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Climate change denial plans divulged

"Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking climate science is planning a new push to undermine the teaching of global warming in public schools, the latest indication that climate change is becoming a part of the nation’s culture wars," reported The New York Times (February 15, 2012). The documents in question were obtained from the Heartland Institute, a non-profit organization best known for its attacks on climate science, and posted at DeSmogBlog (February 14, 2012), which "exists to clear the PR pollution that is clouding the science on climate change."

The documents detailed a plan to invest at least $100,000 to produce and distribute curriculum material propounding climate change denial. "Many people lament the absence of educational material suitable for K-12 students on global warming that isn’t alarmist or overtly political. Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success." The proposed remedy was to produce "modules" on climate change with such claims as "whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial" and "whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy."

"It is in fact not a scientific controversy," the Times explained with regard to the latter claim. "The vast majority of climate scientists [97-98%, according to Anderegg et al., "Expert credibility in climate change," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 2010)] say that emissions generated by humans are changing the climate and putting the planet at long-term risk, although they are uncertain about the exact magnitude of that risk. Whether and how to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases has become a major political controversy in the United States, however."

The Heartland Institute explicitly denied the authenticity of one of the documents, which included a startling description of the proposed curriculum as showing "that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain — two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science." The author of the curriculum confirmed to the Associated Press (February 18, 2012) that the description of his curriculum throughout the documents was otherwise accurate, however, explaining that his goal for schools was "teaching both sides of the science, more science, not less."

The article in the Times observed, "The National Center for Science Education, a group that has had notable success in fighting for accurate teaching of evolution in the public schools, has recently added climate change to its agenda in response to pleas from teachers who say they feel pressure to water down the science," and quoted Mark McCaffrey, who is spearheading NCSE's climate initiative, as saying that the Heartland documents show that climate change deniers “continue to promote confusion, doubt and debate where there really is none.”

The Los Angeles Times (February 20, 2012) offered its editorial opinion: "On one side of the 'controversy' are credentialed climatologists around the globe who publish in reputable, peer-reviewed scientific journals and agree that the planet is warming and that humans are to blame; on the other are fossil-fuel-industry-funded 'experts' who tend to have little background in climatology and who publish non-peer-reviewed papers in junk magazines disputing established truths. ... It's bad enough that we're gambling our children's futures by doing so little to fight this problem; let's not ask their teachers to lie to them about it too."