Daily Archives: January 26, 2013

Dollars for Deniers: Big Oil Funds Climate Science Denialism

It has become increasingly difficult to understand the motivation behind climate science denialism. The Earth’s climate is changing, mainly in the form of increased temperatures of the oceans and the atmosphere, because of the release of copious amounts of previously trapped Carbon through the burning of fossil fuels. There is no longer a question that this is happening, and every year, the various details that one might like to see worked out, regarding the mechanisms or effects of climate change, are increasingly known. To state, with a straight face, that the jury is still out, or that we can’t separate natural variation from human caused changes, or that the earth has stopped warming for the last decade, or any of the other things we constantly hear from climate change denialists is exactly the same thing as standing there with a big sign that reads “I am a moron.” Politicians, who by and large remain ignorant of all sorts of science, have become aware of this over recent years and many now couch their phraseology in cautious terms, if they happen to be running there campaigns, as many are, on the Oil Teat. Even more amazing, principled Libertarians have stopped denying the reality of climate change, taking a different tact to avoid any responsibility or action: Yes, the climate change we’ve been busy denying the reality of for the last 30 years is real, they agree, but it is too late to do anything about it now so let’s just move inland as the sea level rises and buy lighter jackets.

So why is climate change denialism still a thing at all? And it is a thing. There are individuals on the lecture circuit, bloggers, and a handful of scientists who continue to peddle what can only be understood as willfully ignorant or evasive, incomplete or cherry picked, or in some cases, just plain dishonest ‘analyses’ or interpretations of data suggesting that climate change is not real, or is not human caused if it is real. There is so much of this out there that some of it even gets published now and then. For example, a recent paper in a mid-level general science journal made a very good argument that “natural variation” explains about 40% of the putative warming in recent decades on this planet, as opposed to the release of fossil Carbon Dioxide by burning of fuels. Unfortunately, the “good argument” in that paper systematically ignored a rather impressive literature that had already addressed the same issues, found problems with an entire methodological approach and interpretation, leaving the just-published interpretation not only impossible, but actually rather embarrassing to others in the climate science community that someone would still be saying it. (You’ve not heard about this yet, but I guarantee it will be in the news and on the blogs over the next few weeks.) Most times, though, the science-denialism comes from a handful of very active blogs, from those charismatic lecture circuit denizens such as “Lord” Christopher Monkton, and a very large number of commenters and their probable sock puppets who show up at every on line newspaper and blog to spew the same exact lines again and again even though every single remark they make … without exception … has long ago been discredited with science and reason.

Read the rest here.

Comment on the Next Generation Science Standards

From the NCSE:

The Next Generation Science Standards represent a tremendous opportunity to strengthen science education in the United States, but also a tremendous risk.

Dozens of states have signed up to consider replacing their existing standards with these new ones. NGSS could revolutionize the US science curriculum, doing great good if they live up to their promise: if evolution and climate change are covered accurately, if they are integrated throughout the curriculum and across grade levels, if the nature of science is presented honestly and incorporated throughout the curriculum, and if the standards are adopted widely by the states.

If the standards undercut or skimp on evolution and climate change, or inadvertently include language that can be abused by creationists or climate change deniers, they will pose a great danger to science education for decades to come.

The National Center for Science Education has been active throughout the review process, and the standards are nearly complete. The final public review is under way, and we need your help.

You can review the standards and leave your own comments for the drafters by visiting the NGSS website. That process can be technical and time-intensive, but there’s another way to get involved.

By signing below, we’ll be able to tell the drafters that you and many other concerned citizens stand behind our review, and will be ready to help implement those honest, thorough standards in their states.

We, the undersigned citizens, scientists, clergy, parents, students, and teachers, stand behind the principles represented by the National Center for Science Education’s review of the Next Generation Science Standards.

In particular, we believe that state standards must:

treat evolution thoroughly – emphasizing tree thinking, the full range of evolutionary mechanisms, the many independent lines of evidence used in evolutionary research, and biodiversity and the history of life (including humans) – and presenting this information early and using it as the central organizing principle of the life sciences.
treat climate change thoroughly – including the dominant role humanity plays in modern climate change, the many ways that scientists test how and why the climate is changing, and the consequences of climate change for the natural world and our society – and presenting it as an organizing theme for study of the earth sciences.
give students sufficient context to understand not only the effects of climate change on society and natural systems, but also the solutions available through behavior change, technology, and engineering.
avoid claims about these and other socially contentious topics which are bad science or not science at all.
avoid language which could be twisted or misused by ideologues dedicated to undermining science education.
present the nature of science accurately and thoroughly, as a social enterprise, as a powerful process for testing claims about the natural world against empirical evidence, and the robust body of knowledge gained through that process.