Chief Wanted A Climate Science Debate. Trump’s Chief Of Staff Stopped Him.

Global Warming:Chief Wanted A Climate Science Debate. Trump’s Chief Of Staff Stopped Him. Chief Wanted A Climate Science Debate.

By sapi08. Global Warming. Published at Wednesday, November 28th, 2018 - 22:51:48 PM.

John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has killed an effort by the head of the Environmental Protection Agency to stage public debates challenging climate change science, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, thwarting a plan that had intrigued President Trump even as it set off alarm bells among his top advisers.

The idea of publicly critiquing climate change on the national stage has been a notable theme for Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the E.P.A. For nearly a year he has championed the notion of holding military-style exercises known as red team, blue team debates, possibly to be broadcast live, to question the validity of climate change.

Mr. Pruitt has spoken personally with Mr. Trump about the idea, and the president expressed enthusiasm for it, according to people familiar with the conversations.

But the plan encountered widespread resistance within the administration from Mr. Kelly and other top officials, who regarded it as ill-conceived and politically risky, and when Mr. Pruitt sought to announce it last fall, they weighed in to stop him. At a mid-December meeting set up by Mr. Kelly’s deputy, Rick Dearborn, to discuss the plan, Mr. Dearborn made it clear that his boss considered the idea “dead,” and not to be discussed further, according to people familiar with the meeting. All spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to describe internal White House deliberations and meetings.

During that meeting, according to two attendees and a third person briefed on the discussion, administration officials and White House aides were in agreement that Mr. Pruitt’s idea was unwise. Their main concern was that a public debate on science — particularly on an issue as politically charged as the warming of the planet — could become a damaging spectacle, creating an unnecessary distraction from the steps the administration has taken to slash environmental regulations enacted by former President Barack Obama.

Asked about the meeting and the administration’s internal deliberations, Raj Shah, the deputy press secretary, said: “The Trump Administration will ensure that any climate science review will be conducted through a robust, interagency process, consistent with federal law.”

The E.P.A. did not respond to requests for comment.

The episode reflects some of the challenges that Mr. Kelly faces in bringing order to a chaotic White House, where policy deliberations are sometimes circumvented when people close to Mr. Trump approach him personally to seek his approval for unorthodox moves.

Mr. Kelly is a retired four-star Marine Corps general who is said to share the pragmatic view held by military leaders including Jim Mattis, the secretary of defense, that climate change is happening and poses a serious national security challenge. Since he became chief of staff last July, Mr. Kelly has toiled to control access to Mr. Trump to try to ensure that his actions are informed by an orderly process in the West Wing — a pursuit that flies in the face of the president’s freewheeling style.

The tension between the White House and the E.P.A. over the red team, blue team idea reflects a broader rift within the administration over whether and how directly to attack climate change science itself. While the words “climate change” have been removed from many federal websites, and Mr. Trump has mocked global warming in tweets, the administration has stopped short of using the power of the federal government to attack the science.

The fundamental science, that man-made pollution is overwhelmingly responsible for warming temperatures and rising sea levels, is widely accepted among mainstream scientists. That science formed the basis of a key 2009 E.P.A. decision known as the endangerment finding, which declares that climate change is a threat to human health and welfare. That finding is the legal backbone for almost all federal climate policy and requires the government to regulate greenhouse gas emissions in some manner. A government critique of climate science could lay the groundwork for challenging the endangerment finding in court.

Climate denialist groups like the Heartland Institute have urged Mr. Pruitt to challenge the finding, while industry associations have expressed little interest in doing so. Tim Doyle, vice president of policy for the conservative business organization American Council for Capital Formation, said the companies he works with have not expressed any interest in a public forum to challenge climate change science.

“We definitely haven’t heard any of our members supporting the red team, blue team concept,” he said. “There’s been, if anything, radio silence about it.”

The idea for red team, blue team climate debates originated with Steven Koonin, a physicist at New York University who was an energy undersecretary under Mr. Obama. Mr. Koonin in April wrote an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal calling for using the military-style exercise — in which one team attacks and another defends — to test the robustness of climate change science. One week later, he paid a visit to the E.P.A. at Mr. Pruitt’s invitation to discuss the idea further.

Mr. Koonin, in an interview, said he has “no dog in this fight” — meaning that he is willing to be persuaded that climate change is an urgent threat — but that he believes there are uncertainties in the science that are worth exploring.

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Global Warming:Chief Wanted A Climate Science Debate. Trump’s Chief Of Staff Stopped Him. Chief Wanted A Climate Science Debate.

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