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2/5/2013 3:09:00 PM
Skull Valley lawmaker wants both sides of climate change taught to students

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Saying students are getting only one side of the debate, a state senator wants to free teachers to tell students why they believe there is no such thing human-caused "global warming.'

The proposal by Sen. Judy Burges, R-Skull Valley, requires school board to create an environment "that encourages pupils to explore scientific questions, learn about scientific evidence, develop critical thinking skills and respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.'

But the key to SB 1213 says state and local school boards and officials cannot prohibit any teacher from helping students analyze and review the "strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories' being taught. And that means teachers would be free to tell students not only that they believe global warming is a myth but would open the door for teachers to argue for the scientific validity of "intelligent design' as an alternative to evolution.

Andrew Morrill, president of the Arizona Education Association said that, on its surface, SB 1213 simply spells out what science teachers already do: teach students to think critically. But Morrill, citing similar measures in other states, said there's more here than meets the eye.

"It appears to be part and parcel of an ALEC, written by corporate interests, to suppress certain issues like global warming,' he said, citing its similarity to model legislation crafted by the business-backed American Legislative Exchange Council.

Burges said she did not get the language from ALEC, saying it came from Tennessee. But she made it clear she believes only the environmentalists' viewpoint is being presented.

"I just feel that are students are being inundated with things in classrooms,' she said. "Students should be given all side of the story,' Burges said, something they may not be getting now.

"It actually says in the textbooks if you don't believe in global change that you're very misinformed,' Burges said.

"There should be an opportunity for teachers to step up to the plate and give their opinion, if they have scientific proof, that it isn't happening, that it's a natural phenomena, without retribution,' she explained. "I just happen to think that if a person believes that this is not man-caused or that man only contributes so much, then they should be able to stand before their class and discuss it.'

As proof, Burges said many schools are using "An Inconvenient Truth,' a movie by former Vice President Al Gore on climate change, as positive evidence of the role of humans in global warming without pointing out alternate theories.

"That's such a bunch of hogwash,' Morrill responded.

"The curriculum for teaching science is already balanced,' he said. "If there's overwhelming evidence on one side, then within the science curriculum there's going to be a look at that evidence.'

He said ALEC and other business interests want to label the issue "controversial' to minimize all the evidence linking human activity and rising levels of greenhouse gases to climate change.

"The controversy is at the political level, not the scientific level,' Morrill said.

Burges pointed out that nothing in her legislation actually requires teachers to present alternate theories if they do not believe in them.

"It strictly if the teacher would like to do it,' Burges said. "It's not forcing them to do anything.'

She said, though, there is contrary evidence out there that is not always being presented.

"There's numerous articles you can find that NASA has written about global warming and the impact of it,' she said. "So there is the opposite side out there.'

But if Burges is relying on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to rebut Al Gore and others who have similar beliefs, she may be disappointed. NASA's web site discussion of climate change says that "the current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years, citing five studies.

It also says for 650,000 hears atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have never been above 300 parts per million until 1950. NASA lists the current figure as above 380 ppm.

Burges also cited a petition signed by 30,000 scientists which says there is "no convincing scientific evidence' that human release of various greenhouse gases will disrupt the planet's climate.

Taylor Waste

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Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Article comment by: Johnny Johnson

It's getting to be truly embarrassing to live in AZ. I imagine we have already scared off quite a few growing, thriving businesses from setting down roots in our beautiful but backward state.

Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Article comment by: nutso fasst

Scientifically, there are not just "two sides" to the climate change debate. Only those at the political extremes 'know' the facts. Only for those with an ideological agenda is science 'settled'. And any educators still presenting as fact the fear-mongering falsities of Al Gore--the smarmy self-serving elitist who parlayed climate change fear into a $200 million fortune--should be tossed out on their indoctrinating backsides.

Speaking of ideological agendas, Mr. Gibson failed to mention that "98% of scientists around the world" consists of 75 of 77 individuals who answered a particular question on a poll submitted to 1,372 researchers. And regarding the claim of increased disasters from human-induced climate change, who do we believe, political bodies like the IPCC or our own NASA that begs to differ?

No, most secondary teachers are not qualified to challenge scientific research, but they should not be purveying fear based on a false claim of settled science, either. Keep apocalyptic indoctrination out of the classroom.

Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Article comment by: Keep politics out of classroom

We don't need teachers telling students what to think. We need them to teach students how to think for themselves.

Posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Article comment by: Connor Gibson

Mr. Morril is absolutely correct here--there is no scientific debate on climate and hasn't been one since the mid-1990s. The 'debate' is political.

It's disturbing that children in Arizona may refuse to believe science because their politicians aren't comfortable with science on either ideological or religious grounds. That is not scientific thinking and is therefore dangerous for the integrity of our educational systems to let such people control how science is taught.

Whether the bill is based on the ALEC model or not, it's similar to the ALEC model bill, which came out of a group that counts fossil fuel companies like ExxonMobil, BP, Peabody coal and Koch Industries in ALEC's energy "task force."

It's too bad this legislator cannot accept that 98% of scientists around the world (source: Proceedings of the National Academies of Science) studying climate have no doubt that humans burning fossil fuels is already causing changes in our global climate, and an increase in weather disasters from the changes in our atmosphere have also been definitively linked (Source: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). She suggests that secondary school teachers are qualified to challenge decades of peer-reviewed climate research by thousands of specialized science, and that it's okay teach their students to ignore that overwhelming evidence. That is not okay.

There's a point where people who reject science on its face aren't going to be convinced, and we need to recognize that if they aren't going to accept the conclusions of relevant, impartial scientists, they do not have a credible voice in that conversation. This policy takes us backwards when we need to be very serious about the challenges global warming now poses to our energy infrastructure, food production, natural disaster resilience and other big-picture concerns.

Thanks for writing.
Connor Gibson - Greenpeace USA.

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