The Rotten Heart of the Heartland of Denial

As you probably know from today's show with Penn State science education graduate student Beth Hufnagel and the National Center for Science Education's Mark McCaffrey, the Heartland Institute's efforts to work climate denialism into secondary school science classes. The Climate Reality Project is pushing back with the following video lampooning the real junk science.

Ezra Klein at the Washington Post puts it in good terms:
And so, according to internal documents from the Heartland Institute, the group is paying $100,000 for David Wojick, a coal-industry consultant, to develop “modules” for classroom discussion. (Wojick has confirmed this.) These modules would include material for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”) and carbon pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial”). In fact, none of these issues are scientific controversies — the vast majority of climatologists believe, with a high degree of confidence, that man-made carbon-dioxide emissions are heating the planet.

But could Heartland actually spread its views? Rosenau says that Heartland could do what creationist groups like the Discovery Institute have been doing for years and simply mail out supplemental materials to educators far and wide. “There will be teachers who are sympathetic to the skeptic view or who think the material looks useful, and they’ll say to themselves, okay, I’ll bring this into the classroom,” he explains. It’s worth noting that the Heartland Institute had already developed a video along these lines — titled “Unstoppable Solar Cycles,” which laid out the long-debunked theory that the sun is driving recent warming — and shipped it off to teachers. (These earlier efforts, according to one Heartland document, met with “only limited success.”)

Even if these materials turn out to be wildly inaccurate or out of sync with a state’s science-education standards, keeping tabs on their use would be quite difficult. “In almost all cases,” Rosenau says, “there are no policies that would prevent a teacher from using such material.” Quite the opposite: A few states, such as Louisiana, have non-binding laws that urge teachers to embrace “supplemental” material on heated topics like evolution and climate change.
And that's why we need organizations like the National Center for Science Education and teachers and their teachers who are literate in climate science and, I might add, a group I'd wager can't afford to pay $100,000 for one person to create great climate education materials. Instead, they do it for the love of good knowledge, good science, healthy people, and a healthier planet.

On a final note, as a media service on sustainability, we believe a free press is imperative for democracy. But being a press service comes with responsibility and the need for good information so that we can make good collective decisions. The great American philosopher John Dewey said, "A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experiences." If we are to live together in associated living then our communication about our experiences needs to be clear, warranted, and just. We can't deceive ourselves or others. We have to have good reasons to believe what we believe. And whatever we do about it must be equitable and fair. Denying climate change to school children undermines all of that.

Climate denialism undermines democracy.


  1. "Denying climate change to school children undermines all of that."

    Denying climate change or denying climate alarmism? There is a major difference between the two. (and you know it)

  2. Would you mind explaining what you mean by "denying climate alarmism?" If there is a big difference, it would be helpful to know what you mean by it. Sure the, Earth won't be Venus by century's end, but where you put the bad alarm isn't clear. So I don't "know it."