To most reasonable human beings, it’s already clear that climate change is real. Provided that you believe in science and/or pay attention to credible news sources, the evidence is plain to see. At the White House, however, there’s a prevailing opinion that climate science is still “up for debate”—and worse yet, that debate is currently being squelched. The New York Times reported that White House chief of staff John Kelly has halted an initiative to stage a series of public debates about climate change.

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, has been campaigning for over a year to broadcast military-style exercises known as “red team, blue team” debates to discuss climate issues. President Donald Trump was reportedly enthusiastic. Kelly, however, stepped in and silenced those discussions, arguing that publicizing climate science was an “ill-conceived and politically risky” idea. For now, any discussion of the climate in Washington will be restricted to back channels.

“The Trump Administration will ensure that any climate science review will be conducted through a robust, interagency process, consistent with federal law,” said Raj Shah, the White House’s deputy press secretary.

The Times reported that Steven Koonin, an NYU physicist who worked as an energy undersecretary under Barack Obama, was an early proponent of the “red team, blue team” debate idea. Koonin advocated for the debates in an April Wall Street Journal op-ed. While there was support for the idea initially, Kelly had the debates tabled until the Trump cabinet could meet and discuss them. That meeting ended up never happening, and Kelly eventually closed the book on any potential climate debates.

It bears mentioning that even debating this topic in the first place is a step backward. The scientific evidence is overwhelming that mankind of responsible for rising temperatures and sea levels; this is widely accepted by scientists today. This became the official stance of the executive branch in 2009, when the EPA’s “endangerment finding” declared that human-drive climate change is a threat to health and welfare. Under Trump, that position has been significantly walked back.

Photo by Rena Schild /