Warming: Scientific Fact

Charleston Gazette
6 April 2012

Abnormally, a wave of deadly tornadoes struck the Midwest at the end of February, before the usual start of twister season. This sort of freakish, violent weather fits the pattern expected to rise from global warming. The cost to America, in lives and property, is severe.

Meanwhile, Republicans in four different state legislatures -- New Hampshire, Missouri, Indiana and Oklahoma -- again are pushing bills to undercut the teaching of evolution. But this time, there's a twist: The proposals also would require public school science classes to teach that global warming is doubtful, unproven.

What's next? No science of any sort allowed in public schools?

For years, the chief opponent of global warming evidence has been the conservative-libertarian Heartland Institute in Chicago, which endlessly issues "scientific" papers questioning any global increase in temperatures, or doubting that such increase is caused by human air pollution.

Recently, internal Heartland documents were leaked to news media, and they show a new strategy. The think-tank supposedly has prepared a $100,000 curriculum for public school science classes, designed to teach children that grave suspicions mar global warming evidence -- even though thousands of climate scientists say the opposite.

The courses were prepared by Dr. David Wojick. Heartland says he "has conducted extensive research on environmental and science education for the Department of Energy." But that's false. Wojick merely was a part-time computer contractor who helped organize DOE databases. The federal agency issued a statement saying:

"David Wojick ... has never advised or conducted research for the department on climate change or any other scientific topic, and the office he works for is not a research organization."

Shawn Lawrence Otto, author of Fool Me Twice: Fighting the Assault on Science in America, wrote that Heartland's new curriculum "is the same strategy often used by political opponents of teaching evolution in science classes. The secret documents show the curriculum is intended to create a similar false sense of scientific controversy," when none actually exists. All reputable biologists agree that evolution is a bedrock fact of biology -- just as all reputable climatologists agree that global warming is real.

The internal documents also allege that the Koch brothers, conservative oil billionaires, gave Heartland $200,000. New Jersey's Star-Ledger pointed out that the Kochs "backed climate-denier Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign," and their donation shows that Heartland "is a shill for oil companies that have a huge profit motive in dirty fossil fuels." The paper continued:

"Climate change deniers use a strategy identical to those who want creationism taught alongside evolution in science classes: Ignore the science and teach the debate, as if the simple fact of disagreeing with scientific fact is educationally significant ... . It's deliberate ignorance. That's the same pseudoscience that leads parents to opt out of vaccinations for their children or oppose fluoride in drinking water. The stakes in climate change are much higher -- planetary, in fact."

Heartland claims that one of the leaked documents is a forgery. But it hasn't denied using Dr. Wojick to design school courses claiming that many scientists doubt climate change. The Los Angeles Times said the only such scientists are "fossil-fuel-industry-funded 'experts' who tend to have little background in climatology and who publish non-peer-reviewed papers in junk magazines."

We hope West Virginia's public schools shun these underhanded attempts to cast doubt on both evolution and warming.