David Wojick, PhD
Several months ago a brief furor erupted when the New York Times leaked the final draft of the upcoming Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), an extremely alarmist rendition of what is supposedly happening with Earth’s climate. Dangerous climate change and weather events, the report says, are due to mankind’s use of fossil fuels to create and maintain modern living standards and to the carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that result from that energy use.
The CSSR is being prepared by the federal Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and has been in the works for several years, mostly under Obama and still staffed by diehard alarmists.
The USGCRP consists of the 13 federal agencies that conduct and analyze climate science and supposedly “consensus” views on the topic. The Times and other news stories speculated that one of the agencies, especially the EPA under Administrator Scott Pruitt, might block the CSSR. This has not happened, and the Report is now scheduled for release next month.
The CSSR is far more alarmist than any IPCC report. Most other USGCRP reports have been, as well, thanks in particular to NOAA. The new CSSR will be an official Federal report, which will give it more credibility than it deserves.
Even worse, the Report is slated to be Volume I of the National Climate Assessment (NCA), which is due out late next year. The NCA is mandated by law, which gives the CSSR even more status as federal policy.
It would be ironic indeed if the skeptical Trump Administration were to simply issue this alarmist report as federal policy on climate change science. In fact it would be tragic, a major defeat for climate realism and sound science.
Thankfully, there is a simple way to turn this looming defeat into a major victory. The solution is to do an official Red Team critique of the CSSR.
The Red Team concept has been under discussion for some time now, including being endorsed by EPA Administrator Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Some useful background and online discussion are available on Judith Curry’s manmade climate chaos skeptics blog here and here.
The unduly and unscientifically alarmist CSSR cannot be put back into its political bottle. But it is the perfect vehicle for critical analysis and robust criticism, precisely because of its radical alarmist nature. Most importantly, this criticism would be official, which will make climate skepticism official U.S. policy.
Mind you, the CSSR is over 600 pages long, so its rebuttal would not be a trivial exercise. On the other hand, only the most central claims need to be refuted. In particular there are a number of cases of so-called “high confidence” in important assertions that are actually nothing more than highly speculative alarmist dogma.
This is especially true of the groundless attribution of human activities causing bad weather. The Red Team critique must be comprehensive, clear and coherent if it is to be effective. Properly done, that should not be a problem, however.
Making a detailed critique and rebuttal of the CSSR 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. Costly, draconian actions like hefty carbon taxes and forced lifestyle changes are simply not justified. In particular there is no scientific basis for EPA's finding that CO2 emissions “endanger human health and welfare.” Indeed, the clear benefits of carbon-based fuels and plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide are tens or hundreds of times greater than any (highly speculative) costs that might be attributed to them.
There is no need for the Red Team to break new scientific ground. It is just a matter of clearly stating what is already known. In fact simply and visibly starting an official Red Team exercise will go a long way toward blunting the rampant CSSR alarmism.
However, this must be done very shortly after the CSSR is officially released. If not, then the CSSR is likely to become the official US standard bearer for the alarmist version of climate science. That would be a truly tragic outcome.
It is no accident that the CSSR is coming out now. This is a deliberate attempt by the climate alarmists entrenched in the federal research agencies to defy the skepticism of the Trump administration. It must not succeed.
David Wojick is an independent analyst working at the intersection of science and public policy. He has a PhD in analytic philosophy of science and mathematical logic, and focuses his research on unpacking the structure of complex issues.