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The War Over Warming


The culture war continues to find its way into science classrooms, with the flare-ups moving from evolution to global warming. In Utah, for example, a parent recently objected to an in-class showing of Al Gore's “An Inconvenient Truth,” saying that film’s thesis that human activity is the prime contributor to the earth’s rising temperature is not a scientific fact and should have been countered with opposing views.

Utah’s academic standards require high school science teachers to introduce the topic of global warming, but appear to leave a lot of gray area. They don’t require teachers to give equal classroom time to differing views on the issue, but also don’t identify specific causes. “You'll notice we don't say anywhere that humans are warming up the atmosphere,” notes Barbara Gentry, a district secondary science teacher specialist in the state. “Students are merely asked to investigate or research the effects of global changes on earth systems.”

Yet Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education, suggests that teachers would be misrepresenting the topic if they neglected to teach about the human influence on climate change. "If evolution carries 99 percent unanimity among scientists, then climate change as being caused by human activity has a rate of 85 to 90 percent unanimity among scientists," she says.


Where did Eugenie Scott get the information regarding the 99 percent unanimity among scientists on the subject of evolution? or the 85 to 80 percent unanimity among scientists on the subject of human activity effecting climate change? Who is doing the misrepresenting here?

Deborah beat me to it, but I want to echo the sentiment. It seems somewhat questionable to pass of "If 99%" as the real situation ... which is certainly is not.

Unfortunately, we continue to be a nation that responds to alarmist propaganda rather than thoughtful discourse on subjects that may have a high degree of ambiguity. This bleeds over into education, where, like lemmings, we follow the crisis du jour, rather than try to develop critical thinking skills. Global warming is a prime example of this problem. William M. Briggs who is a statistician attending the recent conference said, "am one of the scientists that attended the recent Heartland Climate Conference in Manhattan, where I live. It is my belief that the strident and frequent claims of catastrophes caused by man-made global warming are stated with a degree of confidence not warranted by the data."
At the least, there should be an inclusion of the various viewpoints when we teach about global warming.

I cannot believe that there are three posts to this article and ALL of you are denying that global warming is our (humans) problem. Don't you understand the Greenhouse Effect? Haven't you seen dramatic changes in nature around you? Trees are blooming earlier, hurricanes are becoming more frequent and stronger, birds are returning home from winter sooner, rivers and waterways are drying, we're having record highs and lows in the south and north... or do you not pay attention to these signs?
Or is it that you agree that global warming is happening, but that it couldn't be OUR fault...oh, no, humans are too perfect...right? Then what is it? Is it the cows releasing methane as they pass gas? And who is that demands we have so many cows, anyway?
Or maybe it's the lack of trees to offset the carbon in the atmosphere...oh, wait! Yes, that's people who have caused the decline in trees.
I ask you, then, to tell me please what/who is the cause of global warming if it's not we industrialized folk?
Please try to view these claims scientists are making with an open mind. Yes, it's scary to think about what they are saying is going to happen if we don't make radical changes to our way of living; and yes, it might be even scarier to think about what those radical changes might do to our comfortable way of life. However, ignorance will not be bliss in this situation. Please try to read more and understand more before you lash out against the ever-growing facts that global warming IS happening and humans ARE the reason it's happening at such an exponential rate.
Teaching this to our children is the only way that anything will change as it seems the majority of we adults are too selfish to change. I applaud any teacher who takes it to the next step and goes beyond asking students merely to research the implications of climate change. But to ask them to investigate what's causing the change and how can we fix it!

Skeptics of global warming need to face up to two incontrovertible facts.

1. The Carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is increasing, and there is no question that the source of this increase is largely from our burning of fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas.
2. Carbon dioxide absorbs outgoing infrared energy and consequently has a warming (greenhouse) effect.

I could give all the details and data regarding these two phenomena, but to save space, I will let anyone interested look them up for themselves. Suffice to say here that there is more than enough data to classify them as facts.

Now the world is experiencing a sharp warming trend. Again, there is more than enough data from both physical measurements and biological observations to say that this is a fact. To say/claim/believe that this warming trend has nothing to do with our consumption of fossil fuels is like turning on a burner under a pot of water on the stove and then arguing that the burner has nothing to do with the water getting hotter. Talk about denial!!!

Bernard J. Nebel, Ph.D. Author: “Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2”

I really don't care if schools teach global warming, so long as they also teach the other side. We should not be teaching our students to "go with the flow" but to make their own minds up about things. I don't understand why supposedly educated people, who are well within their rights to believe in global warming, don't want our children, the future of society, to be taught how to look at the facts and the opinions of both sides and to make up their minds. Whether global warming is true or not, we want students to be taught how to think for themselves, not how to accept whatever the teacher tells them as gospel truth.

Unfortunately (or rather fortunately) the effect of carbon dioxide (of even an increase in temperature, supposing it does occur) on the environment is not as simple as global warming fanatics suggest.

As to humans "obviously" being the cause because of industrialization cutting down trees and increasing the CO2. It seems that industrialization may be more at fault than we thought. www.surfacestations.org is a worthwhile site for anyone to visit and examine. It is a group which is documenting the locations and environments of all the surface stations in the nation from which the official temperature data is recorded. A large majority of the surface stations examined so far are located near artificial heating sources which raise the measured temperature 3 degrees or more above the actual temperature. These surface stations (which were probably just fine when they were built) have gradually over time become more and more surrounded by electronics, hot roofs, air conditioning exhaust and asphault, all of which considerably raise the temperature. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd consider measurements from these locations to be slightly less than reliable, and seems to me to present a probable cause of supposed "global warming." It's sad that with all our scientific knowledge gained through the years, we are unable to locate our thermometers in places which will present unbiased data . . . but then, our schools don't teach unbiased points of view, so why should our thermometers?

I could not be more in agreement with the first paragraph of E. Fletcher’s post of March 7, which says, “[We want our students] to be taught how to look at the facts and the opinions of both sides and to make up their minds. Whether global warming is true or not, we want students to be taught how to think for themselves, not how to accept whatever the teacher tells them as gospel truth.”
So let’s look at the data on both sides, which E. Fletcher, in his single focus on the location of service stations, does not do. First, there are the factual cause-effect reasons to conclude that global warming is/was bound to occur, which I outlined in my previous post of March 6. Second there is massive data concerning ecological effects that are only consistent with a warming climate. Stephenie enumerated only a few her post of March 6 Third, there are innumerable direct observations of unprecedented acceleration of the melting of ice caps and glaciers. Fourth, measurements, when compensated for the effects Fletcher notes, still show warming trends, and notably, stations far removed from such effects (those in the Arctic and Antarctic) show the largest degrees of warming. On the other side, data countering global warming is not holding up as valid.
As to Fletcher’s “global warming fanatics” (a rather prejudicial term for someone advocating an honest look at both sides of the issue) those “fanatics” now include 100 percent of scientists who have real expertise in studying and understanding influences on climate. (Note that this does not include all scientists. Those in areas outside climatology may have no more ability to speak intelligently about climate than any other lay person.) Thus, the term “fanatic,” in its proper grammatical sense, might be better applied to the shrinking group of global warming skeptics.
Coming back to the start, again, I agree with Fletcher’s starting comment that “[We want our students] to be taught how to look at the facts and the opinions of both sides and to make up their minds.” Indeed, this is the central focus in all my teaching and in all the lessons of my book, “Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding.” Thus, I am not touting global warming as a matter of "go[ing] with the flow." I make it a point to teach students to look at data/observations, and exercise logical reasoning in going from those observations to rational interpretations/conclusions. Personally, this process has led me to the conclusion that global warming is real and serious. Of course, everyone else is free to decide for themselves, but let’s decide on the basis of all the data, not on selected bits.
Bernard J. Nebel, Ph. D., Author: “Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum for K-2” (and older beginning science learners)

I think that there can be a valid discussion as to possible reasons the current warming trend. It is true that there has been an increase in temperatures recently, but this is not the first time in history that this has happened. in the 1970's (so I have been told - I was too young to remember) there were articles that we were undergoing global cooling and headed toward a new ice age. Don't get me wrong. I do believe that we need to look at what our influence on this might be, and that our emissions cannot be helping things, but to say whether they are the main cause of global warming or just one of many factors is still a current scientific debate.

I never cease to be amazed by how some people can look at the two sides of a debate and say that they are indistinguishable when one side is supported by overwhelming evidence the other side is supported by only speculation, wishful thinking, and grasping at straws. Speaking to the post of March 14, it is true that there was a cooling trend observed through the 1960s and 70s and people of the popular press picked this up and wrote articles speculating about another impending ice age. It sold copy, but the idea was never supported by more than speculation. There was no real cause-effect theory, much less data, showing reasons to believe that another ice age was immanent. (I was not too young to remember and actually looked into and studied it at the time.)

Consequently, there were few (if any) climatologists who took the idea seriously. In fact, the most prominent climatologists believed, on the basis of hard data, that the cooling trend of that period was due to particulates (air pollution) building up in the atmosphere and increasing the reflection of solar (light) energy. They further projected (from their viewpoint in the 1970s) that the greenhouse effect would overtake the effect of particulates and commence an accelerating warming trend beginning in the 1980s. Guess what has actually occurred.

Believe me, I get no pleasure or satisfaction from believing in global warming or the catastrophic effects it is likely to bring on the world. I seriously worry about the outlook for my children and grandchildren and even my own. I would really love someone to come along with real cause-effect reasoning and hard data showing that global warming was not occurring, or that it was due to uncontrollable factors that have nothing to do with human emissions of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases). Unfortunately, I have yet to see any such reasoning or data.

Bernard J. Nebel, Ph.D. Author: “Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding: A Science Curriculum For K-2”

I really don't quite understand the issue with global warming. It seems that there is agreement that our climate is changing...and thus far not in a positive way. It seems as if most people wpould agree that human behavior and interaction with the planet has an impact on the planet. It seems as if it would be logical then to teach our children how to LESSEN the NEGATIVE IMPACT of HUMAN BEHAVIOR on OUR ONE AND ONLY PLANET.

I can get behind the fact that human behavior is not THE CAUSE of golbal climate change...but is it A CAUSE?

Ans if you can answer yes....can we teach our young people to be more mindful of the limited resources this earth provides?

Just a thought!

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Recent Comments

  • Mrs. Jones: I really don't quite understand the issue with global warming. read more
  • Bernard J. Nebel, Ph.D.: I never cease to be amazed by how some people read more
  • scott: I think that there can be a valid discussion as read more
  • Bernard J. Nebel, Ph.D.: I could not be more in agreement with the first read more
  • E. Fletcher: I really don't care if schools teach global warming, read more




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