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Calling All Science Teachers

Filed under: — group @ 15 January 2007

“An Inconvenient Truth,” the Davis Guggenheim documentary on global warming starring Al Gore’s presentation on the subject, provides an accurate, engaging, accessible, thought-provoking and (at times) even humorous introduction to one of the most important scientific issues of our time ( see our review of the movie). In some countries, viewing “An Inconvenient Truth” has actually become a required part of the science curriculum, and with good justification, we think. Given that the DVD is currently selling for $19.99 through Amazon.com, you’d think that the National Science Teachers’ Association ( NSTA) would jump at the chance to quickly get 50,000 free copies quickly into the hands of their members. Yet, when Laurie David, one of the producers of the film, made this offer to NSTA last November, it was summarily turned down on the grounds that the NSTA has a 2001 policy against “product endorsement” (as if Laurie David were trying to shop some new deodorant to high school science teachers). What in the world is going on here?

Before continuing with the history of NSTA’s bizarre decision, let us provide you with the most important information: Up to 50,000 US science teachers can receive a free copy of the DVD by filling out a simple request form here . The deadline for requesting your copy is January 18, so if you want a copy, take a few minutes to put in your request right away.

Laurie David described her correspondence with the NSTA in a Washington Post Op-Ed, where she notes that an email sent to her by NSTA invoked not only the product endorsement issue, but also a fear that distributing the film would place “unnecessary risk upon the [NSTA] capital campaign, especially certain targeted supporters.” David goes on to point out that one of these supporters is in fact ExxonMobil (whose efforts to spread confusion about climate change are described in a recent report by the Union of Concerned Scientists.) Is NSTA for sale? Did concern about losing ExxonMobil funding lead to NSTA’s timidity about accepting the donation of the DVDs?

The NSTA responds to David’s charges here , pointing out among other things that they offered to sell David the NSTA’s commercial mailing list and that the email to her regarding the fundraising issue was unauthorized. We ourselves find the NSTA’s defense unconvincing. While it is impossible for us to know the extent to which ExxonMobil funding has compromised NSTA’s objectivity on global warming, a perusal of the NSTA web site shows that their teacher resources are rather short on support for teaching about the fundamental science of global warming. This contrasts strongly with their in-depth support for the teaching of Evolution. Indeed, the NSTA’s “compromise” of providing a link on their homepage to the independent DVD giveaway strikes us as uncomfortably similar to placing a sticker on a biology textbook disclaiming Evolution as “Theory, not Fact.” Their willingness to link to the giveaway without providing it directly to their members conveys a distinct impression that the film is somehow tainted.

Doing a search on “Global Warming” on the NSTA site turns up only a paltry supply of useful educational material. It is also illuminating to go into their “recommendations” section and type in “global warming.” That will turn up this recommended book by Kenneth Green, a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute whose article Clouds of Global-Warming Hysteria in the National Review endorsed Michael Crichton’s view of global warming and called supporters of climate change action “One-worlders and other socialist sorts.” Needless to say, the NSTA recommendations (as of today) did not turn up “An Inconvenient Truth” either in its DVD or book form. Nor did it turn up Revkin’s book directed at juveniles “The North Pole Was Here,” nor any of the other scientifically respectable introductions of which we are aware

Perhaps the NSTA policy has not been compromised by its funding sources, but it will have to work a lot harder to convince us. The best way it could do that would be to bring their support for teaching about global warming up to the same standards as their support for teaching about Evolution.

Meanwhile, there have been scattered reports of outright censorship of “An Inconvenient Truth” in the classroom. In a widely reported case, one Seattle school district has essentially banned the film. We have also heard from a science teacher in a populous East Coast state, who was forbidden from showing the film after some parents complained that in fact the earth was “cooling, not warming.” (We have been asked to keep this teacher’s identity confidential so as to prevent reprisals). Hopefully these are isolated instances. We are eager to hear from our readers, not only on the issue of censorship of the film, but also with regard to their experiences with teaching about human-caused climate change in the K-12 classroom (and the extent to which “An Inconvenient Truth” has proved a useful tool).


198 Responses to “Calling All Science Teachers”

  1. 1
    Don Williamson says:

    Had the film kept politics and the dramatization out, there would have been a far greater acceptance by the masses. I can’t blame NSTA for refusing to endorse what could have been a true documentary To get the point across, release an edited version and get the reaction you are seeking. Politics should stay out of scientific research and the reporting of results.

    [Response: I don't know who these "masses" are you're referring to, but the film seems to have pretty good acceptance. There is very little politics in the film (basically just an oblique reference to Gore's pain over the Presidential election, leading into "And so I started giving the slide show again..."). As for dramatization, if that gets people into the theater and helps keep them awake long enough to pay attention to the science, so much the bettter. Most of the film is about science, and it does a good job of that. --raypierre]

  2. 2
    Steve Jenkins says:

    It’s a great idea to provide this link for science teachers to get a free copy of An Inconvenient Truth. Since the deadline is very soon, it’s important to get the word to as many K-12 science teachers as possible, as quickly as possible. I plan to contact the science coordinator for my local school district to see if he or she can pass the message along to science teachers in the district; others might want to do the same.

  3. 3
    Vern Johnson says:

    Canadian teachers would almost certainly like to take advantage of an offer like this if US teachers don’t know on what side their bread is buttered, but the application form for a “free” copy ( who actually pays for these reproductions?) is designed to apparently preclude any out of USA teachers from applying and this is short-sighted.

    [Response: As I understand it, these are the same 50,000 DVDs that producer Laurie David originally offered to NSTA. The physical cost of a DVD is trivial, but I don't know if David had to pay anything to Paramount for rights. It could be that the implied cost of rights (a true opportunity cost, so far as Paramount is concerned) were donated, but I haven't been able to find any details about the financial arrangement. I absolutely agree with you that Canadian teachers need this film every bit as much as American ones. Hopefully, there will be a second round if this one gets a good response. --raypierre]

  4. 4
    Bill Durbin says:

    I wrote a comment some months ago, calling attention to this absurdity. I’m pleased to see you highlight it, and I hope your readership includes many science teachers. Hopefully, in addition to taking advantage of the link you provide for a free copy of the DVD, these teachers will, enmass, challenge the leadership of their professional organization.

    [Response: Indeed, I noticed and appreciated your comment when I was catching up on the comments of the past few weeks. We ought to have publicized the DVD giveaway earlier, but better late than never. --raypierre]

  5. 5
    Gene Hawkridge says:

    The Federal Way School District Board of Directors in Federal Way, Washington, has acted to curtail showing of this film. Technically, the Board decreed that in order to get permission to show it, teachers must also have someone provide opposing viewpoints to the film. However, I think anyone can see that this will effectively prevent it from being shown in anything like a fair light, if it is shown at all.

    I am happy to report that in my own school district, Northshore School District (Bothell, Kenmore, Woodinville, WA) that with the consent of a school principal, the film can be shown.

    Whatever the shortcomings of An Inconvenient Truth, it deserves a viewing by students. Yes, the film appears to be accurate. It shortcomings come in the area of policy prescriptions. No mention is made of the benefits of nuclear power to reducing green-house gas emissions, and no mention is made of the future need for people living in places like Bangladesh to be able to migrate freely as their country is inundated. The film seems to say that if we act quickly, we can prevent the worst effects of global warming. However, it is clear to me that such action will not be soon enough to prevent significant rise in sea level as the ice cap of Greenland and Antarctica melt. We must plan for rising sea levels, not keep pretending that we can still prevent it.

    [Response: Should "An Inconvenient Truth" have done more to indicate the nature of the changes in our economy that would be needed in order to head off the worst effects of climate change? This is an interesting and valid question, as is the question about whether the film should have talked about the need (or possibility) to adapt to that part of climate change which is already inevitable. I myself don't see any part of the film that could be cut out without compromising the presentation of the science, or the essential drama of the presentation. So should the film have been made longer? Or was it wise to just concentrate on the science, which, in comparison to the wealth of possible different policy alternatives to solve the problem, is relatively settled? Without having an answer in hand, I'd hope we could all agree that if everybody at least understood the science underpinning the forecasts of global warming, we'd all be ahead of the game. --raypierre]

  6. 6
    John Cross says:

    The article in the Seattle Post is very disturbing.

  7. 7

    This film is as much political and biographical in nature as it is scientific. Though I agree that we need educational materials to illustrate climate change, this isn’t it. This film, thought its conclusions are essentially correct, treats science the same way that people who believe in Bigfoot do.

    Though I firmly advocate educating the public on anthropogenic global warming (see links to my newspaper articles elsewhere on this site)I do not recommend this film to do it.

  8. 8
    PeterW says:

    I would think an Inconvenient Truth has made 90% of the money it will make. Maybe instead of giving away 50,000 copies to teachers it might be a better idea to wave restrictions on copying the movie. The original goal of the movie was to educate as many people as possible about global warming wasn’t it? Heck why not post it on YouTube.

    [Response: The financial aspects of the film industry are a mystery to me, but while Gore and the director may be in it for education, Paramount is definitely in it for the money, at least in part. The film appeared briefly on YouTube in an unauthorized posting, but was removed at the request of Paramount. Usually film companies count on eking out a second wave of profit from the DVD release, then go on to deeper discounting. My hope is that after the first wave, the discounting will be deep and fast on this one, but that's in the hands of the beancounters at Paramount Note that I'm not against profit. It cost money to produce and distribute a film like this, and there's considerable financial risk involved. In the spirit of free markets and capitalism, if there's money to be made by making films that educate the public, it increases the pool of capital available to make such films. That shouldn't be the only way to produce educational materials, but it does open up an additional avenue. --raypierre]

  9. 9
    Doug Kelley says:

    There’s nothing wrong with controversy in science, and political disagreements are inevitable and complicated when political decisions must be made about issues with scientific and technical content. Citizen-scientists don’t have more or less right than any other citizens to express their political views, but as scientists, we hold a responsibility to clearly and forthrightly identify the limits of the science we describe. Perhaps this film can provide an example — both good and bad — of how to do this.

    One would hope that these incidents may further provide an opportunity to discuss both the need and limitations of scientific discussion of policy issues, clearly exposing the damaging nature of the “war on science” of recent years.

    Yes there is controversy about global warming, but the legitimate controversy is over what to do about it rather than whether it exists. Focusing the debate where it belongs would be an extremely beneficial outcome.

  10. 10
    Mark A. York says:

    When you talk to average Republicans, they equate it with Michael Moore’s films. That’s going to affect half the country. Since they don’t and refuse to understand the issue, it’s easy to make this claim. It’s also difficult selling my novel “Warm Front” that answers Crichton. “Global warming is an issue. Where is the plot?” one agent said. Yet Crichton, albeit a famous novelist could sell the “greedy NGO eco-terrorist hype” plot effortlessly in New York. It’s very telling.

  11. 11
    teacher ocean says:

    Censorship of any kind is ridiculous. Thanks for the blog and for alerting us to the 50,000 free DVDs.

  12. 12
    Rod B. says:

    I have to disagree with the basic thrust here. I don’t approve why you, as a scientist, readily ignore the non-scientific sidebars and the scientific errors in Algore’s partisan movie so it can/should be shown as “objective scientific truth” in a high school science class. It seems compromising the science is no big deal as long as the political bent is in the right direction and more converts can be gained.

    At the same token, I would be willing to show it (I’m a teacher pro tem) along with counter arguments (or at least pointing out the deficiencies and uncertainties) as a decent, if less than perfect, representation. Arm the students with the facts, not necessarily evenly balanced, and let them decide. (btw, I fall on the same fence over the evolution, creationism, intelligent design stuff, although I’m not sure what this has to do with anything.)

    On the other side of the coin I agree that NSTA shouldn’t be so paranoid and insecure to not allow or even support its use, done appropriately. Outright censoring of the film seems pretty stupid. NSTA’s support of “Clouds of Global-Warming Hysteria” does seem hypocritical, and their motives seem a bit murky — I don’t like that either. Though I doubt Exxon-Mobil is anywhere near the boogyman implied…

    [Response: Your reference to "Algore" is a red flag right up front with regard to your objectivity. Care to tell us precisely what "scientific errors" exist in the movie (other than the minor issues already pointed out by us?) --mike]

  13. 13
    cat black says:

    The US education system is being increasingly run as a corporation, at least here in California, and it should come as no surprise whatever that the NSTA comes down on the side of a large corporation with regards to this issue. I’m surprised that anyone is surprised actually.

    Likewise, I think it should come as no surprise when parents demand that this film not be shown in schools. My wife and I are raising our children to fully understand the impending catastrophe (we are homeschooling and have a strong natural science core) and have made significant reductions in our (already tiny) carbon foot print. But my wife was just the other day discussing AGW with a neighboring mother of school-age children, who said that she herself was terrified at the prospects for AGW and was concerned about what discussion of this future would have on her children, so she didn’t mention it.

    There are MANY families in the country doing exactly the same thing, which is a combination of anxiety management and steadfast denial. In part this is “spare the children” thinking. Also in part it is not wanting to accept that a way of life is ending and that the future for our children, how (or even if) they will live and work as adults, is unclear. Likewise there is an element of intellectual laziness born of too much TV and not enough critical thinking. And I suppose another element is guilt, because if parents found the need to explain all this to their children then they will likewise have to admit to having played their part in the run-up to the disaster, and then have to explain why they aren’t changing how they conduct themselves, and then have to explain how these realities play against “I would gladly entertain any sacrifice for my children” when it appears increasingly likely that the world these children will inherit from their parents is, for all practical purposes, laid waste by greed, laziness, galloping indifference and callousness.

    So, indeed, let’s not talk about it. Better to just go ahead with what one knows and imagine that it will all “work itself out”. What is less clear is what impact this attitude will have on kids who are certainly picking up on what is happening. If they fail to accept that inaction was a good approach then the anger and disappointment they will harbor may itself become a national phenomenon. How they will act on those feelings is anyone’s guess. I hope they willingly become the change we need in the world and work to undo the sins of their fathers, and no doubt many will. But I fear too that many will break along with the shattering of their dreams and turn upon their surviving elders and their grand schemes with the fury of those that are shorn of all hope, and lost.

    I’m fairly certain few in the denialist camp have thought that far ahead.

  14. 14
    pete best says:

    In the USA there really is a issue with regard to climate change and the political right. As the USA consumes 25 % of all fossil fuel resources with 3% of the worlds population and the American way of life is non negotiable or so the politicians tell then I would deduce that a certain amount of vested interest is being leveraged in this arena although I have read that a lot of people in the USA want somehing done about climate change but enough people in power see it as a threat of some kind to the american way of life.

  15. 15
    Charles Muller says:

    Amazing discussion for me. RC baseline : “Climate science from climate scientists”. RC new policy : “Climate science from Al Gore”.

    I understand the net gain for Al Gore. Not for RC.

  16. 16
    Bob Reiland says:

    I teach physics at an independent school and have been informally talking to my students about climate change for years. Often there will be a student who tries to politicize the discussion, but I won’t go there during class time. Outside of class anything goes if the student starts the discussion.

    Our science department did get a copy of the movie, and I bought my own copy. I’ve now seen it three times with different groups.

    Recently, at the request of one of my students, I wrote an article that should be in a student publication next month on basic points of climate change driven by increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide. At the end of the article I offered to discuss the issues further with anyone interested. The article is really in response to a previous article written by a student that got absolutely every factual point about climate change wrong. In a bit of web searching I found a website that seemed to be the source of all of the misinformation. I talked to the student about the lack or references and the generally poor scholarship. Now our students will get another set of information with citations.

    Last year our Environmental Science teacher asked me for a good source of information on climate science that students could readily follow. I told him about RealClimate.org, along with a few other sources. I’ve been reading journal articles on this topic for about 10 years, and RealClimate is a great resource for filling in the gaps that I can’t otherwise bridge.

    Thanks!

  17. 17
    Michael Mott says:

    I find it very enlightening to read the broad spectrum of opinion on this subject and as a layman with little scientific background. However I think that I have a reasonable grasp of what is happening to the globe climate wise. I recently visited the Athabasca Glacier in the Rocky Mountains between Banff and Jasper in Canada, I live within a few hundred miles of the place. I was absolutly astounded by how much retreat this glacier has made since I last saw it ten years ago. Thousands of feet in ten years.
    The education we receive as adults is just as critical in my view as it is when we are children. because as adults who believe we are responsible for our own behaviour, it behooves us to be open and to continue learning about what is going on around us, I realize this is probably sounding a little like “preaching to the converted”. but I think that the tool that we are currently using “the internet” might just help those few who lead the many,(just look at any government in the world)to gain a broader perspective as well.
    One source of knowledge is a very dangerous thing in my opinion, and the role that “Media” plays could really help! When the mindset finally kicks in that we are all members of a spieces co habit a rather small spot in the universe. The earth is the only one we have for the foseeable near future, I seems that preparing for worste case is better that pretending that all is well. or that the observable sign are nothing to worry about.

    regards Michael Mott

  18. 18
    John Cross says:

    Rod B: Your comment highlights the problem. You feel that there are counter arguments out there that should be highlighted so I would request that you point them out.

    I am afraid that in the rush to present “balanced” arguments the media has given the impression that “the truth is out there” – i.e. there exists a solid counter argument that, for whatever reason, has not been brought to light. However I have never seen such an argument (and I have spent quite a while tracking down various ones).

  19. 19
    Mark A. York says:

    I couldn’t get their search to find anything if I designated “global warming” specifically. Maybe they removed it?

    [Response: I think I also tried some searches under things like "climate change," but it also depends on which search box you are using. The NSTA site seems to have different search engines for different parts of their site, which don't share a general search space. There actually is some useful information buried in some of the Earth Science material, and some of the joint workshops between NSTA and NASA have touched on what look to be worthwhile subjects regarding climate change (notably on arctic ice). But the main problem is that whatever climate change information there may be on the site is disorganized and hard to find. It really needs to be improved and collected under a single rubric, rather like they do with evolution. Perfectly aside from whatever is going on with regard to the ExxonMobil funding issue, the second-rate coverage of Earth Science on the site is generally consistent with my impression that modern Earth Science is not well understood or held in particularly high regard by much of the K-12 education community. It's often viewed as a poor cousin to physics, centered more on weather and rocks than physics of climate, and a kind of ghetto for the math-challenged student. NSTA should be leading the charge to change that, and global warming provides an excellent focal point for introducing quantitative physical concepts governing climate of planets. --raypierre]

  20. 20
    Ed G. says:

    I was surprised that there was little, if any, content on AGW as a likely cause of some of the problems that are shown in the archived PowerPoint presentations from the NSTA web seminars on such provocative topics as “The Oceanâ��s Role in Weather and Climate”, “Hurricanes”, and “Coral Ecosystems” from people who, I would think, have impeccable credentials (e.g. from NOAA). see http://institute.nsta.org/web_seminars.asp and http://institute.nsta.org/web_seminars_archive.asp

  21. 21
    Paul M says:

    We are screwed. The Artic ice is melting and all we can come up with is 50,000 free copies of An Inconvenient Truth? Does anyone else besides myself see the absurdity in this whole thread? God forbid Paramount release the rights. I know the situation is serious, but this thread gave me a good laugh. If mankind had even small chance of saving ourselves this video would be free on YouTube.

  22. 22
    pete best says:

    Dear RC

    Maybe all of the worlds meetings on climate change, the stern report and an inconvenient truth and the rest of it has led to this:

    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1989997,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1#article_continue

    Maybe the current US administration might cut some CO2 after all nationally.

  23. 23
    Lou Grinzo says:

    This is a fascinating, albeit sometimes depressing, discussion. I’ve begun giving talks to local schools (7th and 8th graders, Rochester, NY area) about energy issues, and the teachers I’ve spoken/worked with have no problem with using An Inconvenient Truth as a resource.

    When I talk about the future of electricity generation, all I have to do is show them the presentation slide that details how much CO2 is emitted by coal plants and I instantly have their attention. They find it inconceivable that we adults could do something so obviously boneheaded as generate 50% of our electricity that way (a view I share most days). I usually wind up issuing a generational apology by the end of my presentation.

    And I always make sure to point them and their teachers to to RC for all their climate science needs.

  24. 24
    BirdAdvocate says:

    Fifty years ago I never believed the end of the world theories. The mercury levels in fish and the near extinction of polar bears, among other things have convinced me. The human race is in a whole lot of trouble.

  25. 25
    Todd Albert says:

    Unfortunately, the 50,000 DVD giveaway is restricted to certain states, including Florida.

    As for the NSTA, I am not renewing my membership! Get Exxon out of Education!

  26. 26
    Thom says:

    Maybe we just need to all understand that different groups endorse different understandings of science. Real Climate and other science groups endorse Al Gore’s movie, National Review endorses Michael Crichton, and a writer for Reason Magazine, with no training in science, endorses Roger Pielke Jr in today’s Boston Globe.

    http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/

    Sometimes we have to just agree that there are many ways of knowing.

  27. 27
    Al Bedo says:

    The biggest scientific problem I found
    with AIT is the continued use of the
    paleoclimatic correlation between
    CO2 and proxy temperature.

    Since there is now consensus that
    temperature led CO2, and since there is
    good evidence that the increased
    windiness of glacials caused the
    drops in CO2, the correlation
    is irrelevant to industrial age CO2.

    Ignoring this fact is dishonestly
    misleading the public.

    [Response: If the argument was simply that CO2 and temp are correlated in the past and therefore that temperatures will rise if CO2 does, you would be correct. However, this is not what is claimed by either the scientific community nor Al Gore. The statements in AIT are that the CO2 and temperature curves 'fit' and that the relationship is complex, but causal in both directions. This is based not just on Vostok curves themselves, but from tons of ancilliary evidence that demonstrates that CO2 (and methane and N2O) changes explain just under half the temperature changes seen in the glacial records. The pacemaker for the ice ages is the insolation variability due to orbital forcings, which are amplified by GHG feedbacks. Thus good correlations are to be expected, as are slight lags in CO2. -gavin]

    [Response:Look here for another way to say the same thing. David]

  28. 28
    David Graves says:

    I am in the wine business. Many of RC’s readers may have seen the story in USA Today about the PNAS paper by White, Diffenbaugh, Jones, Pal and Giorgi about the implications of climate change for premium winemaking in western North America. I get lots of questions about AGW and wine. So, in relation to #15 by Charles Muller, I would observe that the way into the science of the AGW discussion for many lay people *is* AIC. I would ask Mr. Muller to 1)propose another means of putting the discussion at the fore and 2)other than what loyal RC readers already know about ways AIC may have “pushed” the science, what about the basic argument is fundamentally flawed? (see Andrew Dessler’s blog for a report about AIC training in Nashville. Worth a read.) The only better thing I can think of as a means to communicate to a large cross section of America is primetime combination of Americam Idol and Survivor. mike, gavin and raypierre on one team would compete with s. fred, Pat Michaels and Richard Lindzen. I want to sign up to be Simon Cowell, and I suggest that by the next AGU meeting, we can have all the details worked out.

  29. 29
    Drake Milton says:

    It’s a good film but it is not the only game in town. Tom Brokaw’s show on the Discovery Channel was far more appropriate for the science classroom.

    [Response: The Brokaw/Discovery Channel documentary was excellent, and would be very useful in the classroom. Perhaps someone in this forum can provide a link to where this can be purchased. -mike]

  30. 30
    cat black says:

    re #26 [different views] People don’t really have “different views of science” like they might have different views regarding — oh, say– race horses. Either the data and sound scientific theory are there, or they ain’t. And if it’s there and you have another view about reality, then you’re not a scientist. Rather you’re a kook, like those people who come up with perpetual motion machines all the time despite the laws of thermodynamics. Wacky science isn’t real science. And lumping bonafides like Jim Hansen and the folk behind RC into the same category as Michael Crichton is way more than I can take.

    [Response: Reminds me of the famous quote by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, "Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts." -mike]

  31. 31
    Rod B. says:

    re my #12 and its response, and #18
    Isn’t Algore a term of endearment?? No, I am not a fan of Mr. Gore in a number of areas and don’t try to hide it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t objectively assess his movie or anything else he professes or does. One counterpoint: I think he got a sound bite bum wrap over his “invention of the internet” thing. While, true, he didn’t invent it, he was in fact extremely influential and supportive in making what the internet is today, back then as a Senator driving the White House’s Office of Telecommunications Policy and the National Science Foundation.

    I am satisfied with the “anamolies” in Al Gore’s movie that RC pointed out. There’s likely more, but aren’t these enough? I simply think an educator ought to point out the chinks, counterpoints, and slight discrepancies, not just espouse the unmitigated dogma. Now it doesn’t have to be a 50-50 balance. I don’t even know how to figure the balance arithmetic — what is it if 1) “most scientists say this” and 2) “some [equally capable even if secular] scientists say otherwise”? It is pure religious fervor to deny, or not even be able to find… for heaven’s sake!, credible opposition. The only way not to be able to find counter arguments out there is to dumb them down and classify them as sinful and therefore without merit where ever seen. Maybe censor them if we can. A scientist who permits no iota or vestige of contrary analysis is mis-titled. And, btw, I see a preponderance of distinctly unbalanced reporting of GW in the media.

    re #14 by pete: It astounds me how climate science and global warming can be either a right- or a left-defined issue. Though I have to admit that it seems to be. Likewise I fail to see the connection between climate science and the “3% of the people using 25% of the resources” so-called issue. Maybe the left wants us to get down to 3% resource use (then we’ll all be equal and all will be fair, I guess) and think GW is a nice fitting means to the end. Though that also strikes me as an odd non sequitur.

    I whole-heartedly support the notion that NSTA do a significantly better job of arranging and providing climate/global warming science. If Exxon fights them (which I intuitively doubt, as opposed to NSTA’s paranoia maybe) they just have to stand their ground and maybe lose some funding or otherwise change their name and/or mission.

  32. 32

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/horsey/viewbydate.asp?id=1529

    Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist David Horsey’s take on the Federal Way school district board’s decision.

  33. 33
    Geordie says:

    I feel like showing the Al Gore movie is not at all the best way to teach a science class. If it were there would not be education degrees simply DVD players with all the best science movies cued up to play. Obviously people teach and don’t show movies because it is better. Discussions, experiments, etc. are better ways to learn. Of course sometimes movies are good usually because you have a supply teacher coming in or you and and the students just need an hour with the lights off to seperate yourselves from the hectic environment created by 35 students being forced to learn. Also I don’t think this movie would be the one I would show, a more concise shorter film would be better suited for a classroom.

    This very generous offer, should be taken, but the movie should be available in the library or the student body adminstration could show it after school on a movie night. If one of my classes asked to watch it I would probably show snippits or show it at lunch hour.

    Another problem is the controversy, regular schools try to stay away from any controversy because it gets you fired. You said it was similar to the Darwin vs. ID debate which most schools still try to steer clear of. The theory of evolution is still in debate after about 140 yrs and they have so much supporting evidence it can’t compare to anything Real Climate or the IPCC could come up with in our lifetimes.

    [Response: A science teacher who had taken, say, Dave Archer's global warming class at U. of Chicago wouldn't need "An Inconvenient Truth". He or she could present the same material in a way that was much better integrated into the curriculum. The world is not ideal, though, and there are plenty of science teachers out there (esp. in middle schools) who don't have science degrees in the areas they are teaching in, or at least are not as current on the science as Gore is in the film. It is for these that the film would be most valuable. Even for completely savvy teachers, the engaging style of presentation in the film might be an aid to getting discussion going. On the subject of controversy and evidence for evolution vs. evidence for CO2-induced global warming, I'd say both are well supported but that in some ways the case for anthropogenic global warming is a bit more straightforward. That's because its mostly physical science rather than biology. We have quantitative mathematical representations of far more of the process, and ways of testing individual bits in a more straightforward way (as in laboratory measurements of infrared absorption by CO2). Evolution proceeds slowly, and while there are definitely cases where it can be observed in action, reading the fossil record presents difficulties that are in some ways more challenging than reading the paleoclimate record. There are cases where the difficulties are comparable (e.g. figuring out Cretaceous CO2 levels, or making sense of satellite measurements of tropical lapse rate trends) but on the whole, we know how to take a reductionist approach to climate better than we know how to take a reductionist approach to biology. --raypierre]

  34. 34
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Re 18:
    >…there exists a solid counter argument that, for whatever reason, has not been brought to light. However I have never seen such an argument (and I have spent quite a while tracking down various ones).

    Try looking here:
    http://www.staff.livjm.ac.uk/spsbpeis/WE-STERN.pdf

    for a well documented summary (of the climate science and economics) of why warming may be much smaller than some estimates, and why moderate warming is not likely to be especially serious.

    [Response: In the present context, we're discussing the scientific validity of the link between likely CO2 increases and substantial warming, so it's just the "scientific" (and not the economic) parts of the above linked article that are on the table. With regard to that, one should note that this article appeared in an economics journal not a science journal, and I seriously doubt whether the supposedly scientific section of this article would have passed muster in a peer reviewed scientific journal, where it would have been read by atmospheric scientists. Among other things the article complains about are that cosmic rays aren't taken into account in models, and that nobody has yet "solved" the Navier-Stokes equation. Smoke and mirrors. I have approved this post not because it has any useful information, but so that readers can amuse themselves by shooting down the errors in the reasoning. Note also that a statement like "warming may be much smaller than some estimates," even if true, doesn't address the basic issue on the table. The question isn't whether we might get lucky and duck a bullet, but whether there is a significant chance that the more dire predictions might come to pass. --raypierre]

  35. 35
    raypierre says:

    In looking over the blog responses, I came across an excellent and detailed discussion of the circumstances surrounding NSTA and the attempted DVD donation at http://udoj.wordpress.com/2006/12/10/the-nsta-is-feeding-us-a-line/ . This is particularly illuminating with regard to the analysis of the flaws in NSTA’s response to Laurie David’s Op-Ed. What is particularly telling is that in 2003 — fully two years after the policy supposedly went into effect regarding product endorsements and distributing unsolicited material — NSTA distributed 20,000 copies of a Conoco/Phillips video. That’s pretty damning in itself, but according the the above referenced write-up, the video quotes at least one well-known global warming skeptic.

  36. 36
    Hugh Curran says:

    Someone in this thread placed a link to Cathy Young’s article in “Reason”. I quote the following:
    “Similarly, those on the left who embrace environmentalism as their substitute religion don’t want to hear about scientific and technological solutions to climate change — from nuclear power to geoengineering, the artificial manipulation of the global environment — that do not include stepping up regulation and curbing consumption.”

    I’m not sure who these people are who “embrace environmentalism as their substitute religion”. I’ve been teaching ecology courses for several years and have yet to run into a student who regards environmentalism as a substitute religion. Most of the students, who might be construed as “those on the left”, are eager to hear of possible “technological solutions”. I detect a growing bitterness among students concerning, not only the misinformation presented in the media in the interests of balance, but the discouraging environmental legacy being left them. They ask serious questions about “technological solutions” and whether these will result in contributing to the serious environmental problems they will be facing.

  37. 37
    Craig Allen says:

    Unfortunately, regardless of the merit of the film’s content, the presenter is a former politician who a substantial portion of the politically active American population voted against not that long ago.

    Given this, it’s not surprising that many people consider the film and the choice to screen it as being political.

    I think that there is room for someone to make another film on the same topic that is explicitly designed for the classroom and using a presenter who is less likely to get political hackles up.

    Of course this is a monumental duplication of effort. But in reality it may be the only effective way to get such a product into the education system. Or for the information to be made available to the wider right-wing public.

    [Response:As noted above, the US population is only ~4% of the worlds estimated people count, and consumes 25% of the energy. Also, in other countries, the DVD is distributed to schools (politics is not an issue, as far as I know). So in the future, Americans may risk bumping into people from outside the US who know much more about Al Gore's view and about climate change, but I suppose that will only be embarrassing for the person... In addition to conveying scientific messages, the film may also assist shaping our world view and affect modern culture(?). It's a good starting point for discussion, and prompts people to start to think. Isn't that what we want to happen in schools? -rasmus]

  38. 38
    Mark A. York says:

    I’m a biologist and journalist by profession and training, albeit not at the Ph.D level by any means. Al Gore is a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism as well as a former Senator and Vice-President. He’s a forward thinker, but alas much reviled in a large political camp.

    Did anyone catch the key quote in the SP-I Federal Way story?

    Here’s what I chose to portray the so-called argument in my blog post.

    “Condoms don’t belong in school, and neither does Al Gore. He’s not a schoolteacher,” said Frosty Hardison, a parent of seven who also said that he believes the Earth is 14,000 years old. “The information that’s being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. … The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn’t in the DVD.”

    NASA versus the Raelians shouldn’t be a choice at this stage of the game but sadly it is.

  39. 39
    Hank Roberts says:

    >a substantial portion … voted against
    Hey, the majority of voters that year preferred Bush or Nader to Gore.

    Makes no never mind.

    The film isn’t an icon, Gore isn’t a founder,
    and this http://images.google.com/images?q=tbn:fpNpXMe3rBl_QM:http://i23.ebayimg.com/02/i/07/fc/5e/dd_2.JPG
    isn’t a hockey stick.

  40. 40
    Mark A. York says:

    Ray,

    “Earth Science is not well understood or held in particularly high regard by much of the K-12 education community. It’s often viewed as a poor cousin to physics, centered more on weather and rocks than physics of climate, and a kind of ghetto for the math-challenged student.”

    Certainly. It was in my day too, and that was back in the temporary “cooling” period. Too dumb for Physics general ed. I’m seeing specific faces from 1970 as I write this. Dead on.

  41. 41
    Eli Rabett says:

    For those in the Bay Area, there will be a session on learning how to communicate about climate change on Feb 18 at the AAAS National meeting. With video….:)

  42. 42
    Ike Solem says:

    Science films are great for getting students interested in science – everything from Stephen Hawkings’s “Brief History of Time” to the film on insect life, “Microcosmos” and the close relative, “Winged Migration”, as well as “An Inconvenient Truth” are worth showing as introductions in science classes. Films help to get students interested in the material, after which they will be willing to put in the long hours of effort needed to become familiar with complex topics – so there’s no reason at all that NSTA should have refused to distribute this film.

    Perhaps this NSTA press release is relevant: Oct, 2002 â�� The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and ExxonMobil Foundation announced today the funding of a new program in Arizona, â��Building a Presence for Scienceâ��. ExxonMobil also has a member on the group’s corporate advisory board… no special interests allowed?

    After looking up some of the other ‘educational materials’ offered through NSTA and following their web support links, I came across this ‘teaching scenario’ on oil spills:

    “Two days later, there is a loud group working at the back of the room. It’s the economists. As they approach, the teacher observes that they are not a happy bunch. “There is too much writing to this job, and statistics are boring! We are stuck trying to write an Environmental Impact statement. There are too many regulations.”"

    Really, the more I look the worse it gets. “NSTA Recommends: Ice Ages of the Future!”… and on and on. They also recommend a book by Kenneth Green, “Global Warming: Understanding the Debate”; he’s cited by Senator Inhofe (along with Pat Michaels) as a signatory of this statement:

    “”There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate. Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth.”

    As the tobacco industry says, “You’ve got to get to them when they’re young.”

  43. 43
    Craig Allen says:

    Continuing my thoughts in #35, and the sentiment in #28 …

    Climate change is the ultimate theme in terms of reality drama, so how about this concept:

    A five episode series, designed for TV screening and to be remade every year. It would cover the science, the politics, the economics, the personalities involved, the behind-the-scenes cloak and dagger, and the real world impacts on environment, communities and society. Enough happens with this juggernaught in each and every year to keep us all gripping our seats in anticipation of each exciting annual instalment. How will it end? Will we wake up in time to turn it around? Is it going to be the catastrophe that some predict? Or does it turn out to all be a big beat-up after all and destined to be assigned to the science scrap-heap along with phlogiston and Piltdown man.

    It would be a kind of popular version of the IPCC report only delivered more regularly, more digestibly and without all the watering down.

    And the denialists would make for great comic relief!

    Mr Gore what do you think? You could sponsor it, but then let it be made independently.

  44. 44
    Hank Roberts says:

    I’m not cynical enough yet. Good finds, those. So that’s — education, they call it?

    http://ed.fnal.gov/linc/fall96/projects/jmueller/scen.htm
    “… The first two days of this unit are spent gathering background information on oil spill disasters by investigating the Exxon Valdez spill … it is not a current event, it has the advantage of being well documented and the results of clean up efforts can be evaluated. Some mistakes were made ….Amy wants more information about how many birds were lost and what the cost per bird was.”

    Well, the above is snipped from the info our teachers get provided for free.

    It’s as bogus as the stuff we were being fed in the 1950s, on its face.

    And scientific info? Available to those with paid subscriptions or a better library.
    Let kids look at current sources instead of the old news? Not the way to raise them Right.

    Long-Term Ecosystem Response to the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill –
    CH Peterson, SD Rice, JW Short, D Esler, JL Bodkin â�¦ – Science, 2003

    Exxon Valdez: The Disaster Continues — Unger, ScienceNOW 16 May 2006

  45. 45
    PHE says:

    If I were a science teacher, I would not show the film to my students unless it was part of a wider debate. A principal reason is that Al Gore is a politician and not a scientist. Whether or not you agree with what he says in the film, you have to question his own motives. Politicians are generally more interested in saving their own careers rather than the world, and for Gore I believe the subject is a convenient emotive hobby horse.

    In addition, the bias in the film is shocking. There are quite a few examples. The most significant is during the most dramatic part of the film – the graph of historic CO2 variations against temperature changes. You have to ask why Gore ‘forgot’ to mention that historically, temperature rises have preceded CO2 rises. This is just one example. As a scientist, I can not accept this type of economy with the truth as a way to teach science.

    [Response:This is a non issue. All the record tells us is that warming started without CO2 as a cause, but once CO2 started rising, it amplified the initial warming. The climate sensitivity to CO2, as deduced from the glacial climate and CO2 levels, is consistent with all the rest of the estimates. You need lower CO2 in order to create an ice age, and you need it to rise in order to get out of it. David]

    In fact, you devalue the quality and credibility of Realclimate by supporting the film. It is apparent to me that the reason you support it is because it provides the conclusions you want, irrespective of the credibiity of the presenter or the quality of the arguments.

    [Response:As to credibility and self-interest, I'd say there's more self-interest on the denial side of the global warming argument. If there were a way to get rich by advocating cuts in CO2 emissions, State of Fear would have had a more believable plot. As it was, the eco-terrorists were reduced to generating a tsunami, although I can't remember exactly how Crichton spun that as to their advantage. As to the quality of the arguments, I'd say they're better than the quality of many of the "despise Al Gore" comments to this post. David]

  46. 46
    Craig Allen says:

    Rasmus, Regarding your response to my #37 post.

    Clearly we do need this to be discussed in schools and throughout the wider community. I just don’t think that AIT has the capacity to do this in the US to anywhere near the extent necessary. We can poke fun at a few schools that ban it, and we can wring our hands over the motives of the NSTA. But the fact is that a documentary presented by a former Democratic Presidential candidate was always going to be seen as political and will not be readily accepted by people on the right of politics. It doesn’t matter that the science is pretty good, or that it is well made, or that the message is important. If a substantial proportion of the most sceptical segment of the population refuses to watch it, that reality has to be faced. It doesn’t matter if scientists and environmentalists think this is an sad state of affairs. It just is. That fact needs to be taken on board and addressed in future attempts to get the message across, whether by Mr Gore or anyone else.

    The seemingly compromised nature of the NSTA is an issue unto itself and should be pursued as a separate although obviously interlinked issue. But don’t let that be an excuse to ignore the inability of the AIT format to get market share with the global warming message.

  47. 47
    Edward Greisch says:

    RE: 22 “Dear RC
    Maybe all of the worlds meetings on climate change, the stern report and an inconvenient truth and the rest of it has led to this:
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk/world/story/0,,1989997,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=1#article_continue
    Maybe the current US administration might cut some CO2 after all nationally.
    Comment by pete best â 15 Jan 2007 @ 4:10 pm ”

    Pete, your URL is messed up, but by going to
    http://observer.guardian.co.uk
    I eventually got to a recent British Treasury report on the cost of global warming by Sir Nicholas Stern. The report says that says that doing nothing will eventually prove more costly than trying to avert catastrophe. The report is available at:
    http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics_climate_change/stern_review_report.cfm
    PS: I am not the same person as Ed G.

  48. 48
    Matt says:

    Well i’m no science teacher, but i am a science graduate which is just as good and an industrial analyst (mining, don’t stone me yet!). I agree with what y’all are doing here, but Al Gore’s movie is a dogs breakfast. Greenhouse thugs beating up mister sun rays, fun, but “lets skip over the science” as Al says. Glaciers retreating?, well how bad was the industrial revolution in 1900, bad, maybe but if the shit has been hitting the fan since 1850 we are screwed because there were so many less people then than there are now. Hell glaciers have been retreating in New Zealand since 1750, of course it is a shame about those other glaciers around the world…

    [Response:Glaciers have been retreating, at least in the north, since the end of the little ice age, but the accelerated retreat in recent decades is due to warming in recent decades, which is due to greenhouse gases. ]

    Kilimanjaro suffers from lack of ice (deforestation?), lake chad dissapears, a shallow lake to start with, but now surrounded by an exponentially increasing population of ‘peasant’ farmers draining it for irrgation etc.

    [Response:Kilimanjaro is melting, as are almost all of the rest of the glaciers of the world. Good evidence for warming on a global scale. There may be other factors involved at Kilimanjaro but the larger truth remains. No problem there. ]

    Tuvaluans feeing to New Zealand, rubbish, we get less tuvaluans every year than fijians or samoans, yet Gore says they all fled over here relying on American lack of knowledge of the pacific region. How about this for a poll, a TV straw poll (not very scientific granted) showed many Americans thought New Zealand was in the mediterranean, ha!

    [Response:Tuvaluans are evacuating because of rising sea levels. What does it matter about Fijians and Samoans?]

    The real problem with Global warming is this. We have a lot of people, too many in fact and they are draining the worlds resources, the only country taking action on this is China, go figure.

    Anyway to cut a long story short, there are enough falsehoods in Gore’s movie to make it unworthy of viewing by learning students, it doesn’t mention the absorbtion qualities of carbon dioxide or what makes it special compared with other atmospheric constituents.

    [Response:To cut a long response short, What falsehoods?]

    Oh yeah the Kyoto protocol is a load of junk. Growing trees to offset carbon dioxide production. Only works if you cut them down and make them nto furniture and houses, otherwise you just make it worse. Everyone knows the ocean is the only carbon sink worth it’s salt and it’s reacting big time as anyone who knows the “red tide” off florida will tell you.

    [Response:I agree that reforestation is a dicey way to offset carbon emissions. That doesn't make Kyoto junk. Also, red tide has nothing to do with ocean absorption of CO2. ]

    Keep up the good work but when it comes to the Al Gore movie turn off those blinkers, I don’t think you were looking hard enough for the errors you claim aren’t there.

    [Response:My opinion is that poor Al just can't get an even break. Even people like you who seem to share his basic perspective have this need to swift-boat the guy with confusion and obfuscation. David]

    Anyway, keep up the good work

  49. 49
    Matt says:

    To those who don’t get the whole carbon dioxide following the raising temperature trend I think there is a really easy explanation for it.

    Once there was a dinosaur and his loving partner. They loved the warmth. the world warmed up and hey produced lots of little babies. So did all the other dinosaurs and the trees flourished and rotted and created massive plumes of methane.

    The dinosaurs replicated in the favourable conditions until they overwhelmed their environment and then the carbon levels spiked. Gradually natural cooling conditions reduced the favourable breeding conditions and the dinosaurs faded, yippee all was well again and millions of years later i made them into a sculpture.

    Anyway, it is perfectly logical for a carbon spike to follow a temperature increase, because in the past many creatures found the temperature increase to be a favourable situation to increase population and reduce sinks by way of foraging. We really don’t know what the population on the earth was say a million years ago so the logic can be maintained.

    However this is bad for us because the same logic would show that we have a lot of carbon increase, due to increasing population, to come due to technological favourible conditions for breeding. Like I say, too many humans and no sane answer to the problem.

  50. 50

    Re “Response:As noted above, the US population is only ~4% of the worlds estimated people count, and consumes 25% of the energy.”

    The United States also produces 25% of the world’s goods and services. Concentrating only on US resource use gives a distorted picture.

    [Response: But, given that we have a monster trade DEFICIT, we also consume more than 25% of the worlds goods and services. Your argument would be relevant only if we were exporting a substantial part of that 25% of the worlds' production. Which raises the interesting carbon-accounting question: If we import a few megatons of rubber duckies from China, and China has burned coal to manufacture them, whom should the carbon emissions be credited against? --raypierre]


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