Will the Classroom Climate Change? – Part 2

Strong differing opinions about climate change

I’m continuing here my comments on the National Center for Science Education survey of teachers regarding climate change, and whether human activities are responsible for global warming. In case you see the term “anthropogenic global warming” (sometimes reduced to AGW), that’s what they’re talking about.

A focus of the results of this survey is to understand how and why students are receiving what NCSE calls mixed messages. The mixed messages apparently are 1) not all teachers believe there is global warming, and 2) of those who believe there is, not all of them think we humans are causing it. Therefore, “mixed messages” means not all teachers are teaching what many in politics and science are calling “fact” about climate change.

It doesn’t surprise me that they are concerned that all kids are not being properly indoctrinated. One paragraph in the report makes clear they feel it is their duty to ensure this is accomplished:

Although the mass media, informal education (such as museums and zoos), and advocacy organizations play important roles in promoting scientific literacy, a special responsibility lies with our public schools. Schools reach into all sectors of society and create environments that are better insulated from ideology and rancor than social media or political forums.

I certainly agree that schools reach into all sectors of society, but I need someone to show me that what schools (in general) are teaching today is insulated from ideology. Fortunately, “more than a quarter of teachers ‘give equal time’ to perspectives that raise doubt about the scientific consensus.” NCSE regards this as “managing conflict” rather than objectivity. I suppose if kids want to examine various viewpoints it becomes “conflict.”

Another finding states:

Many teachers’ understanding of the greenhouse effect may be shaky. When asked to prioritize topics for a 2–3 day unit on the greenhouse gases and recent global warming, many teachers selected topics that are not especially relevant.

If you haven’t been following this train of thought, you may not know the claim is that greenhouse gases cause global warming, carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas, therefore CO2 causes global warming. Remember that CO2 is vital to life on earth. It was not considered a greenhouse gas until the EPA declared it so in 2009.

Finally, the last of their findings I’ll comment on is:

Teachers’ awareness of the scientific consensus is linked to their attitudes toward the role of government. The more that teachers question the role of government relative to individual responsibility, the less likely they are to know that most climate scientists believe that human activity is the major cause of global warming.

Teachers may no longer be puppets for “consensus” science

Let’s take a close look at that statement. Look at the earlier paragraph above that claims schools are better insulated from ideology and rancor than social media or political forums. Here they state that the more teachers question the role of government relative to individual responsibility, the less likely they are to know the group-think they are supposed to endorse. So are the schools supposed to separate themselves from “political” sources as they claim to do, or do they promote government/political information?

In Part 1 of this post I mentioned that the survey of 1,500 teachers showed that “Fewer than half of all teachers [responding] had any formal coursework — even one class lecture — on climate change.”

Perhaps the decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord will start some of those teachers wondering what’s going on, and they’ll do some research on their own.

To emphasize that scientists have differing opinions, check out this statement by Freeman Dyson quoted in the Cornwall Alliance. Freeman Dyson is one of the world’s top physicists. He replaced Albert Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He put very simply a basic argument against the notion that CO2-driven global warming is likely to be disastrous:

In humid air, the effect of carbon dioxide on radiation transport is unimportant, because the transport of radiation is already blocked by the much larger greenhouse effect of water vapor. The effect of carbon dioxide is important where the air is dry, and air is usually dry only when it’s cold. Hot desert air may feel dry, but it often contains a lot of water vapor. The warming effect of carbon dioxide is strongest where the air is cold and dry, mainly in the Arctic rather than the tropics, mainly in winter rather than in summer, and mainly at night rather than in daytime. The warming is real, but it is mostly making cold places warmer, rather than making hot places hotter. To represent this local warming by a global average is grossly misleading.

Freeman Dyson also said he rejects environmentalism as anti-humanism. So you see, knowledgeable people can have differing viewpoints.

The title of this and the previous blog post is “Will the Classroom Climate Change?” My question is aimed at what NCSE calls mixed messages. Will those with authority choose to teach students both sides of the global warming debate, or will a heavier hand come down on teachers to teach the view of the global warming proponents and their view only?

I strongly recommend that you go to the NCSE report and read it all for yourself. What our kids are taught, learn and believe may depend on you understanding the problem. Let me know if you agree with me.