please try using some subtlety and finesse.  You should aim to achieve posts which are entertaining and clever, rather than ridiculous and repetitious [something which the moderators view as tiresome].

    Justify your presence, NorrisM.   Excellence, or nothing !

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  29. NorrisM @ 27 - "Another issue is how sensitive the climate is to the massive increases in CO2, namely, how much in "positive feedbacks" are created by water vapour, etc.. I would like to hear from both sides on this issue."

    That sentence just about sums up why your comment can largely be ignored. It shows you don't understand the mechanisms or the scientists that investigate them.

    You need to consider the states of matter on this planet and the energies involved. It's very simple science. The fact that you appear to over complicate the issue reveals a lot about yourself.

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  30. NorrisM @27

    Please watch Gavin Schmidt's TED-talk "The emergent patterns of climate change" before questioning models again. You'll only need to invest 12 minutes of your time but it should be time well spent.

    The talk includes two memorable and - for me - quite thought-provoking quotes:

    From Tom Knutson & Robert Tuleya:

    "If we had observations of the future, we obviously would trust them more than models, but unfortunately observations of the future are not available at this time."

    From Sherwood Rowland:

    "What's the use of having developed a science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we're willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?"

    And an ArsTechnica article from Scott K. Johnson explaining models:

    Why trust climate models? It's a matter of simple science

    I maintain that whoever watches the video and reads the article and still doesn't understand models .... just doesn't want to understand them and how they work. I sure hope that you are not one of "those people"!

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  31. I think that the Academy of Science should become involved with Pruitt to design the Red-Blue team exercise. They should insist on a set-up like John Oliver's with 97 blue team scientists and 3 red team scientists. If Pruitt does not agree the NAS should make a loud public complaint to draw attention to the unfair make up of the teams.

    A public debate of how the teams should be made would allow scientists to emphasize the 97-3 split in expert opinion.

    Why allow the deniers the opportunity to make the rules of the debate. Scientists should be the ones making up the red-blue team rules since it is supposed to be a scientific debate.

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  32. The enemies of climate change are extremely skilled in the dark art of lying/deception. Consider that in the election fight of John Kerry against George Bush, the dark side somehow convinced the majority of the public that Kerry (who served in Vietnam) was a coward, while Bush (who during Vietnam served in the Texas Air National Guard) was the patriot hero.

    And in the last election, it was painful to listen to people calling Hillary Clinton a liar, and the king of lies was believed to "tell it like it is".

    If we engage in red/blue televised debate, the anti-climate side will select a more telegenic, better-looking, smoother-talking debater, or perhaps a more scientific-looking and sounding Einstein imitator - whatever the focus groups determine will be more effective. We do not stand a chance against them in this type of arena.

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  33. Moderator:

    "But without credible evidence for your position, you will be immediately dismissed as a crank."

    Steve Koonin is not a crank. 

    There are many intelligent people who are highly qualified in their areas of scientific expertise who have asked questions about how much we can rely on the existing models to take action.

    I have finished reading the Summary for Policymakers relating to the IPCC Special Report, and I would think that a better approach is to say that although we have a significant degree of uncertainty arising out of the models, the cost of moving to an RE future of wind and solar power will not represent more than 1% of the world's GDP on an annual basis (at least for electrical power generation).  I plan to read the actual report over the next while but this "cost" will not sink the world.

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  34. NorrisM: "Steve Koonin is not a crank. "

    When it comes to understanding climate, yes, he is a crank. Doing one thing well does not mean you are qualified to do everything well. Acting as if you know everything well because you know one thing well is a quick path to crankhood.

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  35. The red blue team suggested balance of 3 warmists and 3 sceptics does not represent true opinion in the scientific community, so the red blue team debate is fundamentally dishonest. M Sweet is right.

    It's nothing more than the equivalent of a school debating competition, where some ridiculous subject is debated with two equal size groups. This is entertainment not serious science.

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  36. I hope that I am not too late to this discussion to make a comment.

    First, in my view, this request for a "Red Team/Blue Team" exercise is not originating from the politicians of the Republican Party.  It is instead originating from the donor class of the Republican Party, which is composed primarily of very wealthy and politically active Free Market/Libertarians.  For those who follow US politics, it became apparent in about 2008-2010 time frame that Republicans abruptly went from a party that was willing to discuss (albeit not take action) on global warming to one where even discussion was considered off-limits.  With the "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision in 2010, the ability for dark money to influence campaigns allowed the Free Market/Libertarian donor class to enter into the political process early in campaigns with substantial financial resources when it is very important for candidates.  The choice was given to candidates of either to agree to the dogma of the donor class or face a well-funded primary opponent.  In my view, this is the reason why trying to change Republican policy through evidence or grass roots lobbying is bound to fail.  It is not the Republican politicians that need convincing, it is the Republican donor class that needs convincing.

    Second, strategically the Free Market/Libertarians deniers/luke-warmers have placed advocates for action on global warming in a difficult position.  For if one says "no" that we won't participate in a "Red Team/Blue Team" exercise then it is easy to state the "Of course, they are hiding something because they don't want to have an open debate".  So even though it makes absolutely no sense to have such an exercise from a "this is how science works" perspective, it is really important to have the exercise from a political/convincing the public perspective.

    Another point, the "Red Team/Blue Team" exercise could be looked at an important means to educate everyone as to the basics of global warming science.  The US media just does a lousy job of keeping this issue in the limelight and as a consequence the American populace is just going to respond not based on rational evaluation but according to their tribal affiliation.  This exercise could be immensely successful if climate scientists would use this as an opportunity to communicate very basic scientific concepts to the greater populace.  For example, the concept of thermal inertia is just not communicated at all.  Neither is the concept of thermal expansion of the oceans and the non-uniform increase in sea temperatures contributing to sea level rise.  And I rarely hear anyone talk about how night time low temperatures should be considered a finger print of global warming.

    The key to making it successful though is to frame the discussion very narrowly to the key issues as hand.  I have watched enough congressional testimony and read enough Wall Street Journal opinions to see how debate is side-tracked by red-herring arguments, such as the existence of the Medieval Warming Period or the 17-year "pause".  The purpose of a "Red Team/Blue Team" excercise should be to remove "doubt" so it would be imperative to structure the discussion so that non-germane points which serve only to sow confusion are off-limits.

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  37. Jeff B,

    I believe the key is to minimize the effectiveness of any and all attempts at misleading marketing.

    That is why I commented the way I did @18. And I support the other suggestions that focus on addressing/minimizing the potential misleading marketing Success/Winning through the Red/Blue Debate.

    A variation of that suggestion @18 is for anyone (like Team Trump/Pruitt) who wants to question 'the already very robustly developed vast awareness of observations and experience related to climate science and the resulting current best explanation/understanding of all that information', to be required to ask their question to the National Science Foundation/National Academy of Science 'the group that shares and can explain that awareness and understanding'.

    And in an effort to help the entire population be more aware and better understand this issue, everyone/everymediacorp who has ever delivered information regarding climate science should be required to publish each question and the full answer, without any supplementary comments, through the same mechanisms they delivered their previous climate science information points "As a Public Service - with potential penalties for failing to do so".

    The best explanation for all of the currently available observations and information is already well established. That best understanding can only be challenged by the presentation of new valid information and observations. However, asking a question is not the same as presentation of a Reasoned Challenge with new information. Some back and forth would be required (the process I suggested @18 would be appropriate with the same requirement for the full back-and-forth to be presented to the entire US population without edit or supplementary comment - including Presidential Tweets).

    if actually raising awareness and better understanding is the objective, the Red/Blue debate would be ineffective and potentially very damaging to the future of humanity (which is why it has been proposed by those who do not care about the future of humanity when such consideration of Others would contradict their personal interests). Pointing that out is all that the scientists should do, offering to formally answer questions or review and respond to proposed alternative explanations that either present verifiable new information or "Better Explain all of the currently avaialble information, observations and experience", as long as the reply they provide gets presented completely 'unaltered' (along with what they are responding to) and without additional comments made that the scientists have not been given the courtesy of responding to 'up front'.

    Unjustified and ultimately unsustainable Winning through the abuse of communication science/marketing science is perhaps the greatest threat to the future of humanity that humanity has ever developed.

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  38. Bob Loblaw @34 

    I worry that your definition of "crank" is anyone who does not agree with you.  I am sure Judith Curry is also a crank based upon your definition.

    nigelj @ 35

    Perhaps I have not fully researched John Cook's "97% of climate scientists" as to what they do agree on  but do you think there is a consensus on what future impact the AGW will have on temperatures and the consequences in terms of melting ice?  This is the issue.  Even the IPCC provide a range of 1.5C to 4C without offering even a best guess.

    Jeff B @ 36

    Very interesting and thoughtful comments.  I would agree that the MWP probably is not as relevant but varying temperatures over the 20th Century and the 17 year pause are relevant because they at least address the issue of the predictability of the models. 

    But it does raise questions.  If it is accepted that there was a MWP and a Little Ice Age, then unless these are explained using natural causes there is a natural inference that the existing warming may consist of more than just CO2 concentrations.  I have earlier mentioned what I hope a Red Team Blue Team could address.  But for sure, this is a way of bringing this front and centre before the American public.

    The Pew Reserch study was conducted in June 2016 during the Obama administration.  If there was so much skeptcism even during the Obama years then surely there is a need to address this skepticism.

    I fully agree that Citizens United decision of the US SC is one more example of why it is hard to argue that the US has a true democracy.  Add that together with gerrymandering and you do have to ask if there is a Deep State in the US.  On the other hand, were it not for a few of the rust belt states, Clinton would have won. 

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  39. NorrisM, I have responded to your offtopic comment in the appropriate thread.

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  40. NorrisM @38

    "Perhaps I have not fully researched John Cook's "97% of climate scientists" as to what they do agree on but do you think there is a consensus on what future impact the AGW will have on temperatures and the consequences in terms of melting ice? This is the issue. Even the IPCC provide a range of 1.5C to 4C without offering even a best guess."

    The Cooke study looks at what is the main cause of recent climate change and does not go into all the other issues or melting ice. Other consensus studies are similar and listed below. All the consensus studies find 90% or more of climate scientists think we are warming the climate.

    Virtually all the published research predicts significant sea level rise so you could call that a definite consensus as well. It's an easy thing to determine anyway.

    So I repeat given the red blue team does not reflect the consensus of climate scientists it is not representative and is dishonest imho.

    You have also slightly missinterpreted the example scenario range of 1.5 - 4.5 degrees. This is climate sensitivity, not an estimate of temperatures by year 2100.The actual increase in temperatures by 2100 are in the  IPCC report below for various emissions scenarios. The high emissions scenario is 2.6 - 4.8 degrees by 2100 relative to 1985 baseline, so the range of numbers is not as  wide as your example. The IPCC dont make best guesses they give the range of numbers that is highly likely.

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  41. NorrisM,

    Please explain in detail what you mean when you say: "... varying temperatures over the 20th Century and the 17 year pause are relevant because they at least address the issue of the predictability of the models".

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  42. NorrisM,

    Please explain in detail your understanding of the causes of and extensiveness of the events referred to as the MWP or Little Ice Age.

    It may be beneficial for you to do more research before replying since there actually are well understood best explanations for what happened in both the MWP and the Little Ice Age (and the understandings have been around for a while even though "Questions" continue to be asked as if a Good Robust - able to withstand critical scrutiny - Explanation has not yet been developed).

    btw - all the "doubts" about climate science also continue to be regurgitated/respun in spite of the long existence of a Good Robust Explanation for the developed and constantly improving understanding of climate science.

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  43. NorrisM,

    As part of your detailed response to my query @41 please include your explanation for the different results of temperature change over 17 years when the starting year is 1999 vs 1998. The SkS Temperature Trends tool can be helpful for such a pursuit of increased awareness and better understanding.

    Reviewing the full history of all available temperature data sets is also helpful (note that to get the most recent 2017 data points to show up in the SkS Temperature Trend tool you need to have 2018 as the end date). Experiment with the moving average value and note how much the shorter duration averages, like 6 months, pop up and down relative to the smoother trend of a 30 year average (this may help you more correctly understand variations and why climate models deal with treds of long duration averages - like 30 year averages). And look for a leveling out of the 30 year average in the data sets - one occurs, but in ends in th early 1960's (meaning it ends with the 30 year averages ending in the late 1980s). Note that satellite data, in addition to being up into the CO2 rather than under it all so not really comparable to surface temperature data, has a history that is too short to make meaningful evaluations of 30 year averages, but the short amount of 30 year averages are trending up very similar to the surface temperature data sets.

    Hope that helps.

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  44. NorrisM @ 38:

    Did you read the post I linked to at #34? It outlines many of the items that Koonin just simply gets wrong about well-known climate issues, and how his rhetoric just does not follow logic. It is also worth following the link on that page to Eli Rabbett's blog post:

    And yes, Judith Curry exhibits symptoms of crankhood in many of her blog posts, congresisonal testimony, etc. Although she has a successful scientific career in some subjects, she has supported crank-level ideas from others as if they had scientific merit.

    My statement in #34 is not a definition of crankhood - it is one element that leads in that direction. I repeat (and rephrase): success in one subject area is not  a legitimate claim to authority or ability in another. I have spent 40 years studying and working in climatology and related atmospheric sciences, but there is a limit to my knowledge. If I were to try to start to tell particle physicists that everything they know is wrong, I would be descending into crankhood.

    What makes Konnin et al cranks in the climate rhealm is not that they disagree with me, but that they disagree with huge amounts of well-founded, widely-accepted basic physics and reason. And yes - if they want to overthrow physics they are going to have to provide evidence and a better explanation. It is not good enough to just throw stones.

    And if you are going to try the "they laughed at Einstein" ploy, remember that they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. And read the following "Crackpot Index" web page:

    Koonin is already hugely invested in the denial side of the climate "debate". Having someone like him lead a Red Team/Blue Team exercise would be like having Stalin lead a debate of communism vs. captailism in 1950. Koonin is not a disinterested, independent party.

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  45. Obvious Correction to my post @43,

    "... one occurs, but in ends in the early 1960's (meaning it ends with the 30 year averages ending in the late 1970s 1980s)"

    My original phrasing had been 'approximately 1980' and I failed to change it to 1970 when I revised the wording to 'the late ...'

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  46. scaddenp @ 39

    Thanks.  My purpose was not to get into a discussion of MWP but rather to discuss what might be part of an exchange of information as part of a Red Team Blue Team process.   But talk about a "Rabbit hole".  That blog seems to have a higher fever pitch than any other!

    Bob Loblaw @ 44

    Yes I have read Andy Lacis' comments and in fact reread them.  I read them and they made a lot of sense.  Then somehow I was directed to a summary by Koonin of his WSJ article this spring.  I read it and it made a lot of sense.  At least take a look at it here.

    What strikes me is that reading these two discussions tells me that for someone with a non-scientific background, it is a hopeless case to "research" this area and come up with a view. 

    It is for that very reason that I would dearly love to hear the experts directly contradict each other in some form of "give and take" so you are not just listening to one side and then the other.  You deal with each statement as it is made.

    I understand why you would not want Koonin as the sole chair of such an exchange.  He himself has suggested Co-Chairs and perhaps that is the way to go.  Koonin on one side and a representative of the "warmists" (for lack of a better term) on the other side.  I am not using the term "scientific consensus side" or similar term because we are not talking about whether the current warming is primarily caused by man where there is (largely) a consensus but disagreements on what the effects on temperature will be. 

    But I have to admit there were two things that made me at least question the warmist position.  They were :  1.  IPCC's acknowledgment of a "hiatus" in their 2013 Assessment; and 2. Reading the transcript of the APS investigation that was chaired by Koonin.  I have elsewhere made the point that the IPCC climatologists had their chance to strongly state their case and they seemed to have admitted that their models were not matching observations.   By the way, I did notice the first time I read that transcript that Koonin's expression of "surprise" about the uncertainty in the models surprised me in that he had to have formed the group who wrote up the Framework Document.  So the "surprise" had to be a little feigned.  But it does not change the response by the IPCC climatologists. 

    A Red Team Blue Team would be the chance for Warmists to make their case to the American public.

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  47. NorrisM:

    I just read through the Koonin document you linked to. It is full of vague, incorrect, and rhetorical contrivances. They may appear "reasonable" to someone that does not know the science, but it is not a good summary of the science.

    Koonin's statement:

    "My training as a computational physicist - together with a 40-year career of scientific research, advising and management in academia, government and the private sector - has afforded me an extended, up-close perspective on climate science. exactly the sort of false claim of expertise that I reject in comments 34 and 44.

    How the hiatus affects our understanding of climate is grossly overblown by the denial side of this discussion. Yes, it provides an interesting observation to help us understand short-term variability, but it has not lasted and the long-term trend continues (as evidenced by the pasts few years). That the IPCC reflected on it is direct evidence against the idea that the science ignores these things.

    A Red Team/Blue Team exercise, where the rules are made by a biased group, and the evaluation will be led by a biased group, will have a zero chance at uncovering any "truth". You've said you have a legal background. How would you feel arguing a case in court when the other lawyer and the judge were old school mates, with no legal training, and they got to make up the rules under which the case was to be tried?

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  48. NorrisM @46

    The AAAS published a very good summary about What We Know which has been available for the American public (and obviously many others around the world!) for quite a while. A Red Team / Blue Team exercise may be helpful to find the best solutions to a given problem but it's not at all suited to decide scientific questions. That is done - as many others have already pointed out - via the peer-reviewed and published literature. 

    If you haven't already, watch the video linked to in michael sweet's comment @31 - John Oliver really drives home the point, why a debate like this red team / blue team exercise is one we shouldn't have (and don't really need).

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  49. NorrisM - maybe but your comments on MWP and LIA appear indictative of extent to which you have uncritically taken on disinformation without examining what the science actually says. If you what you assume to be true was actually true, then your comments on red/blue team might make some sense but instead you are merely demonstrating the problems with disinformers and bias that would doom such an exercise.

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  50. NorrisM,

    In the future, instead of the misleading and demeaning term 'Warmist' please use the description: 'People who are more fully aware of the existing observations and experience related to climate science and the currently developed and constantly improving best explanation for all of that information' (or a term that cannot be misunderstood to mean something other than that description).

    BTW, there are many posts in SkS explaining in detail why Denier is an appropriate term to apply to people who try not to have to accept the developed best explanation that human burning of fossil fuels is a significant problem that must be curtailed far quicker than the socio-economic systems 'as they are' could be expected to stop making bigger problems for future generations. I like to use Delayer/Denier because the people trying to discredit/dismiss/distort/deny or raise unjustified doubts about the understanding of climate science do so to Delay being stopped from getting away with obtaining more undeserved personal benefit from the undeniably damaging (particularly to future generations) and undeniably unsustainable pursuit of benefit from the burning of fossil fuels.

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