Coal, by Flicker user oatsy40 (Used Under CC License)
The best analog to EPA administrator Scott Pruitt's latest action might be for the U.S. Geological Survey to undertake a "scientific critique" of theories that the world is round.
After all, numerous authoritative sources over the years have raised doubts that the Earth is not flat. Surely their views deserve to be aired.
Late last week, it emerged that Trump Administration appointee Pruitt—a denier of accepted climate science—has already begun a formal program to "critique" accepted climate science.
The man who sued the EPA more than a dozen times as Oklahoma's attorney general to prevent it from enforcing emission limits now runs the agency.
He has said that while he believes the global climate may be changing, he is "skeptical" of the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity—specifically emissions of unprecedented volumes of carbon dioxide since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1700s—is the main cause.
So Pruitt will convene a “ 'back-and-forth critique' of climate studies, using scientists recruited by the government to take different positions on the matters," according a report by Climatewire on Friday.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt [photo from 2014]
The report cited a senior government official as its source, who went on to say, "A new, fresh and transparent evaluation is something everyone should support doing."
The initiative is said to use the "Red Team, Blue Team" approach developed by the U.S. military to identify vulnerabilities in field operations.
As coverage in The New York Times aptly put it, the EPA will "give dissenters a voice on climate, no matter the consensus."
According to the Times, Pruitt first announced the initiative to a group of coal-industry executives at a meeting of the American Coalition for Clean-Coal Electricity on Thursday. The newspaper cited two separate sources who attended the meeting.
He said his staff had "already begun" preparations for the Red Team, Blue Team exercise "to challenge mainstream climate science."
Oil well (photo by John Hill)
Energy Secretary Rick Perry, also a strong supporter of the fossil-fuel industry and a past denier of climate science, supports the review, which would take place outside the usual and accepted peer-review process used by reputable scientists worldwide.
Looked at through one lens, a rigorous scientific review should simply reinforce the consensus reached over 30 years of climate research—the one that guided the EPA in its emission regulation under Trump's predecessor.
But given Pruitt's record, it is not unreasonable to fear that strict scientific integrity may not be maintained.
In not even six months at the helm of the agency, Pruitt has surgically dismantled dozens of programs, and proposed a budget with overall funding cuts of 31 percent that would slash both enforcement and research.
He deleted numerous pages on climate change from the EPA website, eliminated the word "science" from the mission statement of the agency's Science Office, and removed numerous scientists from the Science Board.
Those scientists, he has said, are to be replaced by representatives of the industries the EPA regulates, to give those industries "a voice" in the regulations that affect them.
Natural gas flaring from oil well [licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user Sirdle]
In his role as Oklahoma's attorney general, remember, Pruitt copied and pasted language provided to him by the fossil-fuel industry into official state position papers and legal arguments.
Those arguments, of course, were against the EPA's attempts to enforce emissions limits on polluters.
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