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U.S. Sceptics See New Chance For Climate Science Review Team

Nick Sobczyk, E&E News

Skeptics of man-made climate change hope the Trump administration’s “adversarial” science review revives the “red-team, blue-team” debate once embraced by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt’s effort, which proposed a military-style debate of research showing greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet, was scuttled by former presidential chief of staff John Kelly.

But with a catalog of new faces in the White House, skeptics might have better luck with the “adversarial” review, to be led by Princeton University physics professor William Happer, who is not trained in climate science but questions the mainstream consensus.

Mick Mulvaney has replaced Kelly. Mike Pompeo has replaced Rex Tillerson — formerly one of the administration’s few climate science believers — as secretary of State. John Bolton has stepped in for H.R. McMaster as national security adviser.

All of that churn has made for “a much more favorable environment” for skeptics, said Myron Ebell, director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the former head of President Trump’s EPA transition team.

Their position is also bolstered by a series of Trump tweets in recent weeks advocating false and skeptical views of climate science.

“The committee that Will Happer is putting together will provide an analysis and a critical review — an adversarial review — but that won’t be the end of it,” Ebell said. “Obviously, that will be the beginning of a dialogue between the adversarial reviewers and the climate consensus, or the official science body.”

The White House is weighing a review of the science behind the National Climate Assessment, focused on security risks from climate change.

The report, which found climate change is already affecting the U.S. economy and national security, draws on the work of hundreds of scientists and went through an extensive peer review and public comment process.

‘Distinguished experts’

Dozens of military leaders have come out against the White House plans, calling them a political attempt to undermine science and a widespread consensus in the national security community that climate change multiplies threats around the world (E&E News PM, March 5).

But Ebell and a long list of administration backers sent a letter to the White House yesterday supporting the review.

They suggest a continued debate of climate science once Happer’s review is over, mirroring the proposed “red-team, blue-team” debate, much maligned by scientists and various Trump administration critics.

“Although an independent commission of distinguished scientists would have high credibility, we do not mean to imply that its report should be the end of the matter,” they wrote. “We therefore suggest that the National Academies of Science and Engineering would be appropriate bodies to conduct an initial review of the commission’s report.”

They also suggest that Happer’s panel would be populated by “distinguished experts” and subject to transparency requirements under the Federal Advisory Committees Act, but it’s not entirely clear yet how the group would be constituted.

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