Don't teach climate change. It'll hurt the economy.


In the summer of 1925, John Scopes, a 24-year-old high school science teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, became one of most infamous defendants in U.S. legal history. In March of that year, Tennessee passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution. A month or so later, the American Civil Liberties Union placed a newspaper ad offering representation to any Tennessee teacher willing to violate the law and become the face of a legal battle lawyers hoped to take to the U.S. Supreme Court. The ad caught the eye of community leaders in Dayton, who thought a high-profile trial -- and the media attention and tourists who'd come with it -- could give their struggling town an economic boost. They solicited Scopes, who agreed to become the "test" defendant.

Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution in a biology class, and his lawyers appealed. The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld the law, but overturned the Scopes verdict on a technicality, preventing higher appeals. It wasn't until 1968 that the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on the issue, deeming a similar Arkansas law unconstitutional. But their ruling didn't put the issue to rest. Some states responded by passing laws requiring teachers to give "equal time" or "balanced treatment" to evolution and creationism. Those laws were also struck down. Still, the anti-evolution movement persisted – and still does. In 2012, Tennessee passed a law preventing school administrators from disciplining teachers who choose to teach students about the "scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses" of evolution.

On a hot day in July, the Scopes trial moved outside to escape the courtroom's oppressive heat.

But this time, the law included a new twist: It allowed teachers to give climate change the same treatment. Tennessee's approach has caught on in some Western states, albeit less successfully. Bills were introduced in Colorado and Arizona in 2013 to allow teachers to question "controversial" scientific theories – specifically evolution and climate change. These bills represent "the third wave of antievolutionist strategy," wrote National Center for Science Education deputy director Glenn Branch in BioScience last fall. Though the bills ultimately failed, they were the "tip of a menacing iceberg," according to Branch. "It is now routine for evolution and climate change to be targeted together in attacks on science education."

In fact, in Arizona, and more recently in Wyoming, climate change, not evolution, was the primary provocation for the attacks. This month, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead signed a budget passed by the legislature that included a footnote prohibiting the state Board of Education from adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (though there appears to be some lack of clarity about what exactly the footnote means for what the Board can and can't do). The standards were developed by more than 20 states, the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Science Teachers Association, and an independent education reform organization. They establish a common framework for K-12 science education, laying out what knowledge and skills students should have when, and how to assess their progress, but not standardized curriculums. They are the first national science standards likely to be broadly adopted by states, and the first ever to require climate change to be taught in schools.

That change is controversial in Wyoming, a state bankrolled by a cornucopia of fossil fuels: coal, oil, natural gas. "(The standards) handle global warming as settled science," Republican Rep. Matt Teeters, one of the budget footnote's author told the Casper Star-Tribune. Reporter Leah Todd wrote that "Teeters said teaching global warming as fact would wreck Wyoming's economy."

The state Board of Education has been in the process of revising its science standards for more than a year, and an independent, 39-member committee made up mostly of Wyoming educators unanimously recommended it adopt the Next Generation Science Standards. The Board has so far deferred its decision, however, and has come under some public pressure to reject the standards because of their requirements for teaching evolution and climate change. Prior to the budget footnote's passage, some Board members sympathetic to the concerns about climate change in the classroom have asked Jim Verley, Wyoming Department of Education science content specialist, who convened the independent committee, if it's possible to make modifications to the Next Generation standards. Verley will respond to the question at this month's board meeting.

So far, 10 states – including California, Oregon, Washington and Nevada – and the District of Columbia have adopted the new standards, accounting for more than 20 percent of the nation's K-12 students says Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education. Until now, McCaffrey says, climate change has been taught inconsistently around the country, if at all. "Teachers avoided it altogether, or they would teach it as controversy or debate," he says. That's problematic because while the fact that climate change is happening and that people have a role in it is the subject of debate in the political sphere, it isn't in the scientific world. Not only that, but climate change is one of the biggest scientific and environmental challenges of our time – not exactly the kind of thing it makes sense to ignore until college. Some teachers are already teaching climate science and doing it well, McCaffrey says, but their reach is typically limited to, say, accelerated earth or environmental science classes. "The most revolutionary thing about the Next Generation Science Standards is that they're for all students."

"If evolution wins, Christianity goes," William Jennings Bryan argued for the prosecution in John Scopes' 1925 trial. "Scopes isn't on trial, civilization is on trial," Clarence Darrow countered for the defense. The debate over whether to teach students about climate change now playing out in Wyoming is less grand than the one between science and religion that lent the Scopes trial its drama. And it's more cynical: If the problem with climate education is that it would deal a blow to the fossil fuel economy, is that not implying that if kids learn about climate change, as adults they might favor less dependence on fossil fuels? That economics justifies ignorance?

"This boils down to children's right to know what's happening in the world," McCaffrey says, "and somebody censoring that."

Cally Carswell is the assistant editor at High Country News. She tweets @callycarswell.

Alvina Joseph
Alvina Joseph
Mar 20, 2014 02:44 AM
Thanks for info Cally Carswell
Matt Daly
Matt Daly
Mar 20, 2014 04:52 PM
Before I became a father, I had a friend
who wrote her name on an Aurora Borealis
call list. Pretty simple. If you saw ribbons
of green light fluttering over the white
mountains and flags of night clouds, you called
everyone on the list. If you noticed the night
sky in winter warming into pinks, purples
not unlike dawn, the list. Although I never wrote
my name on the list, my friend took it
upon herself to call me and I usually called
a couple of people in return: my mom, a friend
or two, before driving north of town to escape
the yellow lights we have a fondness for
leaving on. Not so far as to encounter
the yellow glow of the airport, to see
what all the calling was about. A time or two
it was lovely, memorable.
Now that I am a father, I worry
about my governor, my legislature. They deny
funding to the State Board of Education
to implement any standards that acknowledge
we humans contribute to shifting patterns,
Earth’s networks of patterns. For my son,
I post news links about these shenanigans
on my Facebook page, sign online petitions,
email my local school board while the snow
melts, too brilliant-white to look at directly,
an eclipsing, on each late winter morning.
My son has not yet seen the Northern Lights
but he cheers when he hears I have heard
red-winged blackbirds call down the ditch
line of willows, a pattern passed on to us
since times before we carved into black places,
burned black rocks for power.
Tim Baker
Tim Baker
Mar 21, 2014 01:41 PM
Sadly far too many in our society seem to live by the credo that ignorance is bliss. And then they act surprised when the obvious happens and they suffer as a result. Instead of grasping for new knowledge and understanding of how the world works and how humans fit into it they shy away, clinging to the status quo of denial as if it were the only life raft in a sea of chaos and change. If the discovery of the past has taught us anything it is that evolution, and climate change, happens.
Patrick Hunter
Patrick Hunter
Mar 22, 2014 10:41 AM
Reading Ms. Carswell's excellent article generated two thoughts for me. First, as her title "...Hurt the Economy" suggests, economics really is the basis of politics. I thought: who would agree with that idea. A search produced "The Economic Basis of Politics" (1922) by Charles Austin Beard. How else does one explain the current state of national and local politics that is driven by massive inflows of cash from the pinnacle of insatiable American wealth.
Secondly, whatever "wreck(s)" the fossil fuel economy of Wyoming, or any other state or place, is actually a good thing. Suppose Wyoming was growing poppies that were made into heroin that was destroying our nation? No doubt Wyoming politicians would be demanding crop subsidies. Actually, we have a similar example in the tobacco growing states. Some 400,000 Americans die prematurely each year from tobacco related diseases.
Fossil fuel is as deadly a "drug" as we have ever had. Even President Bush spoke of the "addiction". The necessary "treatment" is to "re-purpose" the wealth of the energy "pushers" and develop alternative energy and more efficient systems before the "patients'" problems are irreversible.
Bud Bromley
Bud Bromley
Mar 23, 2014 04:59 AM
While it is a fact that climate is changing all the time, it is certainly not a fact that humans are causing any significant part of that climate change. Global warming contributed by human-caused CO2 is about 0.03% of the total greenhouse warming effect. The human effect is so small it cannot be distinguished from the error in measuring the effects of clouds and water vapor, the dominant greenhouse gas; in other words, human-caused CO2 is not significant with respect to warming.

But the Next Generation Science Standards will not make that distinction. I suspect that Ms Carswell knows that.

Furthermore, it is a fact that the $70 billion dollars spent by the Federal government on various climate change initiatives, as well as additional funds at the state and local level, will have no significant effect on global climate. Therefore that inefficient spending will "hurt the economy."

There is no real world evidence that CO2 generated by humans burning fossil fuels and breathing causes significant amount of global warming. There are many climate models that propose CO2 causes global warming, but computer models are not real world data. Computer models are hypotheses that must be tested against real world data and so far those computer models fail when tested. The predictions are wrong. The CO2 concentration trend has continued to rise during the same 15 plus year period when the temperature trend has been statistically flat, no trend. This is not the first time this has happened. Proponents of global warming, such as the UN IPCC, call this flat temperature period a 'hiatus' or a 'pause.' But the bottom line is that the trend lines for CO2 and temperature are diverging and to validate their hypothesis, these trend lines must be parallel or converging. This fact contradicts the hypothesis of human-caused global warming. The computer models incorrectly predicted rapidly rising temperatures.

Teaching as proven fact that humans cause global warming by using fossil fuels would be scientifically wrong, but politically correct in some parts of society. You can teach your kids what you wish. If you teach them to think for themselves and verify evidence instead of accepting opinions, then they will not be writing op-ed articles loaded with non non sequiturs such as this one by Cally Carswell. Climate is always changing, but nature is controlling these changes, not humans.
Tim Baker
Tim Baker
Mar 23, 2014 10:06 AM
I don't want to get into a long blog argument with Bud about climate change because I'm not a climate scientist and I strongly suspect he isn't either. But I would like to point out that he seems to be confusing the concentration of carbon dioxide (presently about 400ppm or .04%) with the role it plays in the planet's greenhouse effect (20-30%). CO2 has a forcing effect on the atmosphere while water vapor (65-85% of greenhouse effect) plays a feedback role because of differences in residence time in the atmosphere. In other words, carbon dioxide can alter the energetic balance of the atmosphere which water vapor then responds to.

He is right that there is still a lot we don't know -- that's what the science is for and why we need to teach the science.
Kirk Hohenberger
Kirk Hohenberger Subscriber
Mar 23, 2014 11:46 AM
The main reason to continue to deny humans are causing climate change ,is then we do not have to change,convenient. I believe in the true laws that do not change ,the laws of nature ,gravity ,cause-and-effect. How can we dump trillions of tons of CO2 and other gases in to the atmosphere and expect that there will be no cause and effect ,or change from doing that? Living in a reasonable sustainable balance with the planet would be the amount of people ,say one or 2 billion on the planet burning fossil fuels ,that the remaining Amazon forests we did not have to cutdown ,could absorb every year ,the amount of gases human activities put into the Atmosphere natures trees could absorb .That would be the sustainable number of people this planet could support living as we do buring fossil fuels.
john broberg
john broberg
Mar 25, 2014 01:11 PM
Bud Bromley now thinks he is smarter than thousands of professional climate scientists. What makes a fact in a complex area like climate? Consensus of scientists. Its a factual error to say there is no human caused global warming because there is a high level of consensus. All the arguments he puts forward have been debunked in the scientific community although it is easy to take things out of context and cherry pick data to make it seem otherwise, as many industry funded websites and front groups do. Its never going to be like proving the law of gravity, its a big complex slow changing system. When it comes to seriously degrading the planet and damaging much of the accumulated assets of mankind it seems wise to err on the side of caution and not find ourselves in a nightmare future that is too late to fix. Its our duty to future generations not to do this. We do have the means to transition to clean energy if we want to work at it. The costs of dealing with the effects of warming will be far higher and not help as much as preventing the problem.
Carol Bernthal
Carol Bernthal Subscriber
Mar 25, 2014 08:58 PM
Folks, check out A treasure trove of climate change science written for the lay person. Also many of the arguments against a warming climate and explanations of why these arguments are scientifically incorrect. I'm not a climate scientist, but I've been following the science for many years and this site is worth a visit.
Bud Bromley
Bud Bromley
Mar 28, 2014 07:30 PM
“It is a blatant lie put forth in the media that makes it seem there is only a fringe of scientists who don’t buy into anthropogenic global warming.” - U.S Government Atmospheric Scientist Stanley B. Goldenberg of the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA.

“Since I am no longer affiliated with any organization nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly….As a scientist I remain skeptical...The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.” - Atmospheric Scientist Dr. Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology, and formerly of NASA, who has authored more than 190 studies and has been called “among the most preeminent scientists of the last 100 years.”

“Many [scientists] are now searching for a way to back out quietly (from promoting
warming fears), without having their professional careers ruined.” - Atmospheric
physicist James A. Peden, formerly of the Space Research and Coordination Center in
Pittsburgh, funded by NASA.

“Earth has cooled since 1998 in defiance of the predictions by the UN-IPCC….The global temperature for 2007 was the coldest in a decade and the coldest of the millennium…which is why ‘global warming’ is now called ‘climate change.’” - Climatologist Dr. Richard Keen of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Colorado.

According to a combined press conference by NASA and NOAA in January 2014, the average temperature of the planet for 2013 was only 0.6 degrees C above the average for the period since the beginning of the 20th century. The global warming proponents at the UN IPCC call this 16+ year trendless temperature period a "hiatus" and a "pause." During the same period, CO2 concentration continues to increase. These two trendlines taken together falsify the hypothesis of human-caused global warming. If the climate were sensitive to CO2, as proponent predicted, then CO2 would force or trigger feedback in other climate variables, such as clouds and water vapor and temperatures would be rising in parallel to CO2. That is not what is happening. Real life measured data (instead of computer models) show that the climate is not very sensitive to CO2, and warming is much less than the climate modelers predicted. The two trendlines are diverging. This invalidates the hypothesis of human-caused global warming. Many thousands of PhD scientists agree.

“All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinkers and give
some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead.” -
Geophysicist Dr. Phil Chapman, an astronautical engineer and former NASA astronaut,
served as staff physicist at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

The planet is getting greening up. That is good for almost all living things on this planet. "From this remarkable 30-year archive of satellite imagery, we thus see evidence of a greening trend. Monitoring the evolution of this will be an important task for the next 30 years of earth observation." This is the conclusion of this peer reviewed study by 5 scientists who reviewed and analyzed 30 years of NASA satellite images. Whatever climate changes are happening, and whatever the causes of those changes, our planet is getting greener.

I am an analytical chemist and spent my career in the scientific and life science instrument and software business. I misplaced a decimal point in my previous email. Greenhouse warming effect contributed by human-caused CO2 is about 0.3% of the total greenhouse warming effect, not 0.03%. Nevertheless, the human effect is so small it is lost in the noise, lost in the error of measuring the effects of clouds, the dominant greenhouse gas; in scientific and statistical terms, human-caused CO2 is not significant with respect to warming. Nature controls the climate, not humans. Here a link that explains the arithmetic in high school terms. Will you teach this?

Will you also teach this? "...climate policies carry an even larger cost in the developing world, where three billion people lack access to cheap and plentiful energy, perpetuating their poverty. They cook and keep warm by burning twigs and dung, producing indoor air pollution that causes 3.5 million deaths per year – by far the world’s biggest environmental problem." ~ Bjorn Lomborg
Read more at http://www.project-syndicat[…]blem-is#sce5xTQDFQsr4QgL.99

"The past century’s climate change has added 1.4 percent to global economic output, rising to 1.5 percent of GDP by 2025, and falling to 1.2 percent in additional global GDP by 2050. Specifically, for example: The increased CO₂ level has boosted agriculture, adding 0.8 percent to GDP. Likewise, the reduced demand for heating added about 0.4 percent to GDP. Commentator Matt Ridley notes that an additional 1.5 percent of global output is the difference between survival and starvation for many people.”

And show this instead of Al Gore’s alarmist fiction? “The Great Global Warming Swindle.” Full Version.
"The idea that global warming is the most important problem facing the world is total nonsense and is doing a lot of harm. It distracts people's attention from much more serious problems." ~ Freeman Dyson, world renowned physicist. Princeton.

Will you teach this?