Family Feud: Trump’s EPA May do Game Show Science

July 11, 2017

We should do science more like a game show. Everyone would be dumber, but at least it would improve ratings.


In a February 9 Washington Post op-ed, (Radio Talk show host Hugh) Hewitt suggested that Trump should appoint (Radio Talk Show host Rush) Limbaugh to a special commission to study climate change. Limbaugh has long been a promoter of some of the most fringe, over-the-top climate science denial and climate-related conspiracy theories. For example, Limbaugh concocted a conspiracy theory that the federal government was overstating Hurricane Matthew’s severity in order to manufacture concern about climate change; claimed that NASA’s announcement that it had found water on Mars was part of a climate change conspiracy; and distorted a study from Duke University, claiming it shows that “there isn’t any [global] warming going on.” From the Washington Post op-ed:

Imagine, if you will, an August 2017 Post headline: “McChrystal Commission report surprises, energizes and outrages.” The first paragraph reads:

“The much-anticipated and closely guarded final report of the McChrystal Commission on Climate Change released Tuesday shook nearly every interest and player in the capital. The commission, headed by retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal and including such luminaries of left and right as Oprah Winfrey and Rush Limbaugh and such captains of industry as Bill Gates and Peter Thiel, kept its work secret and its executive summary short and accessible. President Trump tweeted: “THANK YOU General McChrystal and colleagues. Great work. All must read and think on your report carefully!”

This is a not-yet-established commission, of course, and I don’t know whether the remarkable McChrystal would agree to lead it or if Trump would empanel it. I only know the country needs such a body, just as it needed the National Commission for Social Security Reform more than three decades ago.


[W]hen it comes to climate change, we don’t know enough about the cost of the premium or the nature of the risk. Thus, a national commission led by men and women of impeccable credentials and also populated with visible and controversial opinion leaders of left and right would serve us well.


I don’t know who to trust actually on these issues. But I would take very seriously the recommendations of a such a commission … Diverse, smart non-scientists who are going to listen to the scientists — all of them — and report back on what ought to be done. [​The Washington Post, 2/9/17; Media Matters, 2/10/17]

And you thought this was just a dumb idea from an even dumber right wing talker?
You still do not understand the times we live in.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in the early stages of launching a debate about climate change that could air on television – challenging scientists to prove the widespread view that global warming is a serious threat, the head of the agency said.

The move comes as the administration of President Donald Trump seeks to roll back a slew of Obama-era regulations limiting carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels, and begins a withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement – a global pact to stem planetary warming through emissions cuts.

“There are lots of questions that have not been asked and answered (about climate change),” EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told Reuters in an interview late on Monday.

“Who better to do that than a group of scientists… getting together and having a robust discussion for all the world to see,” he added without explaining how the scientists would be chosen.

Asked if he thought the debate should be televised, Pruitt said: “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.”

Pruitt, one of the most controversial figures in the Trump administration, has repeatedly expressed doubts about climate change – one of the main points of contention in his narrow confirmation by the Senate.

While acknowledging the planet is warming, Pruitt says he questions the gravity of the problem and the need for regulations that require companies to take costly measures to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It is a question about how much we contribute to it. How do we measure that with precision? And by the way, are we on an unsustainable path? And is it causing an existential threat?” he said in the interview.

Since taking up his role at EPA, he has emerged as one of the more prolific Trump cabinet appointees, taking steps to undo more than two dozen regulations, and influencing Trump’s decision to pull the United States from the Paris climate change deal, agreed by nearly 200 countries in 2015.

Pruitt rejected global criticism of the United States for pulling out of the climate deal, which Trump has said would have cost America trillions of dollars without benefit.

“We have nothing to be apologetic about,” Pruitt said. “It was absolutely a decision of courage and fortitude and truly represented an America First strategy with respect to how we are leading on this issue.”

Pruitt said the United States had already cut its carbon output to the lowest levels in nearly 25 years without mandates, thanks mainly to increased use of natural gas – which burns cleaner than coal.


Pruitt said his desire for the agency to host an ongoing climate change debate was inspired by two articles published in April – one in the Wall Street Journal by theoretical physicist Steve Koonin, who served as undersecretary of energy under Obama – and one by conservative columnist Brett Stephens in the New York Times.

Koonin’s article made the case that climate science should use the “red team-blue team” methodology used by the national security community to test assumptions. Stephens’ article criticized claims of complete certainty in climate science, saying that it “traduces the spirit of science.”

Pruitt said scientists should not scoff at the idea of participating in these debates.

“If you’re going to win and if you’re so certain about it, come and do your deal. They shouldn’t be scared of the debate and discussion,” he said.



22 Responses to “Family Feud: Trump’s EPA May do Game Show Science”

  1. painedumonde Says:

    This. Is. A. Trap.

  2. Tom Bates Says:

    If one can kick the wacko left and right out the door maybe one can do actual science on the many issues which face the country and the world. The blue and red team idea is a way of testing conclusions to make sure they represent the best rather than somebody’s political agenda. Since the left is all about political agenda and redistribution of wealth along with control of everybody and everything, testing of the idea is verboten . The right is not much better. Both need to be smacked down if we are to actually accomplish something.

    I give you this on arctic temperatures as an alternate datum never discussed on all the blah about the arctic temperatures as something a blue and red team would need to resolve.

    • sailrick Says:

      Projecting much? Everything about the Denial cult is based on either politics or religion.

      The science has been thoroughly hashed out in the court of SCIENCE. The preponderance of evidence for AGW is overwhelming. The consensus comes directly from the evidence. Here it is.

      Between 1991 -2012 there were 13,950 papers published.
      24 of them reject AGW. Of the 33,690 scientists who contributed to the 13,950 papers, only 34 reject AGW
      – [That’s 1/10 of 1%]


      Cook et al looked at 12,280 papers published, of which 4,011 papers addressed the cause.
      * 3,933 papers endorsed AGW.
      * 78 rejected AGW – 1.9%

      98% of the authors of those 4,011 papers said they and their papers agree with AGW


      In the one year+ from November 12, 2012 through December 31, 2013, –
      there were 2,225 peer reviewed papers published by 9,136 contributing scientists. Only ONE of those 9,136 rejects AGW
      – [That’s 1/100 of 1%]

    • redskylite Says:

      James Burke in the late 1980’s – early 1990’s, (that’s nearly 30 years ago had covered much of what we know today on BBC TV). It is amazing people like you are still trying to keep us rooted well back in the past ages, supplying obfuscating titbits. This is a very old denier tactic I have seen a few times over the years, mentioning old tree stumps, hidden artifacts, treasure, old parchments etc. A tactic that Watts is also fond of using. This does not counteract the known facts, there is no debate, no mad leftists or rightists trying to delusion the inhabitants of Earth. As for the glaciers of the Juneau Icefield they are mostly all in full retreat and it is expected that Mildenhall glacier face will soon pull out of the lake and may well be completely gone by 2100.

      “A forest revealed under glacial ice”

      “Understanding that glaciers have advanced and retreated historically is not a reason to set aside concern about anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change today. We have a history of ice ages, and small alterations in the Earth’s orbit do, over the span of tens or hundreds of thousands of years, slightly alter the energy balance by changing how much sunlight reaches different latitudes, but those are slow processes. The changes happening now are occurring at lightning speed compared to climate shifts of the past. Warming is escalating: Earth has warmed twice as fast in the last 50 years as in the 50 years prior.

      Temperature and CO2 levels are historically closely tied, and we have a record of CO2 levels spanning the last 450,000 years. During that time, CO2 never rose over 280 parts per million. Then in 1950 CO2 levels began spiking; by 2009 they had reached 388 parts per million. Industrialization, fossil fuel dependence, and altered land use policies -human endeavors- have all increased greenhouse gases like CO2 which keep heat trapped in Earth’s atmosphere. Human actions interact with the natural processes of our incredibly complex climate system, and we are still working to understand all the implications.

    • The blue-team red-team exercise is already happening. It’s being done in the peer reviewed literature.

      Debates are useless for doing science – the Victorians tried it, and it consistently produced the wrong answers. That’s because debates are the wrong tool. A debate can tell you who is the more convincing liar, who is the better showman, who is the stronger leader. But it can’t tell you who is right.

      For that you need evidence. And to allow the evidence to speak, you first need to strip out the lies, the showmanship and the rhetoric. Which is precisely the difference between a debate on TV and a debate in the scientific literature.

      It’s been done. The conclusion was clear. Doing it again won’t change the answer. The only way to get a different answer is to use a broken method.

    • mboli Says:

      @Bates: How long have you been posting material about climate change?

      Here is a thought. Write down the material you used when you first started posting. I don’t know when or what that would be: maybe “hide the decline” e-mails, or “the hockey stick is an inevitable result of principal component analysis” or “the satellite temperatures show cooling” or “the ice core data shows the CO2 increase *lagging* the temperature increase” or “urban heat islands” or “the models don’t take into account cloud formation from cosmic rays” or what-have-you.

      I’m being a trifle generous. There are some *really* dumb arguments I haven’t listed.

      Write down the highlights. The references, the arguments, the bits of data or theories, and so on that you used over the years that you regarded at the time as the most dispositive.

      Now find out which of them still hold up. The hockey stick still appears in other reconstructions using other data and methods. The satellite temperatures from UAH have been corrected. The urban heat island effect maybe affected some readings, but proper statistical treatment and other data sets still show the same warming as before.

      Seriously. Where is the accumulating body of evidence? Where is the chapter in the textbook where the findings all come together to make a consistent scientific story about the physical world?

    • andrewfez Says:

      You’re link provides zero data regarding arctic temperatures. It’s a story about a retreating glacier uncovering some thousand year old tree stumps, and another advancing glacier eating up some trees. You’re cherry picking some local event and trying to generalize it in a non sequitur fashion. Nothing in this story refutes or even attempts to refute that recent N. Hemispheric warming is unprecedented per dozens of studies going back at least 1000 years and that there are no natural phenomena explanations for this recent warming. The story isn’t even a scientific paper; it’s just a story.

      We’re now in the last several years blowing past the old IPCC MWP graph of central England constructed in 1965 you guys liked to tout around 10 years ago as ‘evidence’ the IPCC was up to no good.

    • andrewfez Says:

      redistribution of wealth along with control of everybody and everything

      The Medieval Era is what an unregulated free market at steady state looks like. A couple hundred families in a particular country own everything because wealth and power naturally accrete by a positive feedback mechanism in which the more wealthy you become the more able you are to unjustly extract wealth from those with less wealth than you. There is a tiny middling class of doctors and lawyers directly feeding off these couple hundred families and everyone else is dirt poor and often dying of malnutrition or opportunistic diseases secondary to malnutrition. And the reason these couple hundred families don’t eat each other such that there would only be one family left standing at the top with the rest decimated is because they set up gentleman’s agreements not to do so, that they may intermarry and socialize within what they feel is an appropriate spectrum of rank, as well as keep a few hundred sets of eyes on the plebs at all times to quell any pitchforks and torches coming up the manor home drives; safety in numbers, even if but those limited. Another feature of this unregulated free market is there is little to no economic growth.

      The large American middle class was an anomaly that occurred secondary to not only wealth distribution (tax money for cheap education for instance) but because of our discovery of free cheap energy underground at a time when we were a resource rich society. This created so much wealth in so little time the wealthy could not vacuum it all up at once, and it spilled into the middle class. But now time has passed; just like gravity winning out in the long run against the other forces in the universe, that free market axiom that wealth concentrates naturally at the top has had its time to work, and once again, the rich are destroying the middle class by transferring all of their earned wealth from hard work and ingenuity back to themselves. Once again wealth is concentrating at the top of society and is putting the breaks on the economy by minimizing demand. And when there is nothing good to invest in inside the slugging economy, based on fundamentals, speculation then arises creating asset bubbles that put anchors on the economy in the long run, secondary to volatile down cycles.

      Indeed the only good the ‘free market’ (i.e. the stoppage of downward wealth distribution) does is naturally slow economic growth and reduce the speed at which CO2 driven climate change will destroy the entire system.

      • andrewfez Says:

        Sorry – tried to italacize the first sentence, but somehow my entire reply to it got caught up in such as well.

  3. sailrick Says:

    Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming

  4. sailrick Says:

    Here is the list of professional science organizations of national or international standing, and with any relevance to earth sciences, that do Not Agree with AGW

    American Association of PETROLEUM GEOLOGISTS

    Canadian Society of PETROLEUM GEOLOGISTS

    That’s the whole list

    The following scientific organizations agree with the consensus on anthropogenic global warming, that humans are causing the earth to warm. ..-
    78 Groups
    There are at least 22 more organizations of national or international standing not listed here.
    At least 100 have issued statements confirming their agreement on AGW

    National Academy of Sciences (U.S.)


    Woods Hole Resesarch Center

    US Geological Survey (USGS)

    National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR)

    NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Studies (GISS)

    American Association of State Climatologists

    American Chemical Society – (world’s largest scientific organization with over 155,000 members)

    Geological Society of America

    American Geophysical Union (AGU)

    National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    American Association of State Climatologists

    Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

    American Astronomical Society

    American Institute of Physics

    American Meteorological Society (AMS)

    American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)

    Stratigraphy Commission – Geological Society of London – (The world’s oldest and the United Kingdom’s largest geoscience organization)

    British Antarctic Survey

    Australian Bureau of Meteorology and the CSIRO

    Australian Coral Reef Society

    Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina (Germany)

    Chinese Academy of Sciences

    Royal Society, United Kingdom

    Russian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Society of Canada

    Science Council of Japan

    Australian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Sciences and the Arts

    Brazilian Academy of Sciences

    Caribbean Academy of Sciences

    French Academy of Sciences

    German Academy of Natural Scientists

    Indian National Science Academy

    Indonesian Academy of Sciences

    Royal Irish Academy

    Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Italy)

    Academy of Sciences Malaysia

    Academy Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand

    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

    Union of Concerned Scientists

    The Institution of Engineers Australia

    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society (CMOS)

    National Research Council

    Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospherice Sciences

    World Meteorological Organization

    State of the Canadian Cryosphere (SOCC)

    International Council on Science

    American Physical Society (APS)

    Australian Institute of Physics (AIP

    European Physical Society

    European Science Foundation

    Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies (FASTS

    Polish Academy of Sciences (PAN)

    Network of African Science Academies

    International Council of Academies of Engineering and Technological Sciences (CAETS

    European Academy of Sciences and Arts

    InterAcademy Council (IAC)

    International Arctic Science Committee

    Arctic Council

    European Federation of Geologists (EFG)

    European Geosciences Union (EGU)

    Federation of American Scientists

    Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies

    Geological Society of Australia

    International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics

    National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT

    Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

    Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society

    Royal Meteorological Society (UK)

    American Quaternary Association (AMQUA

    American Institute of Biological Sciences

    American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians (AAWV

    American Society for Microbiology

    Institute of Biology (UK)

    Society of American Foresters (SAF)

  5. redskylite Says:

    More on the evolution of the original Raymond S. Bradley/Michael Mann hockey stick from the University of Southern California. Seems pretty relevant to the topic.

    Do we really have time to set up meaningless reality T.V game-shows on the subject ??????

    Scientists have more data to back their findings: The Earth is getting warmer.
    An international group upgrades global database that tracks global shifts in temperatures.

    “Here’s how I think of it: Imagine you are a smoker and your doctor tells you, ‘if you don’t stop smoking now, you will soon die of a very painful lung cancer.’ Should your next question be ‘How many more cigarettes can I smoke before cancer is definitely untreatable?’ or ‘How can you help me stop smoking tomorrow?’

    “It comes down to this: We know the human burning of fossil fuel is very rapidly warming the planet, and we know that the longer we wait, the harsher the consequences and the more costly it is to prevent them,” Emile-Geay said. “What is the point of endlessly delaying action?”

  6. astrostevo Says:

    Off topic but breaking news (pun unintentional) – the Larsen C iceshelf has broken :

    You called it a week or so ago.

  7. ubrew12 Says:

    I think the Earth is flat. Why are people afraid to debate me about this?
    An honest, televised, red team/blue team debate would do it. You bring your best wonky scientists. I’ll bring Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant.

  8. ubrew12 Says:

    Any interest in red team/blue teaming ‘Supply side economics’? I know the CBO found that a decade after an across-the-board cut, only 28% of the revenue loss would be regained through higher economic growth, but, on the other hand, that would like goring the GOP ox. You don’t want a fatwa on your head.

  9. webej Says:

    Any such show debate would have to comb through reams of evidence, databases, measurements, the details of the physics, IR-bands, adiabatic expansion, physics and math of planetary orbits, etcetc.
    It would be the most boring TV ever, repeating the entire history of climate science for people who perhaps do not have the aptitude to understand it in all its aspects.

    Only someone completely clueless, who doesn’t realize this is all based on physics, research, and evidence, would want to restage everything as debate as though we are talking about a political preference, or a theory about economic justice.

    • J4Zonian Says:

      Yeah, but… “someone completely clueless, who doesn’t realize this is all based on physics, research, and evidence”…

      Isn’t that the very definition of a denying delayalist?

      So many of them are so stunningly sure of themselves and eager to show how brilliant they are and how everybody else is wrong (and treats them unfairly) they always want to debate. The show could be based on the underdog anti-intellectual streak in the US, showing “reg’lar people” getting a chance to be famous. Getting them on stage to show what socially incompetent moronic nuts denying delayalists are would do wonders for people’s faith in science and acceptance of climate reality. Climate denying delayalists would watch and come away convinced their side had won no matter what happened; while others would watch to see the inept be made fools of. There could be one nut and a panel of 3 or 5 judges, all scientists or science journalists or others knowledgeable about the subject (with online connections and staff to look things up in real time). The nuts could be selected on the basis of their particular focus of denial–the sun did it, Galileo gambit, sea level isn’t rising, Earth’s not warming, the satellite data… so it could all be dealt with one nonsensical argument at a time. The panel could take turns asking questions (but discussed ahead of time so a plan of attack could be coordinated) and in the end, even though the US public doesn’t know science from Ongota, the denying delayalists could be thoroughly and publicly revealed as the insane idiots they are.

  10. mboli Says:

    Surprisingly, I am somewhat in agreement with Pruitt’s idea here. A red-team, blue-team back-and-forth debate.
    Of course these exercises happen on paper over longer periods of time — back and forth written reports — but Pruitt I’m sure can be educated about that.
    The matter being debated will be “denier science.” They can use another name if they prefer. The deniers put together a compendium of their arguments. The other team pokes holes in it.
    Of course it is going to be a bit of a mess. Last year’s denier arguments typically conflict with this year’s. There isn’t any accumulating mass of evidence, there aren’t any theories tying observations together.
    Many denier arguments have historically been bits of stuff snipped out of the larger context, and are therefore easy to rebut simply by restoring the context.
    But what the hey, let’s have at it!

    • ubrew12 Says:

      They won’t be debating ‘denier science’. Deniers don’t do science since that would be constructive, and their purpose is to be destructive. For example, in all the talk about how ‘the models don’t match reality’ or ‘the models didn’t predict the hiatus’, was there ever any question WHOSE models were being referred to? Why is that? We know the fossil-funded denial community can make climate models (Exxon made its own models in the 1980’s), so where are they? They don’t exist because the purpose of denial is to raise questions, not find answers. The large mass of questions allows them to suggest collusion: to question the motives of the scientists. Basically, they are trying to turn the public into cynics, not skeptics.

      Occasionally, deniers will do actual science, as when the Koch Brothers funded Richard Muller’s BEST survey. But in all such cases, they simply confirm the scientific consensus, which is not their purpose. They generally know not to do science. So, the only ‘science’ that will be on trial in this red team/blue team ‘kangaroo court’, will be real science.

      Pruitt is saying that lawyers matter more than scientists, even on matters of science. He is channeling the Catholic Church in this regard, circa 1633.

      • mboli Says:

        That’s my point. Most of what the deniers advance as arguments isn’t science. It is a grab-bag collection of whatever they can say that sounds persuasive to other deniers.

        So I’m agreeing with Scott Pruitt that one of these exercises would be worthwhile. I think they should get a team together to defend and attack the ‘denier science’. Probably start with the “nongovernmental” report on climate change.

        • J4Zonian Says:

          I think a series would be great. One point that’s come out is that people rarely talk about climate catastrophe, It’s not on most center-right media, there is hardly any left media in the US, so most people never hear anyone talking about it unless they watch and listen to lunatic wing media. No one in person. So getting people to talk about it who aren’t committed, even paid denying delayalists would be a huge win. Comments could be made, questions asked or elements beyond what I described above could be designed into the show to reveal that there’s no credible alternative explanation; that denying delayalists contradict each other, even themselves; that fact checking reveals nothing but nonsense behind their assertions.

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