Administrator Pruitt Wants to Delay Climate Science

What happened: Scott Pruitt announced that he is planning a “Red Team–Blue Team” exercise to challenge mainstream climate science.

Why it matters: The scientific consensus that human activity is the primary cause of climate change has been well-established for many years. Challenging this finding subverts the scientific community and downplays the threat posed by our planet’s shifting climate.


On June 29, Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, announced that he will convene a team of researchers to challenge modern climate science through a “Red Team-Blue Team” exercise. The idea was originally proposed in a Wall Street Journal op-ed by Dr. Steve Koonin, a physicist at New York University. He suggested that a “red team” of dissenting scientists be created to critique major scientific reports in climate change. A “blue team” of climate scientists would then respond to the critiques, and the resulting exchanges would take place in view of the public. According to Koonin, the objective of the exercise is the give the public a better understanding of the certainties and uncertainties in climate science.

Most climate scientists say that the exercise undermines the scientific research process because peer-reviewed research already relies on an extensive process of eliminating faulty or invalid analyses. Many scientists also worry that the exercise creates a platform for Pruitt to promote scientific views already disproven through the scientific process.

The international science community, including federal agencies such as Pruitt’s EPA, has long accepted the fact that human activity is the primary cause of climate change. This conclusion is well-founded by decades of peer-reviewed research.

“Scientists are already spending most of their time trying to poke holes in what other scientists are saying,” said atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution for Science. “The whole red team-blue team concept misunderstands what science is all about.”

Other members of the science community believe that Administrator Pruitt may be looking to challenge the “endangerment finding,” the scientific conclusion that underpins the Clean Air Act and allows the United States to regulate greenhouse gases. While the nullification of the endangerment finding would require a long and arduous legal process, the “red team-blue team” effort certainly is a step in the wrong direction.

Last Revised Date: 

July 19, 2017