Global warming to be taught in public schools.

Holy shit!  Public schools are actually going to teach science in science classes!

New national science standards that make the teaching of global warming part of the public school curriculum are slated to be released this month, potentially ending an era in which climate skepticism has been allowed to seep into the nation’s classrooms.

The Next Generation Science Standards were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the nonprofit Achieve and more than two dozen states. They recommend that educators teach the evidence for man-made climate change starting as early as elementary school and incorporate it into all science classes, ranging from earth science to chemistry. By eighth grade, students should understand that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming),” the standards say.

On one side, you have the “knowing more about how the universe works” crowd celebrating the increase in knowledge.  After all, we have to know the nature of the problems facing humankind before we can solve them.

There is opposition to this, of course.  There are people who think science is useful until it disagrees with the writings of a group of people from a particularly ignorant region of the first-century world, and then science must be suppressed.  These people are merchants of ignorance, the products of thinking that faith is equivalent to knowledge rather than gullibility.  They are a problem, and I’m glad to hear we’re beginning to ignore them when it comes to educating the next generation.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Glodson

    Eventually, the truth has to win out. The sooner, the better.

    But there will always be a market for ignorance. My daughter might have picked up a new, and I will say creative as well, swear today as we passed a convention hall hosting an event for A Beka books.

    The fuckwitted peddlers of bullshit.

  • John Eberhard

    Would like to see a companion piece to this blog about all of the states that currently have bills pending for teachers to question global warming (along with evolution, of course). There are a bunch of them.

    • Glodson

      So far, Texas is supposed to teach Evolution, but they have done a number on history thanks to David Barton. I am not certain on Global Warming.

      Note that I wrote supposed to. That’s because even when there are no laws prohibiting the teaching of Evolution, and I suspect Global Warming now, there is still a significant chance the teacher will elect to not teach the subject. Worse, if they do teach it, it gets taught badly. Which provides fodder for the spread of ignorance. A gross misunderstanding of Evolution can lead to faulty reasoning as to why it should be considered wrong.

      This paper explains some of this. Including the fact that many teachers are uncertain if they should even be teaching evolution despite the laws.

      It isn’t just an issue with the laws, but the culture as well. I know my own education in evolution has been lacking. I’ve had to do my own work to learn the subject, and I was personally amazed at how often the facts were distorted.

      From the article:

      The data further expose a cycle of ignorance in which community antievolution attitudes are perpetuated by teaching that reinforces local community sentiment. For example, we ranked school districts from least to most socially conservative, and in the 15% most socially conservative school districts, nearly 4 in 10 teachers personally do not accept human evolution (compared with 11% in the least conservative districts) and, consequently, devote only minimal time to evolutionary biology in their classes [table A8.2 in ( 2)]. The next generation of adults is thus predisposed to share the antievolution views of their parents.

      At the opposite extreme are 13% of the teachers surveyed who explicitly advocate creationism or intelligent design by spending at least 1 hour of class time presenting it in a positive light (an additional 5% of teachers report that they endorse creationism in passing or when answering student questions). The boldness and confidence of this minority should not be underestimated. Although 29% percent of all other teachers report having been “nervous at an open house event or meeting with parents,” only 19% of advocates of creationism report this (χ2 = 5.1, P = 0.024).

      It is little surprise to read this attitude among those who push creationism. It is a common trait among many religious people who are blind to their privileged place of their superstition in our culture. And this anti-science attitude can infect other sciences. Like global warming. It seems to be how “crank magnetism” works.

    • Rando

      Sensuous Curmudgeon is a good website to go to for that kind of info with a useful snarky outlook.

  • Dave Muscato

    It’s scary to me that it took this long. There is NO scientific controversy about global warming. This whole thing is just ridiculous.

  • iknklast

    I’ve been teaching Global Warming in my science classes since 2001 (the first year I taught science). It was well established by then, and has become even more well established since.

    Of course, what sort of teacher can I be? I also teach Evolution. In fact, I taught it last week, and I’ve found there are ways to get students a bit less likely to disrupt class. I have a picture I use when talking about Comparative Anatomy. I tell the students before I put that picture up that I can only show them if they promised not to tell my husband I’m using it. They solemnly promise, eager to see what the picture could be. Then I flash a picture of my husband, right next to a picture of an orangutan sitting in the exact same position. They’re so buy laughing they forget to get mad. (And my husband knows about the slide; he’s seen it, and he loves it. He’s not ashamed to be cousin to an orangutan.)

    • Glodson

      Orangutans also make great wizard librarians.

      Just never call the Liberian a monkey.

      Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, especially simian ones. They are
      not all that subtle.

      “Lords and Ladies” by Terry Pratchett.

      • iknklast

        Actually, my husband is a librarian, so maybe in a sense I did call a librarian a monkey ;-)

        • Glodson

          Then you and your husband might get a kick out of the Discworld series. In that the Librarian has the job of preventing people from reading certain magical books. And then there’s the whole concept of L-Space, which is just fantastic. Great books.

  • iknklast

    That should be “so busy laughing”. You need an edit button.

  • Art Vandelay

    What is it about global warming that scares religious folks so much anyway? I certainly get how evolution is a huge problem for them but why GW? Is it just that they can’t envision a scenario where God would allow climates to change over time?

    • John Horstman

      I think the scene from I Heart Huckabees where Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg are having dinner with the Christian family does a pretty good job explaining the reasoning. It’s mostly summed up with this line: “God gave us oil! He gave it to us! How can God’s gift be bad?”

      • Loqi

        God also gave us poison ivy.

    • Jim

      One part is that religious conservatives have been condemning science as evil for so long, they automatically condemn any new science as evil. Its a knee jerk reaction. And then the polluting corporations validate that condemnation with phony science.

      I have read more than one statement by congressmen basically assert that the Bible says god gave man dominion over the Earth, therefore it is impossible for men to produce enought pollution to destroy god’s Earth. This makes the religious happy because it elevates religion over science, and it makes the fossil fuel companies happy because it justifies unlimited pollution. Ted Cruz used this type of argument in the last campaign and pledged to eliminate the EPA and OSHA if he were elected. He won the Texas Senate race in a landslide.

    • iknklast

      I hear from a lot of my students that Global Warming is a lie because “God’s got it”. In other words, they don’t mind the idea that the Earth is warming – after all, the Bible says, as they like to remind me, that it will be warm in the end times – it’s just the idea that humans could possibly do anything to change God’s plan.

  • Art Vandelay

    therefore it is impossible for men to produce enought pollution to destroy god’s Earth.

    I actually agree with that. Of course is not Earth we’re going to destroy. It’s ourselves. Oh that’s right…they think we came with it.

    John, this I Heart Huckabees…worth seeing?

    • Ashton

      It’s hilarious and bizarre. I could have done without the muddy sex scene, but the rest of the movie was awesome. It’s about a husband and wife team of existential detectives. Jason Schwartzman is in some pretty enjoyable movies.

  • Azkyroth

    So, in addition to explaining the principle of Conservation of Energy in science/physics classes, they’re introducing some applications?


  • chengisk

    “Holy shit! Public schools are actually going to teach science in science classes!”
    Exactly my thought when I saw the headline. US is becoming the only country on earth that will probably require laws to permit teaching of Science in schools. This is a shameful situation, that does not exist even in many underdeveloped countries and in countries that practice voodoo medicine.

  • baal

    The NRC and AAAS are top tier and trustable orgs (I don’t know about the teacher one). I’m glad they had a role in setting the standards.

  • Keith Erick Fix

    One of my favorite blogs, “Religion Poisons,” lumps global warming with Yahweh. Please don’t attribute rejection of purported global warming to some religious belief.

    • Glodson

      You do know there’s an overlap of the Religious Right and Global Warming Denial, right? Not all Christians are like that, but many of our leaders, politicians, do reason that there’s no Anthropomorphic Global Warming because god.

    • M

      Religion does highly correlate to science rejection, though. The only way to reject AGW is to reject the science behind it and argue that beliefs and wishes are equally valid ways of understanding the world. They aren’t.

      I’ve also heard people argue that God gave us oil so we shouldn’t reject His gift and/or that God wouldn’t let AGW hurt us because God’s the only one who gets to destroy the world a la Revelations. There’s a strong strand of religious determinism mixed in with rejection of AGW.

  • Thurston Howell III

    Let me guess: scientists like Roy Spencer are knuckle-dragging troglodytes who are seriously deluded and have been compromised by external political and religious influences, yes?

    • M


      • Thurston Howell III

        I thought as much.

        • M

          No, really, who is Roy Spencer? I’m not going to do research on him without at least a link or two to start my search, because the Internet is very wide.

          • Joe

            He’s a climatologist who argues that climate change is primarily natural, not man-made. Which is fine, there are climatologists argue that and they have a useful place in the science. However, given that the majority consensus is that climate change is man-made, this is probably the science that should be taught.

            (He is also an intellegent designer, which does limit his credibility a little, but it doesn’t mean he can’t do climate science, just not biology)

          • Andrew Kohler

            My (admittedly limited) understanding is that there has been climate change of various kinds since long before the industrial revolution. That does not mean, however, that humans are not presently contributing, or that we shouldn’t be concerned.

          • Loqi

            He is also an intellegent designer, which does limit his credibility a little, but it doesn’t mean he can’t do climate science, just not biology

            In other words, he’s compromised by religious influence, just like Thurston said. I don’t even know why he would bring up a scientist who is already known to toss science out the window if it disagrees with his religion. What’s next, offering up Behe in a thread about evolution?

          • Loqi

            He’s also on the board of directors for the George C. Marshall Institute (conservative group that denies climate change, that cigarettes are carcinogenic, the existence of acid rain, and CFCs causing ozone depletion). Also on the board of directors for the Cornwall Alliance, a religious right group. Here’s their “evangelical declaration” about global warming:
            The first bullet point reads

            We believe Earth and its ecosystems—created by God’s intelligent design and infinite power and sustained by His faithful providence —are robust, resilient, self-regulating, and self-correcting, admirably suited for human flourishing, and displaying His glory. Earth’s climate system is no exception. Recent global warming is one of many natural cycles of warming and cooling in geologic history.

            So yeah, he’s driven by religions and politics. Why would you even throw this guy out, Thurston?

          • Glodson

            So yeah, he’s driven by religions and politics. Why would you even throw this guy out, Thurston?

            He only had so many books on the Minnow.

            It was only a three hour tour.

            A three hour tour.

    • Cubist

      I’m not familiar with Roy Spencer’s work. However, I do know the physical basis of global warming. Carbon dioxide is largely transparent to visible-wavelength photons, while at the same time being largely opaque to infrared-wavelength photons; energy carried by visible-wavelength photons passes thru the Earth’s atmosphere unmolested by carbon dioxide; objects on which visible-wavelength sunlight shines, heat up; hot objects radiate infrared energy; infrared-wavelength photos, including the energy they carry, get blocked by carbon dioxide. Therefore, the more carbon dioxide there is in the atmosphere, the more thermal energy is trapped in the atmosphere—and that’s global warming.
      And human activities are adding lots of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
      So tell me, O sagacious plutocrat of Gilligan’s Island: How do you add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere without ending up with more thermal energy trapped in the atmosphere? Given the absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide, plus basic thermodynamics, I really want AGW-denialists to pony up an answer to that question.
      If Mr. Spencer actually does have an answer for that question, great; let’s hear it! But if Mr. Spencer doesn’t have an answer for that question… well, in that case, he might very well be “[a] knuckle-dragging troglodyte”, and/or “seriously deluded”, and/or “compromised by external political and religious influences”.

      • Compuholic

        There are lots of contrived little excuses from denialists to get around that problem:

        One you might have heard of is the “carbon starved planet”: The theory that plants are mopping up pretty much all the carbon that is being emitted. And like most denialist theories there is a grain of truth in it: The earth has lots of ways to store carbon and indeed carbon is being stored away in great quantities. Without those stores we would be seriously fucked already. One of these carbon stores is the ocean. The CO2 dissolves in water forming carbonic acid which means that the acidity of the worlds oceans will increase (something that has long be documented by scientists). What the deniers always conveniently forget to mention is that all carbon stores operate on some sort of equilibrium: As you add more CO2 to the athmosphere it is being mopped up but the point of the equilibrium is being shifted up. Up to a point where the carbon store is full (in a manner of speaking) and the whole system starts to tip.

        Another way of them is to say that it’s no biggie. It has been warmer in the past before. And again, that is certainly true. There used to be (~50 mil years ago) tropical temperatures in the polar regions for crying out loud, so that is hardly news. But you can be sure that the earth looked a lot different that it did now.

        Climate change won’t make us humans go extinct but it certainly will kill a lot of the animal life, lots of people in the poorer parts of the world and it will cost the rich parts of the world a shitload of money if we don’t act now.

        • iknklast

          There’s another slight problem: plants actually adjust to higher CO2 by developing fewer pores (known as stomata) that take up CO2. Most plants are not CO2 limited, they are limited by nitrogen or phosphorus or water; it that’s the case, the additional CO2 will not be taken up and used by them, and they won’t grow larger, unless those other limitations are lifted.

          Studies of herbarium specimens show that the number of stomata on plant leaves have been declining since the Industrial Revolution. That means the plants aren’t out there gleefully drinking up more carbon dioxide; they are adjusting to higher levels by reducing their uptake.

    • Glodson

      Congratulations! You found a dissenting voice in the scientific community while ignoring the vast majority who accept it! Well done! That proves precisely nothing.

      Pay attention to the pictures. I’m sure the words will just confuse you. The vast majority accept the reality of Global Warming. Because we have evidence and reasons to, and the vast majority go on to accept that the current trend has a man-made component.

      Instead of name dropping, why don’t you provide evidence? Come on, show us his work and let it speak for itself. Don’t just drop the name and claim he said something. Let’s see if he is a denialist, or if he dissents, or if he just think the human factor is slightly over credited with this trend.

      • Nate Frein

        The second comment on your link is hilarious…

      • Thurston Howell III

        I’m not a smart man, but I seem to recall something in one o’ them books that said the “vast majority” of scientists at one time in history also believed the earth was flat. And that the sun revolved around the earth, too. And that Einstein was wrong about that whole “relativity” thing.

        Pay attention to the scientific process, though I’m sure it will just confuse your partisan political bias.

        • Joe

          Well, that’s a result of improvements in observations, isn’t it. The Earth was believed to be flat until improvements in our ability to determine the curvature of the Earth. Same with heliocentrism – initial observations did suggest that the Earth was stationary, but further observations showed that it orbited the sun. So yes, climate change could be wrong in this manner, but we have become very good at making observations, so this is unlikely. It is also possible we have misinterpreted our observations, but again, this is unlikely.

          Relativity, on the other hand, proceeded in much the same way as any theory, with people making various objections and criticisms while evidence supporting it came in. This is a pretty healthy way for a theory to develop, all in all – criticism is good. What isn’t good is unjustified criticisms made over and over by uninformed parties (so, most of the people criticising climate change, seeing as only some 3% of climatologists disagree)

        • M

          Scientists follow the evidence. There was a consensus that the Earth was flat because people didn’t question or measure it. When the evidence came to light that the Earth was round, it was accepted. When evidence was found that showed relativity was a thing, it was accepted. Science is the process of taking in data, using it to extrapolate how things work, setting up experiments to test those hypotheses, and then refining the theory of how things work. That means we get things wrong, experiments show it’s wrong, and then we correct the theory. Or the experiment supports the theory, suggesting science got it right. One of the two. The scientific method as our means of understanding the universe has only been around for about 200-400 years- before that, everything was much more faith based. Which means people got things wrong a lot more because they wouldn’t test them.

          Science does not often hold to its mistakes in light of new countervailing evidence. We have an amazing amount of data coming in and it is both more accurate and more comprehensive than at any time in the past. No, it’s not perfect. It is, however, pretty damn good. We’ve done a ton of experiments, analyses, and predictions about AGW. The experiments support the theory, suggesting that we got it right. In other words, when we predict something using the AGW framework, and then test that prediction, the prediction comes true! It’s like magic, except it’s based in reality!

        • Compuholic

          Well that is the beauty of science. Sciency adjusts its viewes based on the available facts. That is not a weakness that is a strength. Therefore science get closer and closer to the true nature of things.

          Religion on the other hand is based on dogma, revelation and faith. Christianity for example still clings to bronze age myths no matter how ridiculous they are. Not that I really care about that. Believers are entitled to as much stupidity as they can fit into their heads. The problem is that stupidity rarely comes without consequences for other people who have to live around them.

          Could the scientists be wrong about global warming? Yes, but it is very unlikely. The basic science was already done at the end of the 19th century. Back then, a scientist (forgot the name, but I can find out if you are interested) already calculated the effects of CO2 levels in the athmosphere on the earths average temperature. He did the calculations “just for fun” and without all the fancy computers we have today. The influence of CO2 on the earths climate is a done deal and undisputable (unless you want to dispute math).

          What climate scientists are doing nowadays is to build more complete models of the earths climate. For example they try to simulate how much of the CO2 we produce will eventually end up in the athmosphere and how the temperatures will change for any given region. This is much harder since it involves huge systems of differential equations. And those systems tend to give rise to chaotic behavior. This is also the reason the weather forecast is only accurate for a couple of days in advance. But although the weather is chaotic I can still make statements like “the average daily temperature is lower during the winter than it is during the summer”.

        • Cubist

          By all means, O sagacious plutocrat of Gilligan’s Island, let’s pay attention to the scientific process. Specifically, let’s pay attention to the absorption spectrum of carbon dioxide; the total amount of carbon dioxide which is injected into the atmosphere by processes not involving human action; the total amount of carbon dioxide which is injected into the atmosphere by processed which do involve human action; the total amount of carbon dioxide which is removed from the atmosphere by various processes, human-involved and otherwise; and the measured level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. As well, let us consider what thermodynamics says about energy flows, and how energy flows can be affected by the presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
          Let’s pay attention to all of that stuff, and let’s discuss the consequences of that empirical, objectively scientific data. Shall we, O sagacious plutocrat?

        • AmyC

          “I seem to recall something in one o’ them books that said the “vast majority” of scientists at one time in history also believed the earth was flat.”

          That’s actually a myth. There was never a time when anybody who could be considered a scientist thought the earth was flat.

        • Glodson

          I’m not a smart man, but I seem to recall something in one o’ them books that said the “vast majority” of scientists at one time in history also believed the earth was flat. And that the sun revolved around the earth, too. And that Einstein was wrong about that whole “relativity” thing.

          You aren’t a smart man. Citation needed. There was no time when people practiced science that a majority believed the world was flat. The Greeks knew it wasn’t. Most educated people, even before Columbus know that. And so on.

          Geocentric systems were ditched when we got evidence for them. Relativity was accepted as we generated evidence for it. Evidence is the key. We follow the evidence. The Earth is getting hotter, and the mechanics of this increased heat follow with our understanding of optics, and the structure of atoms all fit together with this information. It is a consistent idea and theory.

          Thank you for providing us evidence that you are not, in fact, smart.

  • Mark

    That the earth is in danger of being destroyed by a global warming is not in question. The focus should be on answering the question, how can a person be saved?

    II Peter 3:10But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,12looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new
    earth, in which righteousness dwells.

    • Nate Frein

      First you gotta prove your quotes have any basis in reality.

      • Mark

        Nate Frein, are you a global warming denier?

        • Loqi

          What? How did you reach that conclusion?

        • Nate Frein

          Hah, no. I don’t deny AGW.

          I deny that the bible has any factual evidence for its truth.

  • Zinc Avenger (Sarcasm Tags 3.0 Compliant)

    The story of Markon and the great famine that struck the village of Ver Omesh: Markon went to the Prophet Articus and asked to go to the forest for food. The prophet bade him patience and stated that the Ori provide all those who have faith which Markon did not have. The prophet drew a line in the sand and said “‘step across and you may do as you wish.”. Markon did so and left the village to feast on wild berries. The fruit was bitter and did not satisfy him. He longed to return to the village but found that the line had become a great chasm and was told by the prophet that nothing had changed except Markon himself. He was told to step across if he truly believed. Markon begged for forgiveness from the Ori after realising his mistake and the Ori accepted him back. The village was also blessed with their light and prospered.

    - The Parable of Markon, from the Book of Origin.

    So you see, the Book of Origin also supports the notion of anthropogenic global warming.