Climate science in the schools: Heartland Institute vs. Gavin Schmidt


“So is climate change set to join evolution as the next big classroom controversy?” asks Brad Plumer in the Washington Post. “Things do seem to be trending that way.” And Heartland is proposing to use an author who willfully misreads climate data and obscures science issues, according to Gavin Schmidt at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  Maybe Dr. Schmidt and colleagues should develop some K-12 climate science curriculum instead.

Earlier posts:
Leaked Heartland Institute documents include plan for climate disinformation curriculum in schools

Republicans for Environmental Protection vs. Heartland Institute climate disinformation campaign

From Brad Plumer in the Washington Post Wonkblog, February 23:

Will your kid be taught that climate change is a hoax?

…Joshua Rosenau spends most of his time defending the teaching of evolution in schools for the National Center for Science Education.  But a few years ago, he noticed that the teachers he was doing workshops with were far more interested in learning how to talk about global warming. “They were getting pressure from their own communities, from parents,” Rosenau says. “And they were looking for help on how to deal with this issue.” …

But could Heartland actually spread its views? …

[A]s global warming becomes an increasingly emotional political issue, teachers will face pressure to either adopt a skeptical stance or skip over the topic entirely. An online poll by the National Science Teachers Association in 2011 found that 54 percent of teachers had encountered climate skepticism from parents — and many teachers said they now teach climate change as a he-said, she-said issue….In that environment, a group like the Heartland Institute, offering up its own skeptical teaching materials, could find plenty of fertile soil.

From Leslie Kaufman, New York Times Green blog, February 23:

Behind the Controversy, an Effort to Rewrite Curriculum on Climate Change

…Heartland described its plan this way: “Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”) …

Dr. Wojick, who has a doctorate in the philosophy of science, wrote in [an] e-mail. “There are many elementary debates in the science that need to be understood.” …

Asked to specify what those points of debate are, Dr. Wojick wrote at length:

“Regarding the warming issue, it is scientifically fascinating. There are 5 different systems for estimating global temperatures, with a 6th in development. The problem is that these systems contradict one another. … So has it warmed or not, we do not know. It is a grand challenge. This is scientifically fascinating and should be taught,” he concluded.

But climate scientists who looked at Dr. Wojick’s evaluation of the data say that he is willfully misreading the findings. “You have to be specially trained to be so blind,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climate scientist with [NASA] Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Dr. Schmidt says that the climate records are actually all in agreement about long-term warming trends. … “The big issue with creating curricula is cutting through the details to find what is important,” said Dr. Schmidt, “Instead, he is using details to obscure.”

If we’re actually interested in promoting honest climate science in the schools, employing the services of an actual, in fact eminent, scientist who is also a first-rate communicator, we could do worse than to draw on the expertise of Dr. Schmidt:

In recognition of his exceptional work as a climate communicator, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) has selected Gavin Schmidt as the recipient of its inaugural Climate Communications Prize.

Climate Change: Picturing the Science by Gavin Schmidt, Joshua Wolfe and Jeffrey D. Sachs

Schmidt and photographer Wolfe seek to advance public education about human-induced climate change in a combination of arresting images and lucid explanations of the science of global warming and the pursuit of global cooperation in adopting new, sustainable ways of living.

A Chat With RealClimate Blogger Gavin Schmidt, Andrew Revkin, New York Times DotEarth, February 23.  Dr. Schmidt talks about the roots of the RealClimate blog, “which he saw as a way to efficiently explain climate science and dispel confusion and disinformation as the issue gained prominence in the mid 2000s.”

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2 Responses to Climate science in the schools: Heartland Institute vs. Gavin Schmidt

  1. Pingback: Heartland Institute: Hey Kids, Have a Smoke and Denial « Global Warming: Man or Myth?

  2. Eli Rabett says:

    Mom Rabett was a first grade teacher who could learn a stone to read, but was also why the new math failed. Writing curricula and teaching them to the teachers is a very skilled art form that no scientist can be anything but a resource person for, and that includes Gavin.

    There is also the issue of money. At one of those tour the K-12 teachers through the high tech lab days, the Rabett was eating lunch with the teachers and the issue came up about whether what they had seen was useful to them. Interesting yes, but useful no. First they had no time outside of their own curricula to add stuff (and this was before No Child Left Untested), second they had no budget for supplies (like $10 per class per year).

    Wojick’s curricula has no chance, especially because there is no sign he has a clue about the various state and national science standards against which the kids are tested. Wingnut school boards might adopt it, but they cannot teach it. It will, at worst, be yes minister.

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