Does Climate Science Belong in the Classroom?
Feb 16, 2012
Our planet's climate is changing. This scientific issue is affecting our lives today and will dramatically impact the lives of our children and future generations. Yet there are skeptics putting up a fight and passing laws to keep climate science out of classrooms. They can and should be stopped.
The science of climate change is almost universally agreed upon throughout the world. According to NASA, 2011 was the planet's ninth warmest year since reliable record-keeping began in the 1880s. In fact, nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 2000.
The effects of climate change are significant. The oceans have risen between four and eight inches over the last 100 years. Extreme weather, including droughts, wildfires and excessive rainfall, are increasingly common.
Scientists are studying the changes with increased precision. Furthermore, by analyzing rocks, tree rings and other records, they can learn about changes in climate from hundreds, thousands and even millions of years ago. According to the evidence, the climate change that's occurring today mirrors periods in the world's history when mass extinctions occurred.
The War of the Skeptics
Despite the evidence, there are skeptics of climate change. The reasoning behind their skepticism varies, including those who believe that the science of climate change is somehow a political conspiracy and those who believe that the climate is changing naturally and without human cause.
While there will always be conspiracy theorists, climate change deniers are having a remarkably successful time misleading children. For example, Louisiana passed the Louisiana Science Education Act in 2008 that advocated for teaching counterarguments to so-called 'controversial' topics, such as climate change, evolution and the origins of life. Also, South Dakota passed a non-binding resolution in 2010 that questioned the legitimacy of climate change science and advocated for the teaching of alternate viewpoints in schools.
Numerous districts and schools either limit the teaching of climate science or push the teaching of climate change deniers, whose arguments have been widely and consistently discredited. Furthermore, when teachers present videos or lessons on climate science, there are occasionally parents who vehemently protest.
How to Act
The hostility that climate science deniers exhibit poses a threat to legitimate science education. When fighting an anti-science bill or defending climate science to a parent, there are numerous paths to success. The first and more important is to know the facts. For example, the fact that climate change is real and caused by humans is documented by 97% of scientists publishing peer-reviewed scientific articles on the topic.
It's also essential to understand the most common arguments made against climate science. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) offers a discussion and dissection of these arguments on its website. NCSE also offers support to teachers facing pressure from climate change deniers. The not-for-profit organization is newly focusing on climate science after years of successfully fighting those who argue against the teaching of evolution in schools.
History is full of those who chose to disbelieve emerging scientific truths. Copernicus knew this when he argued that the Earth wasn't the center of the universe. Evolution deniers are still making their case, despite the continued flow of evidence that refutes their arguments. Climate science, unlike other scientific issues, is something that we have the power to change. This makes it critical that schools can teach the subject unhindered and with the support of parents, administrators and the government.
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