Roger Pielke Jr. once wrote a book about being an “Honest Broker” in the science-policy debate. Pielke’s whole schtick is that he’s the moderate willing to criticize mainstream climate scientists, advocates and media, but is still part of the consensus and supports a carbon tax. He was not pleased, for example, when Foreign Policy included him in a guide to skeptics back in 2010. In his various blog posts, tweets and op-eds, Pielke takes care to present himself as a sensible, serious and unbiased voice in a discussion full of extremists.
This facade should no longer be entertained. In terms of Pruitt’s red team/blue team attack on science--at one point envisioned as the red team reviewing climate science reports--it’s clear Pielke belongs on the red team. In fact, Pielke’s 2013 and 2017 Congressional testimony was cited so heavily in Heartland’s “Task Force” to critique the 2017 Climate Science Special Report that they credited him as a contributor. (Worth noting that Pielke said he had nothing to do with Heartland’s critique, and that Heartland has since updated their report to remove him from “contributor” status--a mistake they’ve apparently made before.)
Heartland’s reliance on Pielke’s testimony makes it undeniable that his work is part of the effort to discredit mainstream science, whether he likes it or not. And if there was any doubt he fits in with the many fine people on the red team, he wrote an op-ed for the Guardian, published Wednesday, defending Trump’s science agenda, claiming “there is no systematic effort to undercut science and technology policy.”
Pielke’s piece, which defends Trump as indifferent as opposed to hostile to science, does acknowledge that Trump’s proposed budget would seriously cut funding for multiple scientific programs (apparently excusable because Congress didn’t enact it) and that Trump’s EPA is making “sweeping changes” to how it uses science. If we have Pielke’s thinking straight, Trump himself does nothing good on science, and Trump’s appointees are actively anti-science, but we shouldn’t consider Trump anti-science--which seems pretty generous stance to take towards a president with over 100 entries in something called the “Silencing Science” tracker.
Pielke also attacks the March for Science, writing “there is seemingly little energy in any follow-up or the building of a movement.” (This particular criticism was meet with a swift and energetic response that they have been “doing the less flashy but more impactful work of *organizing*”--exactly the sort of serious work an honest broker would be commending them for.)
After all this build up about what everyone else gets wrong, Pielke’s sage advice is that instead of being outraged about Trump, a “more productive use of oppositional energy would be for the scientific community to develop well-considered approaches to science and technology policies.”
This means nothing. Of course the scientific community should think through how it approaches policy! Is he suggesting that before now, they’ve only developed poorly-considered approaches? How does telling people to develop an approach provide any insight into how to address Trump’s, at best, avoidance of science? At what point in time would the community not be wise “to develop well-considered approaches” to policy? How does that banal and empty fortune-cookie-wisdom sort of suggestion compare to the seriousness of the situation at hand?
And Pielke’s specific suggestion for the scientific community? That the Office of Science and Technology Policy should put together “a shadow, bipartisan version” of an advisory panel it runs. This, of course, is exactly what is already happening with some advisory panels.
In case anyone still had doubts, this op-ed is proof that Pielke can write paragraph after paragraph criticizing others, but has proven he has nothing new, unique or even well-informed to offer.
Which makes him perfect for the red team.
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