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#Science denial/confusion in the classroom: Sadly, not just a US problem.

February 9th, 2017 · No Comments

Just as occurred (and, sigh, still occurs) with the tobacco industry, a key target of fossil fuel promoters is to sow confusion about the science related to fossil fuel pollution impacts (from climate change to mercury poisoning to …), the strength of the scientific consensus, and about the work of scientists (as individuals and as groups).  These Merchants of Doubt work diligently to undermine science — from astroturf organizations, to lobbyists, to campaign contributions, to attacking scientists, to funding and distributing misleading books, to working to undermine science education in the classroom.

An excellent (sad) example was the coal industry’s funding of Scholastic to put pro-coal misinformation into elementary school classrooms across the country, with the clear hope/intent that the quality Scholastic brand would enable this to go through under the radar scope of (the vast majority) of school administrators, teachers, and parents.  As one analysis concluded, this was simply “lies through omission“.

Scholastic makes a lot of money off our children.

It’s offensive that they promote curriculum that misleads those children about the world’s most polluting source of energy: coal.

Just as occurred with evolution (in some school districts), part of this effort seeks to make teaching climate change science too controversial to do without ‘telling the other side’, creating a sense of a ‘debate’ that exists in politics and polemics but not in the scientific community.

Too often, the efforts to foster political controversy drive those involved in education — such as textbook publishers — to self censor and provide subtly misleading (if not outright dishonest) material for the educational system.

This plagues the United States of America, with frequent battles over textbook material and distortions of climate science, evolution, history, etc … to meet political agendas with the cost of fostering “Alternative Facts”-based eduction. While a serious problem in the U.S. educational system (and likely to worsen amid the Trump regime, including the ideological dogma of Secretary of (mis)Education Devos), sadly, this is not only an American problem

Distorting climate science for all ages: a UK example

Distorting climate science for all ages: a UK example

Considering this KS3 science book from the key UK textbook publisher, CGP Books. The photo is from the section on “the Earth and The Atmosphere”. As you can see, this is splattered with caveating and unscientific terms when it comes to climate change science:


  • “some scientists believe”…
    • “the long-term trend of temperature increases is due to rising carbon dioxide levels”
  • “could have some serious effects”…
  • “could cause sea levels to rise”


As to the first, “some scientists believe”, there are two serious items:

“When climate scientists like me explain to people what we do for a living we are increasingly asked whether we “believe in climate change”. Quite simply it is not a matter of belief.

Our concerns about climate change arise from the scientific evidence that humanity’s activities are leading to changes in our climate.

The scientific evidence is overwhelming.”

(As so often, XKCD provides path to understanding truth …)

Using “could” similarly distorts.

  • Serious impacts already are occurring — from disrupted weather patterns, to movement of flora & fauna, to species extinctions, to (see below) land threatened by rising seas, to …
    • Reasonable debate can occur as to ‘how serious’ the impacts already are and will be, how fast the impacts will occur, and what can be done to mitigate/adapt to those impacts — but it is simple distortion of science to state that climate change ‘could have serious impacts’.
  • Sea levels are rising. This is associated with rising temperatures — both due to thermal expansion of the seas (basic science, people, heat ==> expansion) and melting (land-based, eg glaciers) ice.

In the face of Team Trump’s climate-science denial and active-intent to promote polluting energy, such minor elementary school science distortion can seem unworthy of attention. It is, however, this very sort of seemingly minor distorting material that helps foster electorates susceptible to ‘Post Truth’/#AlternativeFacts polemics.  Such hedging material undermines societal ability to understand science and engage in truthful, fact-based policy formulation.

Yesterday, in Washington, DC, the temperature hit 74F and this morning it was below 30F with snow flurries.

And, we expect to see 70F over the weekend.

The North Pole, in the same time frame, saw an over 60F increase in temperatures.


We are living through real “serious” climate change impacts … even as science distortion continue from UK elementary school classrooms to Donald Trump’s tweeting thumbs.



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Tags: climate change · Education · science