Friday, June 30, 2017

Team B, Red Teaming and Steve Koonin

The Trump administration has been pushing the idea of a "Red Team" to re-examine the EPAs endangerment finding.  As Eli has pointed out, this is not a Red Team effort but a Team B attempt.  Red teams bring in experts in the field who have not been involved in a specific report to critically evaluate it.  Team B was a group run by Richard Pipes to exaggerate Soviet capabilities in the mid-1970s in order to justify an arms build up by tearing down CIA analysis.  Team B brings in ideologues to write a report that conforms to the ideology of those who commission their work. 

Joshua Rovner, in his book, Facixing the Facts, National Security and the Politics of Intelligence"points out where the Pipes Team B exercise went

The actual intelligence picture was irrelevant.  Team B simply assumed that Moscow was actively seeking any technology that would allow it to gain a decisive strategic advantage
 And Team B's imagination was quite fertile 
The Team B exercise corrupted the estimative process in ways that were wholly predictable.  The theoretical benefits of competition were lost because the composition of Team B was lopsided, because the panel spent as much time criticizing the intelligence community as it did evaluating the Soviet threat, and because the outside group relied on open sources.  The administration was warned of these problems in advance but did not intervene to insulate the NIE process from political bias.  On the contrary, it allowed the exercise to proceed in order to satisfy domestic political imperatives.
 There is much more at the link detailing the disastrous errors in the Team B report but the worst outcome was Star Wars, as the following Reagan administration used it as justification for the Star Wars build out. 

So let the bunnies count the ways that this administration's EPA administrator will build out his Team B
  • The membership of Team B Climate will be lopsided
  • Team B will spend as much time criticizing the IPCC and National Academy reports as evaluating the threat from climate change
  • Team B will rely on open sources, lord help us, like Watts Up With That, Curry's Climate Etc.
Any bunny thinking not, well Eli has a few carrots to wager on each proposition.

History Commons has a long discussion of Team B's fantasies including
Lack of Facts Merely Proof of Soviets' Success - One example that comes up during the debate is B’s assertion that the USSR has a top-secret nonacoustic antisubmarine system. While the CIA analysts struggle to point out that absolutely no evidence of this system exists, B members conclude that not only does the USSR have such a system, it has probably “deployed some operation nonacoustic systems and will deploy more in the next few years.” The absence of evidence merely proves how secretive the Soviets are, they argue. 
Climateball players have seen this before, and indeed, the run up to the Iraq War featured exactly the same playbook (see History Commons).

Brad Plumer points to Joseph Majkut at the Niskanen Center wondering what could be wrong with such an exercise.   Now Brad is a reasonable guy and the Niskanen Center is reasonable as real conservatives can be, but when Eli points out that the pawn is poison Majkut replies
Koonin, of course, is the apparatchik who tried to hijack the APS's drafting of their statement on climate change which required, amongst other things, that wiser heads on the drafting committee step in and Koonin huffing off in full regalia.  Eli has written several brilliant posts on the entire farrago but there was one thing that he missed coming from early on in the process, February 2013, which shows what Koonin was up to
The type of statement APS should make – simple & declarative or one that incorporates many details – needs consideration. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is also due to report on climate change in 2013; using their review as a trigger for an in-depth look at the APS statement is appropriate.

Commentary: J. Trebes agreed that using the IPCC review as a trigger is appropriate. Using it as a scientific basis for our statement will mitigate scientific argument within the APS. S. Koonin cautioned that APS should create its own statement and make its own judgment, separate from the IPCC report.
And he tried, oh my how he tried.


GFW said...

Anyway, there's already been one significant Red Team done in climate science. Richard Muller and the BEST study.

PG said...

Most bunnies would have already seen this video of Senator Franken's (MN) revealing the existence of a Red Team funded by some desperately unattractive brothers from Wichita. For those who missed it, it's a great watch.

Rick Perry has a way with words. He can almost make them talk.

Toby said...

Why not put up a Team A of some young, ambitious, smart, sarky & iconoclastic grad students & post docs who will fearlessly rip into Team B? It would enter into the spirit of what is only a media enterprise anyway, like Ted Cruz's "hearings".

Ken Fabian said...

I would greatly like to see a high profile review of climate science, done under the oversight of National Academies of Sciences/Royal Societies by teams selected for competence and high professional standards rather than commitment to a pre-ordained conclusion. Preferably this would be a professionally scientific "peer" review but done in coordination with high quality video documentary presentation suitable for prime time viewing - serving both the purpose of confirmation (or not) of the soundness of existing climate knowledge and better communication of that to the public and policy makers.

Steve Bloom said...

People should not forget the stupidly self-harming approach the scientific establishment took to "Climategate." Let's not do that again.


Come on Eli- the first principle of JASON in its pre-PC phase was No Red Queening Allowed.

Fernando Leanme said...

The EPA work used a model fed a concentration pathway even more bogus than RCP8.5. Give me six months and $3 million budget and I can put together a review white paper showing its errors and inconsistencies (I need the budget to pay coauthors and purchase access to commercial data bases). Once that concentration pathway is shown to be deceptive and can't be used, we can, in about one year and with a $10 million budget deliver a family of pathways tied to a more real assessment of fossil fuel resources as well as other energy technology costs. The work flow, as I'm sure you have figured out, involves various estimates of population growth, the coupling of economic growth to energy use, the gradual reduction in renewables, energy storage, and nuclear energy costs, as well as gradual increases in fossil fuel costs due to depletion of the lower cost deposits and the need to invest and spend much more to extract each individual fossil fuel energy unit.

Given the uncertainty, I believe we would end up with a range of outcomes, none of them approaching the current EPA pathway. I believe the midpoint would be closer to a 5 watts per meter squared case. If you wish you can call that the RCP5 business as usual baseline, used to grade any policy proposals to reduce emissions. Based on what I have seen in my secret chamber, a simple carbon tax and no subsidies does the job quite well.

Anonymous said...

Ken Fabian: "I would greatly like to see a high profile review of climate science, done under the oversight of National Academies of Sciences/Royal Societies by teams selected for competence and high professional standards rather than commitment to a pre-ordained conclusion."

Dude, it's been done:

Anonymous said...

Fernando, given your tendency toward motivated reasoning and monomaniacal obsession with all things anti-left, I wouldn't trust you with $300 in Monopoly money, let alone $3 million in the real thing--of course once our Manchurian President is done, the two will be equivalent.

EliRabett said...

The first principle of Jason was is and shall be three months summer salary. Happer and the rest of that crowd spend their lives defending that moat.

Fernando Leanme said...

Mr Snarkrates, first if all, I'm left handed. Second of all, my sister votes democrat, possibly because she moved to Boston 30 years ago, and she wanted to fit in with them people. Third of all, given what I see going on in Cuba and Venezuela, my seething hatred for communism is very justified. Think of me as a Jew whose family was fed into a gas chamber by nazis, and sees Nazis running around praising Adolf Hitler and making those ugly raised arm signs.

barry said...

Team B's unfounded Soviet ideology took on a new adversary post 9/11 with Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans - a policy wing of the DoD that provided 'alternative' intelligence on Islamist terrorism leading to the Gulf War 2 travesty. The politicization of geopolitical intelligence gathering and dissemination has a 30 year, unbroken history (with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz involved throughout).

With that longevity in mind, the climate incarnation should be nipped in the bud toot suite.

EliRabett said...

Eli has been tweeting about the #AllAndyTeam: Andy Dessler, Andy Lacis, usw


Eli has hit on why La Jolla remains an epicenter of the Climate Wars, but such is the cost of summer living there that JASON comes close to being pro bono.

OTOH the surf is great.

Ken Fabian said...

Snarkrates - sure, there are NAS and RS reports - very good ones - but they have not been done in conjunction with high quality Attenborough grade video documentary presentation, suited for, intended for, compelling prime time viewing. If most people have to go searching to know such reports exist as I did - and read stuff if and when they do - they are not communicating successfully to the broader public. Or policy makers for that matter - to inform them but also as a well publicised standard to reference when dealing with their utterances.

The video documentary format will have far more reach than pdf's (but I'm saying the peer reviewed pdf reports are there also, to back every detail) and having the imprimatur of the world's leading science institutions - rather than that of partisan politicians or other kinds of advocacy - is what is needed to give it scientific credibility. Yet the Gore example shows how widely a well put together and well promoted doco can reach - but we need that imprimatur or it invites partisan political criticism of the sort that longstanding respected institutions like NAS and RS have the standing to stand off. Given the stakes I don't think it's out of line to ask them to really stick their reputations on the line.

Also I would not underestimate the real extent of public interest, both in seeing the controversies addressed as well as to see best of modern CGI bring those real climate processes and their complex interactions to life.

Anonymous said...

Ken Fabian,
The National Academies are actually a fairly low budget operation. It operates on the principle that scientists were once grad students and as such have an in-grained tendency to work for food--albeit pretty good food. They were never intended as a publicity organization. They do studies to aid policy makers in making decisions. If said policy makers are too stupid or cowardly to follow the advice, so much the worse for them and humanity.

At some point, a species becomes too stupid to survive.

Ken Fabian said...

Snarkrates, is this really so outside the scope of our top science advisory bodies? Isn't our situation so serious that our top science advisory bodies might consider risking some of that accumulated capital of respect and esteem by going beyond what is normally expected of them for the sake of the science that gave us the warnings and the precious window of opportunity that mired politics has been so wilfully squandering?

I've seen excellent collaborations between Universities and documentary makers - and this is something that ought to, if it's well made and promoted, be widely viewed. Video content that is widely viewed tends to be costly to make but quite profitable in the end and funding it need not be out of the usual budget; I doubt the Universities put all the money up for their collaborations and I wouldn't expect such a project involving NAS/RS to be funded purely from their side. The video production side would be even more familiar with the raising of money for production.

I would note that when it comes to getting publicity within the inward looking, self referencing business that is mainstream media that they barely notice professorly reports and studies but when it comes to compelling media content they can't help but want to get a slice and tell everyone about it.

Whatever original or ongoing intentions with respect to NAS or RS as promoters of science the situation we are now in deserves considering doing something a bit different - or perhaps not even so very different, but doing what is known to have the greatest communication reach, done well, with attention to detail.

"If said policy makers are too stupid or cowardly to follow the advice, so much the worse for them and humanity."

This is not good enough. We should not simply accept it; the stakes are way too high for that. If policy makers aren't doing trust and responsibility in a trustworthy and responsible way, and common law is inadequate to deal with that negligence it really does come down to the demands of a concerned public. Informing them so they know there is cause for concern is fundamental - an informed public being more essential than ever. .

I haven't seen any compelling suggestions for effective flocculation of the well stirred muddy waters that are the public discourse on climate and energy. Have you any alternative suggestions for possible ways for significantly improve communication and education and clarify those muddy waters? More blog posts rehashing the same controversies ad nauseum? More quality pdf's only those who are already interested will even know exist or bother reading? Doing the same things that haven't been cutting through over and over and hope the echoes get heard by people outside the chamber? They all help but none are really cutting through.

An Inconvenient Truth got noticed. People still talk about it. A well made doco backed by the most authoritative voices we can find would be noticed.


"An Inconvenient Truth got noticed. People still talk about it. A well made doco backed by the most authoritative voices we can find would be noticed."

I suggest you include Virginia Tech's videotape of both Al Gores, Jr, & Sr. presiding over its great nuclear winter debate, and pronouncing Sagan's side the losers on grounds of uncertainty. History happens.

Bernard J. said...

People seem to be talking about a not-yet-but-soon-to-be-manifested political solution to the human-selfisness-caused manifestation of climate change, as if it's actually going to happen in time. Against my natural but ever-diminishing inclination, I was finally persuaded of the forlorn futility of this possibility after a throw-away comment in a recent interview:

Aside from the singularly underwhelming lack of compulsion of the central thesis of the interviewee, the thing remains in stark evidence is that if one takes the Baysian approach and updates one's priors according to accumulating evidence, it is inescapable that the odds of effective governmental action are rapidly becoming longer. And no matter the vigour of the grassroots, the response at the top is what matters.

It sucks to be even just a little bit aware.

Anonymous said...

Ken Fabian,
NAS has already weighed in on climate change--unequivocally and multiple times. What makes you think that simply doing so in a different medium would make any difference. And perhaps once the documentary doesn't work, we can try a video game? Expert opinion is expert opinion.

As to "An Inconvenient Truth," all it did was paint a big, bright target on Al Gore's back. Since the facts are all against the denialati, all they have is ad hominem attack. If you think the prestige of the Academies would save them from the same fate, you are naive.

The ultimate problem is that the majority of humanity is too cowardly to accept the truth.


Poor Hawking - He flies to Hollywood to launch Starshot, but it comes unstuck when folks complain about the lack of terminal guidance, the inhomogeneity of the interstellar medium and radiation damage levels that would do credit to a CERN beamstop.

Then he gets dragged into the Climate Wars by RC commentors like McDonald:

"I am not a denialist. In fact I am just a climate model critic and a catastrophist, like Professor Stephen Hawking. Only, he’s got it wrong. We will not follow Venus’s example because we already have. The surface temperature on Venus soared until the surface melted and suphur clouds prevented temperatures rising further. The same thing happened on Earth at the end of the Younger Dryas when temperatures in Greenland soared by 20C, after the sea ice in the GIN Seas melted and clouds grew to limit our temperature rise. A similar event will happen when the Arctic sea ice melts, and another irrevocable change will occur."

Ken Fabian said...

Snarkrates, the difference of choice of communication medium makes an enormous difference to the numbers of people it reaches and makes an impression on. Pdf reports do not reach the broader public; well made video does. If the policy makers are to be called to account by the public (and journalists and the better politicians and activist organisations on our behalf) there needs to be a well known source with well known claims to refer back to.

And yes, these organisations would be subject to criticism from the determined campaigners; however what they think or do isn't the point, the point is to mobilise the public outside those well worn ruts. And unlike Gore they don't have the long running partisan political associations as distraction and inciter of unthinking automatic opposition from people with other political association and they do have a fund of credibility that no politician is likely to get. Fear of losing some of that reputation and credibility - or having to fight to maintain it - when the stakes are this high and science based expert advice is under sustained attack? They are better placed to fight off that kind of criticism than any politician or advocacy organisation.

I'm not especially surprised that people might disagree about the effectiveness of the as yet untried combination of leading science academies and video documentary presentation but you seem to be actually hostile to such a suggestion.


"The ultimate problem is that the majority of humanity is too cowardly to accept the truth."

Snarkrates can add that to end of the list of unsolved Hilbert problems and things physics hasn't figured out yet.

As to getting government to accept the Truth, Plato didn't do that well in Syracuse, and he was invited.

Hank Roberts said...

On the broad subject of hoists and petards, here's a message for WMC (result of trying to read Stoat)


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----end quote-----

Fortunately the Internet Archive pops up offering a cached version of his blog ....

OH, wait, nevermind, he's back.

Bernard J. said...

Hank, just a few minutes ago I asked a question at HotWhopper about the very same thing. I'm pleased to discover that it's not just me experiencing this - it started intermittently but it's been constant for the last day or so.

Bernard J. said...

...I'll wait for Roy and Moss to turn the internet back on.