I’m experiencing a distinct sense of déjà vu. I swear it’s seven years ago and the Dover school board trial is headline news. Certainly climate change skepticism has much in common with intelligent design creationism, being highly political and not at all scientific. Still I’m more than a little disappointed that so many school boards are jumping on the bandwagon — or is it a sinking ship? — of climate denialism.
According to this article from the LA Times last week, Texas and Louisiana have already passed standards for their science curricula requiring educators to teach their students that denialism is a valid scientific position. Tennessee and Oklahoma have also passed resolutions demanding equal time for denialism in the classroom. South Dakota and Utah have also passed resolutions denying climate change but it’s not clear from the article (nor can I find information elsewhere) clarifying whether this was an educational measure.
It’s clear that denialist groups are taking a page from the creationist playbook. Slogans like “teach the controversy,” or “teach both theories” were very effective, though logically invalid. These slogans beg the question, embedding the assumed truth of a contested statement within their argument. The truth is creationism is neither a scientific theory nor is the truth of evolution controversial amongst the scientifically literate.
So it is with human-caused climate change. The hard data has been clear for decades, the easier-to-grasp visual signs have been available nearly as long (photos of receding sea ice, for example), and the effects have been noticeable on an individual basis for several years, depending on where you live. I’m not yet 30 but I remember the brutal Canadian winters I experienced the first half of my life, and never again since.
Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, is quoted as saying that “climate change education is where evolution was 20 years ago.” She would know. Scott and the NCSE have been fighting against religious groups and their efforts to compromise American science standards for years.
Climate change denialism isn’t necessarily religiously motivated, but it’s heavily pushed by the Right who wish to keep Big Oil in business as long as possible. Christian Fundamentalism has become a major force in American conservatism, so there’s a certain degree of overlap between creationists and denialists.
It’s not only the classroom that is being invaded by concerted denialist efforts. ThinkProgress reports on a new progressive campaign against denialist weather reporters. According to their report, more than half of US television weather reporters deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change. In turn, they’re broadcasting their skewed perceptions directly into the nation’s homes.
This quote from Kentucky weatherman Chris Allen gives a sense of what we’re dealing with:
“If you don’t believe in God and creationism then I can see why you would easily buy into the whole global warming fanfare. I think in many ways that’s what this movement is ultimately out to do – rid the mere mention of God in any context. What these environmentalists are actually saying is ‘we know more than God – we’re bigger than God – God is just a fantasy – science is real…He isn’t…listen to US!’ I have a huge problem with that.”
Someone like this is not likely to ever change his mind because he is not basing his views on evidence. The best thing for everyone would be getting someone like that off the air.
In Canada, creationism in the classroom has never been the issue it still is in the United States. But climate change denialism is still a significant force worldwide. The hardline deniers will do everything they can to muddy the waters and hold up mitigating measures. Meanwhile, time grows short. We have to keep pushing back on this issue. Don’t stop educating everyone you know, especially those on the fence, on what the science really says.
Photo credit: Liam Gunley (NASA)