The New York Times publication of the Climate Science Special Report (CSSR) has engendered a lot of discussion. The NYT raises the issue of whether the wildly alarmist CSSR might be blocked by the skeptical Trump Administration, perhaps by Trump himself.
While blocking the report is certainly a possibility, the far better solution is for the Feds to use the CSSR for an official red team exercise. The alarmist CSSR cannot be put back into its political bottle. But it is the perfect vehicle for criticism, precisely because of its radical alarmist nature. Most importantly, this criticism would be official, which makes climate skepticism official.
In reality the CSSR expresses “very high confidence” in claims that are actually highly controversial. Given a good red team effort, correcting these “high confidence” statements will put the real climate change debate squarely into the federal policy mix, where it certainly belongs.
The CSSR states its alarmist conclusions right at the beginning, in the Executive Summary, which is all that most people will read. CSSR lead author Katharine Hayhoe states this alarmism nicely:
And the window of time to prevent dangerous impacts is closing fast.”
A good red team could easily make it official that these claims are in fact speculative at best. That there has been some warming in the last 100 years or so seems likely, but by satellite measurements over the last 40 years it has been slight. That it is somewhat due to human activity is highly controversial and how much, if any, is poorly understood. That it is serious is widely contested and there is no reason whatsoever to think that some preventative window is closing, or even that there is something to prevent. This window stuff is recurring political rhetoric, not science.
The CSSR confidence levels of high and very high confidence are merely measures of the authors’ biases. Given that these folks are clearly alarmists this measure is scientifically irrelevant. It would be far more accurate if “very high confidence” were replaced by “we really believe this” and “high confidence” with “we believe this.” Then it would be clear that these are merely statements of alarmist opinion by a handful of carefully chosen people.
A red team should have no trouble pointing out that these high confidence statements are in fact highly controversial. Making such a rebuttal official would go a long way toward putting federal policy on the right track, which is that the scientific debate is very real and far from being resolved. In particular, draconian actions like hefty carbon taxes and forced lifestyle changes are simply not justified.
The red team does not have to say anything new. In fact there are several outstanding examples of what a red team report might point to, such as CFACT’s “Climate Hustle” video. It is simply a matter of getting skeptical scientists to clearly point out the flaws in the CSSR arguments and there are plenty of people who can do this. Of course the red team report will be a technical document while even kids can understand Climate Hustle, but the approach is the same.
The crucial difference between Climate Hustle and a red team report is that this report would be official. There is at present no official statement of scientific climate change skepticism. This is a huge gap that needs to be well filled. In contrast there are a number of official reports that endorse alarmism, especially the National Climate Assessments from the Obama era. The CSSR is merely the latest of these official alarmist reports written by Obama appointees.
An official red team critique of the Climate Science Special Report will bring a strong degree of balance to this lopsided situation. It will be something that policymakers can point to and act on.
There is no need to break new scientific ground. It is just a matter of clearly stating what is already known. Skepticism is sound science.