Over at Blog Lebo, a blog that covers pretty much everything about Mt Lebanon, my former home just outside of Pittsburgh, there has been an ongoing debate about whether or not it is right for the school district to include text books that offer an alternative argument to Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth and some of the environmental text books already being used by the students. Pardon the pun, but this is a textbook example of school board members injecting politics into the school curriculum. It one thing to object to a certain text being use, but according to a local paper, the board members (both whom happen to be Republicans) "said they did not object to the book, focusing their argument on whether an additional text reflecting the other side of the debate be added."
In the comments thread of that blog post, the Climate Change denier crowd is arguing that offering the students an alternative textbook would help teach them to not only learn that there are two sides of the debate but to learn critical thinking and analysis skill. One of the school board members quoted in the original story in the South Hills Almanac, James Frasch, makes the argument that by introducing an alternative text they would be "teaching our students that there is a debate about the existence of man-made global warming." Add Mr. Frasch to the climate change denier category. The post is followed by 19 comments, some which try to say that there was a scientific "consensus" that the earth was actually cooling rather than warming. This "consensus" around cooling has been proven to be a myth. Comment #20 (if it gets published) is also posted below and includes some very interesting links about the origin of the global warming discovery and the debate that occurred long before Al Gore presented "An Inconvenient Truth." If you haven't read this summary of the book "The Discovery of Global Warming" I encourage you to do so or at the very least take a look at the time line.
The following is my response to a former school board member, who stated that "The flat earth argument has been settled for centuries; the environment is an ongoing current debate that is relevant to all our lives. We need to give our students the respect and balanced curriculum materials to develop their own point of view and prepare them well for life."
Again, I don't see how you can call teaching the students on one hand, a theory that was proven decades ago and then on the other - the the wrong side of that theory, the side that already lost the debate, a "balanced" view. The only difference with this issue between when this debate was first settled and today is that now this has become a hot button political issue because some have chosen to put political ideology ahead of science, research, and history.
The following is a history lesson for anyone out there who thinks that Global Warming is something that was made up by Al Gore and the Democrats as a means to raise our taxes. Please bear with me.
This Global Warming "debate" you refer to already happened - during the first half of the 20th century. The greenhouse gas effect was discovered way back when James Monroe was President of the United States. The initial discovery was followed up by more quantitative research right before the turn of the century. The findings of these researchers led to the conclusion that an increase in CO2 led to an increase in global temperatures. The debate in that early period (late 19th early 20th century) between said researchers was not a matter of if increases in CO2 caused an increase in the earth's temperature, but by how much a certain increase in CO2 increased the earth's temperature. There was also a debate about how long it would take before all of the CO2 emitted by the coal plants and industrialization would have an meaningful impact on the earth's temperature. The "consensus" at that time agreed that worst case scenario it would probably take a few centuries before CO2 emitted by human activity would be substantial enough impact the earth's temperature. A few decades passed until a little known engineer, Guy Stewart Callendar, took notice that the CO2 levels are rising much faster than expected and having an impact on the earth's temperate. His findings were pretty much dismissed by all but a few who picked up where he left off and then, it was finally vindicated when Roger Revelle made a key discovery that the earth's oceans had a more limited ability to absorb the excess CO2 that was being produced by humans. Up until that point, it was thought that most of the CO2 generated by human would be absorbed by the oceans, and hence, would have little impact on the earth's temperature. The time line of global warming's discovery is here. A summarized or a full version of the story behind the discovery and the individuals who made can be found here.
The story does a great job of including some of the arguments against global warming. Some of these arguments happened over one hundred years ago. The debate was settled a while ago so as I said in my first post "there is no 'other side of the debate'" unless you feel the need to teach the students all of the junk science and false arguments against this already scientifically proven theory. With the state of education in this country, can the students really afford to spend time in the classroom learning about the "other side", the earth is flat side of the debate just because some people, James Frasch, Mark Hart, and others, cannot look beyond the politics of issue to come to grips and accept that the earth is warming and it is due because of the increasing CO2 emissions generated by human beings. It would help to at least start reading some of the links I have already posted. You may be skeptical about some of the scientific research I have linked to but how about disappearing glaciers? How about people dying?