Paper Asks: Where is the Scientific Debate in the Climate Debate?

The national discussion on climate change has escalated under the Trump administration, which makes it crucial to ensure that actual debate is happening regarding the science used to create policy and inform public opinion. A new paper from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, released today, highlights how open debate is key to improving the state of scientific knowledge and achieving sound policy outcomes.

“Open debate in science is crucial,” says report author Rupert Darwall. “Climate change policy advocates habitually make claims about the strength of the science that go far beyond what is warranted by the state of current scientific knowledge on the climate system. We need more debate in order to arrive at the best science possible. The red team/blue team approach is a good model to follow.”

Taking a lesson from the 2014 American Physical Society (APS) climate workshop, Darwall’s paper suggests taking EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s proposal for red/blue team assessment as a means to encourage healthy scientific debate. Open debate was on display at the APS workshop, which took place in Brooklyn and lasted just over seven hours. A unique event in the annals of the climate debate, it featured three climate scientists who support the climate change consensus and three climate scientists who do not. That format required an unusual degree of honesty about the limitations of the current understanding of the climate system. For the most part, circumspection, qualification, and candid admissions of lack of knowledge were the order of the day.

“Open debate is as crucial in science as it is in a democracy. Things are different when climate scientists are on the stand alongside their peers who know the science as well as they do, but disagree with the conclusions they draw from the same body of knowledge,” explains Darwall. “The biggest winner from a red/blue team assessment will be the public. If people are to buy into policies that will drastically alter their way of life, they should be fully informed of the consequences and justifications.”

Instead of debating, highlighting and, where possible, resolving disagreement, many mainstream climate scientists work in a symbiotic relationship with environmental activists and the news media to stoke fear about allegedly catastrophic climate change, providing a scientific imprimatur for an aggressive policy response while declining to air private doubts and the systematic uncertainties.

You can find the paper, A Veneer of Certainty Stoking Climate Alarm, here.