As we all know, not everyone is on board with the science behind climate change. Over the past thirty years, claims of biased research have inundated parties on both sides of the climate change debates. Unfortunately, motives of these battles are often political and economic at heart. Yet, environmental and societal interests notwithstanding, the trending research indicates that humans indisputably do contribute to serious and potentially dire climate impacts. A resulting action of such research is the call for market and cultural correction. Traditionally this happens through government regulation – something many right-wing and laissez faire organizations are strongly opposed to being enacted.
A recent information leak attempted to expose the Heartland Institute, a conservative and libertarian public policy think tank, of their internal plans to espouse an anti-regulation cultural mindset in a brilliantly twisted way: through K-12 education. The report reveals Heartland’s plan to develop curriculum that counters widely accepted research on climate change and other important environmental topics. In doing so, Heartland is working against organizations, such as GEF, who are devoted to educating students, educators, and adults on the important topics around sustainability, including the proven science behind climate change.
In the leaked documents, Dr. David Wojick, a consultant for the Department of Energy, indicates that he would be hired by Heartland to produce curricula that downplays human impact on the environment and climate. Indeed, human impact is difficult to assess, and climate models aren’t always accurate. However, aren’t most of us past the point of pretending that human consumption patterns, resource depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions don’t contribute to destabilizing ecosystems and climate? Heartland’s internal report that today’s climate change science is “alarmist” is fair. Nonetheless, being “alarmist” is an issue of framing the research, not the research itself. Science education should be pragmatic without sacrificing optimism and empowerment. Though, it would be hard to agree with Heartland that the best method of achieving this goal is to refute the evidence just because it presents a difficult reality.
The information was leaked by an anonymous individual who shared documents to various publications and activists who support the science of climate change. This individual obtained the documents through “pretexting,” or posing as a board member and requesting the documents to be resent via email. The authenticity of the leaked documents has not been confirmed. The plan for developing climate change curriculum is quoted below from MSNBC:
Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Schools
Many people lament the absence of educational material suitable for K-12 students on global warming that isn’t alarmist or overtly political. Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success. Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. Moreover, material for classroom use must be carefully written to meet curriculum guidelines, and the amount of time teachers have for supplemental material is steadily shrinking due to the spread of standardized tests in K-12 education.
Dr. David Wojick has presented Heartland a proposal to produce a global warming curriculum or K-12 schools that appears to have great potential for success. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. He has a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in civil engineering from Carnegie Tech. He has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon and the staffs of the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Lab.
Dr. Wojick has conducted extensive research on environmental and science education for the Department of Energy. In the course of this research, he has identified what subjects and concepts teachers must teach, and in what order (year by year), in order to harmonize with national test requirements. He has contacts at virtually all the national organizations involved in producing, certifying, and promoting science curricula.
Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”), climate models (“models are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial”), and air pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions”).
Wojick would produce modules for Grades 7-9 on environmental impact (“environmental impact is often difficult to determine. For example there is a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather”), for Grade 6 on water resources and weather systems, and so on.
We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $5,000 per module, about $25,000 a quarter, starting in the second quarter of 2012, for this work. The Anonymous Donor has pledged the first $100,000 for this project, and we will circulate a proposal to match and then expand upon that investment.