Photo credit: Jon Ridinger (CC-By-3.0)
Photo credit: Jon Ridinger (CC-By-3.0)

Stephen Berry of Iowa Watch published an op/ed that appeared in The Des Moines Register and Cedar Rapids Gazette. Berry, promoting the Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative, made the following statement that jumped out at me.

At first, people who reject predominant scientific findings that humans are the main cause of climate change may be glad that new public-school science standards don’t require teachers to teach that.

But if inquiry-based teaching guides under development in the Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative are used, students may reach that determination on their own, educators say.

Berry’s assertion is fascinating since the Next Generation Science Standards do promote the idea of Climate Change being caused by humans. It is disingenuous to say otherwise.

We see in the weather and climate section of the Middle School Earth and Space Science Standards:

“Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century,” (MS-ESS3-5).

The clarification statement included under the standard reads:

Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures. (Emphasis in bold is mine)

Then you look at the “Disciplinary Core Ideas” that support the standard, and we see:

ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities. (MS-ESS3-5)

Tell me again how the standards don’t “require teachers teach” that Climate Change is predominately caused by humans?

In the weather and climate section of Earth and Space Sciences Standards for High School, the relevant standards are:

  • “Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate, (HS.ESS2-4).
  • “Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems,” (HS.ESS3-5)

We see these two “Disciplinary Core Ideas” that support the standards above. First for HS.ESS2-4:

ESS2.D: Weather and Climate
The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space. (HS-ESS2-4)

Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate. (HS-ESS2-6),(HS-ESS2-4)

For HS.ESS3-5 we see:

ESS3.D: Global Climate Change
Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts. (HS-ESS3-5)

Then all one has to do is peruse the “human sustainability” section in the NGSS’s Earth and Space Sciences Standards for High School. Then look at the “human impacts” section for the Middle School Earth and Space Sciences Standards to see an emphasis on human activity for climate change, as well as, a progressive bent to environmentalism.

Berry notes that when students read the “evidence,” they will likely come to that conclusion themselves.

“They will look at facts relevant to those questions and draw conclusions that answer their questions,” Ted Neal, a University of Iowa clinical science instructor, told IowaWatch.

And what if students look at their scientific data and then conclude that humans have not been the primary causes of climate change in the past century?

“That is not possible,” Neal answered. “Because the data is so overwhelming. Out of 920 peer-reviewed journal articles on this issue, zero found that climate change was not anthropogenic.”

Oh yes, “peer reviewed,” there’s the gold standard. 21st-century science has a peer review problem that is not acknowledged by climate change advocates.

A recent Vox article (not a conservative publication by any stretch of the imagination) pointed out that peer review is “broken” and that “peer review bullying” can occur.

That’s not to mention the problem of peer review bullying. Since the default in the process is that editors and peer reviewers know who the authors are (but authors don’t know who the reviews are), biases against researchers or institutions can creep in, opening the opportunity for rude, rushed, and otherwise unhelpful comments.

Alex Csiszar writing for Nature shows that peer review was troubled from the start.

Current attempts to reimagine peer review rightly debate the psychology of bias, the problem of objectivity, and the ability to gauge reliability and importance, but they rarely consider the multilayered history of this institution. Peer review did not develop simply out of scientists’ need to trust one another’s research. It was also a response to political demands for public accountability. To understand that other practices of scientific judgement were once in place ought to be a part of any responsible attempt to chart a future path.

Another recent article at the New Republic says that science is suffering as a result of problems with peer review.

The flaws in this process are evident in the climate change debate. Those who don’t toe the climate change advocate line are often ostracized and even put their careers on the line. Climate science, unfortunately, has become hopelessly biased and politicized.

Unfortunately, as a result, students will only be exposed to one side of the debate.

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