If you ask nearly all the world’s climate scientists, there’s simply no debate: The planet is warming as amounts of greenhouse gases rise in the air — and human activity is primarily to blame.
But Scott Pruitt, head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, insists on debating climate change. And that debate, apparently, might be televised, Reuters reported on Tuesday.
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Doubters of mainstream climate science, including Pruitt, argue that dissenting views haven’t been heard by the scientific community. They falsely claim that plenty of questions still remain about the scientific evidence for human-caused global warming.
In reality, however, while there is uncertainty about how quickly and severely rising temperatures will affect the planet, there’s virtually no doubt among climate scientists that climate change is happening — and that it’s happening because of us.
Image: NASA GISS
By calling for a debate, Pruitt creates a false narrative that casts his critics as stubborn, inflexible bullies who are hell-bent on destroying the fossil fuel industry. In this scenario, climate scientists and their allies are jealously guarding the climate discussion. Why don’t other folks, like coal company executives, get to have a say?
Rather than inform the public, all this does is cast clouds of distrust and disbelief over the scientific community. That’s why climate scientists say calls for such debates are disconcerting: According to the Trump administration, satellite observations, ground measurements, field research, and deeply scrutinized results — gathered over decades and from across the globe — simply aren’t sufficiently convincing.
In the interview with Reuters, Pruitt called for a “robust discussion” about climate change, though he didn’t explain how the scientists participating in that discussion would be chosen.
Asked if the debate should be televised, Pruitt told Reuters: “I think so. I think so. I mean, I don’t know yet, but you want this to be open to the world. You want this to be on full display. I think the American people would be very interested in consuming that. I think they deserve it.”
Image: Ed Hawkins
The TV debate would likely build on or coincide with the Trump administration’s plans to host so-called “red team, blue team” debates on climate science.
Pruitt, who denies that carbon dioxide is the main cause of global warming (it is), would reportedly help pick the experts. He’s floated the idea in recent weeks, saying such discussions would be modeled on processes used for evaluating military battle plans and ways that spacecraft engineers test critical systems or investigate accidents.
Many climate scientists said they see this plan as a direct assault on the scientific process. Looping in non-experts to debate climate science would be like asking a person who likes looking at the stars to go head-to-head with actual astronomers and physicists.
“It’s one thing to respond to legitimate scientific criticism, quite another to refute unconstrained nonsense,” Kate Marvel, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, previously told Mashable.