March 10 2010
IWF in the News: Would You Let the N.Y. Times Teach Your Kids About Global Warming?
Carrie L. Lukas
American students lag behind  many of their peers in other countries. Perhaps one reason is that too many teachers get lesson plans from the New York Times.
In its Learning Network section, the New York Times offers a set of classroom activities  (recommended for students grades 6-12) for teachers looking to cover that over-looked curriculum essential: global warming. The New York Times instructs teachers to line students up on a piece of masking tape that stretches across the classroom. One end of the tape is marked "strongly agree;" the other, "strongly disagree." Students then shuffle around as the teacher reads statements derived from a recent opinion editorial by former vice president and global warming alarmist extraordinaire, Al Gore. The statements include: "Future generations will look back on ours as having ignored clear warnings about the harmful effects of climate change;" "The unusually heavy snowfalls and cold weather this winter in the Northeast are a sign that global warming is an illusion;" and, "Despite the discovery of at least two mistakes in scientific work published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), global warming is happening and is caused by the actions of humans."
Yes, this is how the New York Times views global warming skepticism: it all rests on two mistakes in the IPCC report and recent heavy snowfalls in the U.S.
The lesson culminates with students holding "a mock talk show on issues related to the science and politics of global warming." In preparation, students are supposed to do a bit of research. Al Gore's oped is the only must-read, but the New York Times provides links to other sources, including the NOAA National Climate Data Center, National Geographic, and the United States Global Change Research Program (all part of the "consensus" on global warming). Several New York Times articles are also linked, including ones that gloss over those minor "mistakes" in the IPCC report and the "climate-gate" email scandal.
The New York Times notes two sources for those seeking "a more skeptical viewpoint:" Watts Up with That?  and ClimateAudit.org . Those are good sites, but if the New York Times really wants balance and to provide students with new information, they should give the so-called "skeptics'" viewpoint more emphasis.
Research suggests that students already have been fully indoctrinated in global warming alarmism. One study reported  that: "Nearly 4 in 5 kids saw global warming as "a very serious problem," 3 in 4 saw it as "a threat to all life on the planet" and about 2 in 3 felt global warming is "a threat to my future well-being and safety," and "feel afraid of what might happen."
Instead of adding to this sense of fear, the New York Times might have encouraged students to consider the role that skepticism is supposed to play in the scientific process, and the importance of scientists disclosing their data so that others can assess their logic and consider alternative hypothesis. The New York Times might have included an interview from leading climatologist Phil Jones. While admitting to losing and concealing data from other scientists, Jones acknowledged  that there has been no significant warming in the past 15 years and that medieval times might have been warmer than today, which would mean that the 20th century warming trend isn't unprecedented. What do these revelations means for the so-called consensus about man-made global warming?
Many schools already show Al Gore's fictional and deeply flawed movie "An Inconvenient Truth" as part of their curriculum. The New York Times could have recommend teachers balance that perspective by showing "Not Evil, Just Wrong ," a film which provides a thorough review of the flawed science of global warming, as well as the pure propaganda that has been used to further fear of climate change.
"Not Evil, Just Wrong" also illustrates one aspect of the debate that the New York Times gives very short shrift: the high costs, including major job losses here in the U.S., of proposals to reduce carbon output. The students are supposed to debate policy alternatives, which makes it critical that they actually consider the full consequences of proposals. Students should consider the possibility that even if man is causing the globe to warm, the measures taken to thwart warming might have effects worse than climate change itself. Many students might be surprised to learn that even supporters of cap-and-trade proposals acknowledge that they would do little to slow any man-caused rise in temperature.
American students should be encouraged to consider current political issues, and evaluate and debate policy alternatives. But if teachers want to provide balance, they shouldn't look to the New York Times for guidance.
Carrie L. Lukas is the vice president for policy and economics for the Independent Women's Forum .