Thomas Hawk, Heartbreak Hotel Restaurant, 2010

Summertime, in the words of the familiar song, and the livin’ is easy. It’s not as easy for science teachers as you might think, though. Sure, with schools out of session, they’re no longer spending their days in lecture and lab and their nights grading and in prep. But that doesn’t mean that they’re relaxing on the beach with a tall cool beverage of their choice—not that they wouldn’t be entitled to do so! No, diligent science teachers are updating their curricula and lesson plans, participating in professional development, and catching up on the latest science. Unfortunately, the Heartland Institute is continuing to inflict its climate change denial literature on science teachers across the country. (See “Don’t Let Heartland Fool Teachers!” and “A Perfect Storm of Silver Linings” for background.) Fortunately, the Heartland mailing continues to be greeted with skepticism and dismissed with scorn. Here’s a chronological summary of the highlights over the last month or so.

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Consider, if you will, Bret Stephens’s inaugural column in The New York Times, published on April 28, 2017, under the title “Climate of Complete Certainty.” Owing to Stephens’s past misrepresentations of climate change, the column received a lot of scrutiny—provoking “an unusually large outpouring” of letters to the editor, including one from Merchants of Doubt coauthor Naomi Oreskes, as well as incisive criticism from

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The Silver Lining

The Heartland Institute’s recent stunt of mailing unsolicited packets of propaganda to thousands of teachers across the nation continues to win further bad publicity for the climate-change-denying think tank. (Self-inflicted damage is something of a Heartland specialty: remember its 2013 billboard comparing “believers” in global warming to the Unabomber? As the Los Angeles Times (May 9, 2012) noted, it cost Heartland the support not only of allies who reject the scientific consensus on climate change but also of a number of wealthy corporate sponsors.) But Schadenfreude isn’t the only consequence. The stunt also seems to have invigorated a lot of educators, scientists, parents, environmentalists, and even legislators to speak up and speak out on the need to support climate education.

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    Der Nasenbohrer. Carsten Eggers. Via Wikimedia Commons

    The Heartland Institute is trying to fool teachers. NCSE is fighting back. You can help us.

     

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    Greenland melting? Public officials lying? Endangered species dying? Who you gonna call to document—and raise hell—about these and other environmental outrages?

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    As reported last week by Glenn Branch, NCSE board member Ben Santer was on Late Night with Seth Meyers this past Wednesday. If you haven’t watched it yet, please do so now—you won’t regret it.

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    Back when the FDA was testing ads to discourage kids from smoking, they tried arguments based on science: smoking will give you cancer; smoking will give you emphysema; smoking will hurt your unborn child. They tried appealing to kids’ social anxieties: smoking will make your teeth yellow; smoking will give you bad breath. None of these arguments worked very well. What worked was telling kids that the tobacco companies were lying to them, tricking them into smoking so that they could make money off them for the rest of their lives. The Madhouse Effect: How Climate Change Denial Is Threatening Our Planet, Destroying Our Politics, and Driving Us Crazy, by climate scientist Michael Mann and cartoonist Tom Toles, serves the same purpose. It makes it quite clear that the “debate” about climate change has nothing to do with science and everything to do with wishful thinking, exploited by vested economic and political interests. Only when that false debate is put behind us will a productive discussion about what to do about climate change finally begin, returning scientific evidence to its rightful place as a powerful tool, not a punching bag.

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    Sure, the Olympics have the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But do they have the thrill of discovery (Neanderthal fashion, dinosaur armageddon)? And how about the agony of denial (Ark Encounter X 3, and even some flat-earthers)? No, no they don't. That's OK. As a reader of NCSE's blog, you get both.

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    Some time ago, I wrote about Lamar Smith (R–Texas and chairman of the House Science Committee) and his efforts to intimidate climate scientists. In that post, I noted that Smith had issued:

    …a Congressional subpoena—the King Kong of information requests—for all emails and correspondence between the paper’s authors and NOAA officials.

    You might say that as taxpayers we have a right to see everything that government employees and government-funded scientists write to each other…but when the only correspondence that is sought is that concerning a scientific finding that pisses off a politician, society’s collective you-know-what detector really ought to go off.

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    Here at NCSE, we talk a lot about the people who reject climate change science, how they are threatening science education, and what we can do to ensure teachers have the support they need to teach the science. What we don’t always discuss is why people reject climate change.

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