Coalition: Resist political influence on climate science education

— April 8, 2014

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report is yet another grim warning; man-caused greenhouse gas emissions continue to help accelerate global warming, and we can expect more natural disasters such as heat waves, rising seas, and water-and airborne-disease.

Dustin Bleizeffer

Yet as the world’s leading scientists and policymakers meet in Berlin this week to discuss what can be done about man-caused global warming, some Wyoming leaders insist that it is reckless to recognize climate change as sound, or “settled” science — particularly in a state that is 70 percent reliant on mostly carbon-heavy energy production.

In an unprecedented move, Wyoming’s legislature passed (and Republican Gov. Matt Mead refused to veto) a measure intended to block the Wyoming State Board of Education from adopting the national Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — standards that were heartily endorsed by a committee of Wyoming educators last fall after some 18 months of research to update standards for the first time in 10 years.

The reason? Chairman of the House Education Committee Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle), along with many of his colleagues, doesn’t like the climate science included in NGSS. As Teeters puts it; “I do have a problem with how they (NGSS) approach global warming in particular. … Teaching it as an absolute fact goes too far. Teaching it as a settled science bothers me,” he told WyoFile.

Rep. Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) (photo by Donn Bruns/Lifestyle Photography — click to enlarge)

Teeters and his legislative colleagues who supported the measure are joined by Gov. Mead, who has said he remains “unconvinced” of man’s role in climate change, as well as several parent organizations staunchly opposed to NGSS in addition to Common Core and other education standards.

But another coalition of educators and parents are determined to keep what they see as politicized science out of Wyoming’s classrooms. They’re banding together with science and education proponents throughout the state and the nation to encourage the Wyoming State Board of Education to adopt NGSS anyway.

Climate Parents, along with the Wyoming Science Teachers Association, Wyoming Education Association, Equality State Policy Center, and the Union of Concerned Scientists sent a letter to the board on Monday stating, “The concern of some Wyoming legislators over the inclusion of climate science in education standards is misplaced. The climate change science portion of the NGSS is, according to the American Meteorological Society, ‘firmly rooted in peer-reviewed scientific literature; as science, it is as sound as other NGSS subjects such as earthquakes and the solar system.’”

The coalition is hoping to make a strong show of support for the board and for NGSS ahead of the board’s next meeting, which is from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in Casper, at the McMurry Training Center, 2220 N. Bryan Stocktrail Drive.

The letter, signed by groups including the Wyoming Science Teachers Association, National Center for Science Education, American Meteorological Society, Wyoming Education Association and hundreds of Wyoming teachers and science supporters, says that Wyoming lawmakers overstepped their bounds in interfering with the board’s duty to choose education standards. “We urge the board to put legislative politics aside and carry out your duty to adopt 21st-century standards written by scientists and educators with the best interests of students in mind,” the group wrote in its letter to the board on Monday.

The board recently met via telephone conference to discuss whether it could or should move forward to adopt NGSS standards, struggling with the legislature’s interjection into one of its prime duties. The board voted to keep the NGSS standards on the table for now, as members weighed their options: Vote to adopt the standards and possibly infuriate lawmakers who control the Department of Education’s purse strings, or go back to the drawing board to build a new “Wyoming” set of science education standards, building it piecemeal from other state education standards across the nation.

“Politics is playing a prominent role in Wyoming education in the past several years, and it hasn’t been positive, quite honestly,” board of education member and state chairman of the Wyoming Democratic Party Pete Gosar told WyoFile. “The school kids who are supposed to be educated to compete in this world have been lost in this conversation.”

Some board members believe counsel from the Wyoming Attorney General’s office seemed to indicate the legislative language left open a window in which the board could still adopt NGSS. The legislation — actually a footnote attached to the state budget — stated the board may not incur any expenses during the next budget year to adopt the NGSS standards. The next fiscal budget year doesn’t begin until July 1.

“It is within the Board’s legal authority to take action to adopt NGSS in this fiscal year (although they are under a tight timeline, since they can’t start a process that would take them into the new fiscal year),” John Friedrich of Climate Parents told WyoFile via email. “The biggest variable is how long Governor Mead would take to make a decision.”

While politics in education is nothing new, and people have long accepted that politicians must maintain close ties to fossil fuel corporations if they’re going to win elected office in Wyoming, the proponents behind the Climate Parents movement believe the numbers — and the science — is on their side. In addition to some 300 signatures on the letter of support to the State Board of Education this week, the Climate Parents coalition has gathered some 13,000 signatures on a petition demanding “Any science standards adopted in Wyoming should be as comprehensive, thorough and peer reviewed as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and like the NGSS, must include climate science.”

Rep. Teeters insists he respects the process and authority of the State Board of Education to review and adopt education standards, although in response to charges that the legislature is interfering with the board’s duties he said, “Who gave them that duty? I think politics exists in public education just as much as in the elected legislature, and the difference is we are accountable to our constituents.”

— Dustin Bleizeffer is WyoFile editor-in-chief. He has written about Wyoming’s energy industries for 15 years. You can reach him at (307) 267-3327, or email dustin@wyofile.com. Follow Dustin on Twitter at @DBleizeffer

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Dustin Bleizeffer

Dustin Bleizeffer is a Report for America Corps member covering energy and climate at WyoFile. He has worked as a coal miner, an oilfield mechanic, and for 22 years as a statewide reporter and editor primarily...

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  1. Just look what happened to the heffalumps…..they refused to evolve and are now “teetering” on the brink of extinction thanks to this rapidly unchanging political climate………

  2. Anybody that believes the human race has not had an impact on global climate change has spent too much time in the paint shed – liberal, conservative, democrat, republican, we all need to get out of the paint shed.

    At the same time, folks that want to strictly blame coal for global climate change need to open their collective minds and look in the mirror. Coal is but one of many environmental changes the human race has imposed on this planet in a short period of time. We have all become addicted to readily available and cheap energy – with no end in site. We build nice houses, drive nice cars, watch our big screens, demand high speed internet, farm every inch of ground we can, use far more water than we need, far more electricity that we need……on and on and on. You, me, Dustin, everybody that is reading this article.

    I’m not sold absolutely 100% of global climate change is man made, but there is no way the human race has not had a material impact on our environment over the last 300-400 years.

  3. Mr. Zachary— I believe the score in the Great Anthropogenic Climate Debate presently stands at 98 to 2. The 98 percent of accredited scientists with knowledge of the subject who agree climate change has a very strong man-caused component or catalytical factor, vs. the 2 percent who are deniers of same.

    In fact, I know of few if any other scientific discourses where the peer reviewed agreement is that preponderant.

    I googled your Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. It’s pretty much one guy , a hardwood Republican , a scientist who got into politics. His field of research was biochemistry —proteins , not global climate systems.
    I also note the big petition project you linked to is totally unsubstantiated in attributing its sources. So—–????

  4. Tom,
    Thank you for your email, and thank you for your comment on my article — which should be live now. While you choose to portray global warming, and man’s role in it, as junk science, I do not have the same luxury of picking and choosing my facts. As a journalist, I am bound to present the best possible information on such matters, and I, like many other reporters and editors, have come to the conclusion that the most thoroughly-examined evidence on the matter of climate change is the consensus among scientists from around the world who contribute to the IPCC’s analysis and reporting.
    — Dustin

  5. Mr. Zachary, let me respectfully ask you something: what would you accept as proof that climate change is caused by man? I’m sincerely curious. What evidence would change your mind?

    I ask because the discourse around climate science has been clouded by rhetoric and obfuscation. The climate skeptics tend to be more vocal, yet the larger scientific community — and I accept that it’s not 100%, but it is the majority of climatologists — is confident that climate change is happening.

    And the notion that climate change science is “a fabrication to satisfy some vague academic pursuit” seems far less likely than a chemical and ecological reaction to mankind’s activities, not to mention a political and economic catastrophe to be averted at all costs by the energy industry.

  6. Mr. Bleizeffer and Mr.Nield:
    Don’t know what your ‘scientific’ bonafides are but hopefully you can be made aware of the Petition Project from Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, 2251 Dick George Road, Cave Junction, Or egon 97523 (artr@oism.org).
    In this petition over 31,476 scientists and environmental professionals (194 of us here in Wyoming alone) have expressed our opposition to the ‘theory’ (really junk science) of AGW or climate change! The current list of petition signers includes 9,029 PhD; 7,157 MS; 2,586 MD and DVM; and 12,715 BS or equivalent academic degrees.
    There have been 15x the number of PhDs sign this petition than have ever worked on the IPCCs document or staff!
    The IPCC report on Climate Change nee Global Warming is to put it bluntly, a damnable unscientific LIE! It is a hoax and why teach our children a hoax?
    Until sufficient empirical SCIENTIFIC evidence can be garnered and proven thru the scientific methodology and peer review process this can only be looked at with askance and a skeptics view.
    To further understand the ‘Petition Project’ please review the following articles:
    http://www.petitionproject.org/frequently_asked_questions.php
    http://www.petitionproject.org/gw_article/GWReview_OISM150.pdf
    I’m sure you will find them educational and illuminating!
    The fallacy of your position that somehow mankind could screw up the environment is really remarkable. And considering the lies that have permeated the “research” of the IPCC one can only believe that all of the research and report is a fabrication to satisfy some vague academic pursuit.
    Thank you for your time!
    v/r
    Tom Zachary
    Cheyenne

  7. lousewort rodgers, I might be inclined to thoughtfully consider your post if you hadn’t cut and pasted it from the Internet. I used el google and found the exact same paragraphs posted to climate change skeptic websites.

  8. The UN IPCC AR5 WGII final climate report has been released. This UN WGII report attempts to evaluate various global risks associated with future climate change. The evaluation process utilized in the WGII report relies upon global temperature projections obtained from low and high CO2 emissions climate model scenarios that were developed and addressed in the UN IPCC AR5 WGI report which was released last year.

    In the UN WGI AR5 report the climate models were shown to exaggerate and overstate projected increases in global temperatures based on CO2 levels assumed present in the atmosphere compared to actual observed global temperatures. This is extremely important given that the WGII report uses these exaggerated climate model higher global temperature projection scenarios to assess climate risks associated with increasing global CO2 levels.

    The UN AR5 WGII report utilizes these climate model exaggerated temperatures to define global risks associated with increasing CO2 levels resulting in greatly overstating future climate risks that are very likely invalid.

    Thus the WGII report analysis overstates risks for given levels of atmospheric CO2 levels since as the report notes “Risks are reduced substantially under assumed scenarios with the lowest temperature projections compared to the highest temperature projections”.
    The WGII report fails to mention or address that the AR5 WGI report showed that the CO2 driven temperature sensitivity of the earth based on actual global temperature observations is at the very lowest end of the low emissions climate model scenarios. This result reflects the consequence of the 15+ year long and growing global temperature pause which is never discussed in the UN WGII report.

    This overriding AR5 WGI lower temperature CO2 atmospheric sensitivity result is simply concealed and ignored in the AR5 WGII final report which blithely goes on to make assessment after assessment of the impacts of increasing CO2 levels based on climate model temperature projections which have been shown to grossly exaggerate and overstate the global temperature increase impacts of atmospheric CO2 levels.
    The climate model scenarios developed by the UN have other significant limitations beyond not being able to produce temperature projections that agree with measured global temperatures. These include that climate model temperature projections have no probabilities attached to their computed outcomes and that the resulting temperature projection outcomes are considered to be simply “plausible and illustrative”. Thus comparisons of climate model temperature outcomes to actually observed global temperatures is paramount to assessing whether these projections have validity.

    The failure of the UN WGII report to utilize the results of the UN WGI report which showed that climate models grossly exaggerate and overstate global temperatures and then use these same flawed climate models to establish global temperature related risks associated with atmospheric CO2 levels means that the WGII claimed climate risk findings being both overstated and invalid.

    Science can be grand, but math is sublime. Critical thinking vs. the parents politics (evangelic or environgelic), the never ending struggle of education,evolution and ecology for the benefit of Wyoming children and our future. Teach your children
    well.
    The term “Climate Parents” speaks for itself.

  9. Thank you for this well written report. In your report Mr Teeters commented that its a legisitive duty to instruct the Dept of Education on what their duties are. This is a stupid concept power. He says he is following his consituents requests which if he really understood the wording between Climate Science and Global Warming he would accept the facts not the BS from Washinton and the far removed teaparty. I’m a boardmember of a school district and i have talked to all 48 district about this and al agree that the NCSS is the best of all standards we can adopt. Just as Common Core is a label put on a set of standards (baseline knowledge acceptance) that all school district (not the federal goverment) in the US agree will be the BAR. This Bar can be is where we will hold all school district to and ensure that they will not allow children to go below it. every district can and must instruct to a highter level than this bar but never let there standards go below.
    School boards give the Dept of Eduction their duties not the legisture and If the state government would get out of the way of teaching and support the education system instead of micro managementing it our State of Education would be impowered to do the best for KIDS.l