50,000 FREE copies of Inconvenient Truth rejected by teacher organization

The political environment in America around climate science is so poisoned that the National Science Teachers Association feels they can’t take free copies of An Inconvenient Truth to their students. A vivid presentation of facts is viewed as opinion – BY SCIENCE TEACHERS! The planet is now a “special interest”. File this under “the rise of truthiness and the collapse of civilization”.

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21 thoughts on “50,000 FREE copies of Inconvenient Truth rejected by teacher organization”

  1. Generally (and speaking as a parent) I’d much prefer schools to teach things such as mathematics, science, history, and when they’re younger folk-wisdom books such as “Chicken Little” to give the knowledge and wisdom to be able to critically appraise materials such as Gore’s DVD.

  2. Ok, we have a skeptic! Great. I won’t take on your comparison of Al Gore and climatologists to Chicken Littles here, but rather focus on the education piece.

    You raise a good point – media skills are important to critical thinking for young people, more today than ever.

    The issue of climate change and how it is presented in the media is a fantastic opportunity for learning. By refusing An Inconvenient Truth because of discomfort with an agenda and a point of view, these teachers have not only allied themselves with one interest group (Exxon-Mobil provides the same group with teaching materials about how oil is our friend) over another, they have rejected a useful tool for exploring climate science, global politics and media literacy.

    I believe that our education system and teachers need tools to engage students more deeply in inquiry-based or experiential learning. It is not enough to learn facts and methods. Learning to learn, understanding context and the development of a point of view are critical skills in the world today’s students will inhabit. Shielding kids from points of view or controversial topics runs counter to the development of these skills.

  3. Apparently Laurie David finds the truth inconvenient. According to an NSTA statement (http://www.nsta.org/pressroom&news_story_ID=52959), while they did not agree to distribute the DVD directly, THEY DID offer to make the DVD available through other means of distribution (making its mailing list available, through publications, at its conference etc). Apparently, Ms. David and her representatives never replied to this offer. Why would she not respond at all to this offer, and instead choose to skewer NSTA in the national media? Sounds to me like Ms. David was less concerned about getting this movie into the hands of science teachers, and more concerned about creating media buzz conveniently timed with the release of the movie on DVD. Whether or not she ever sees a penny personally is irrelevant. I guess this is the danger of accepting an op-ed piece as truth, convenient as it may be.

  4. Thank you Lenny for the link to the NSTA release. As someone who works for NSTA (by your IP address), I understand your desire to get your organization’s point of view across. For the record I link to the original Washington Post op-ed by the producer of “An Inconvenient Truth” and here’s the NSTA response.

    Here’s what we know: NSTA could have distributed 50,000 free DVDs directly and did not because of concerns about the material. NSTA claims to have offered alternatives, but the press release does not explain why distributing the DVDs was a problem in the first place. Nor does it deny the quotes in the op-ed from NSTA’s email rejecting the DVDs.

    While the press release argues that only 4% of NSTA’s funding comes from energy companies, this masks the potential influence. That 4% is one-quarter of all corporate money, by your own numbers. Please share with us where other industries that have an interest in developing the next generation of scientists stand in comparison.

    Given the appearance of impropriety from the close programmatic relationship NSTA has with major oil companies, any PR issue that arises from this is either tough luck or the result of a bad decision.

    The best thing to do after issuing this press release response would be to reverse course and facilitate the movie’s distribution in schools for use by teachers. It is in the interest of good public relations, quality science education and an informed citizenry. Win-win. Problem solved.

  5. I have a big problem with Al Gore’s approach to the subject of climate change, particularly in a science-teaching context: he presents speculation as fact. (In addition to presenting fact as fact.) He is a politician, not a scientist, and it shows. Science class is not the place for hype, regardless of the cause.

  6. I have yet to see a specific critique by a climatologist that identifies elements of Gore’s presentation that is not backed up by solid climate science. If you can point me to one, I would appreciate it. I would argue that the fact that any forecast of the future is uncertain does not mean we cannot make claims based on probabilities, scientific theory and the current state of scientific knowledge. Gore is making claims and has a point of view. He is not a scientist, nor does he claim to be one.

    A key part of the message of the film is that humans reason very poorly about exponential growth problems. If we’re in the long-tail, we can’t see the big head of the curve coming up. (Gore dumbs it down with his best way to boil a frog example.) This is where science meets politics, because the scientific scenarios beg a social and political response. To say that the political discussion does not belong in a science class does young people a disservice and is to my mind a narrow definition of education.

  7. Sorry for the length of this — I’m cross posting to my blog but directing comments here. I know long comments are not the most effective way to communicate but unfortunately the subject matter here require it

    I believe the “Chicken Little” is an apt phrase to use because it _is_ folk wisdom. Consider: Global Warming, Global Cooling/Ice Age, The Energy Crisis, Y2K, Everyone to get cancer by 50 due to “toxins”, Peak Oil, Global Famine by the 1980s, Critical Resource Shortages by the 1980s and so forth. That’s not to say that there aren’t global crisii; for example, there’s WWII, just that there’s a lot more predictions of disasters than actual disasters. However, fairly predictably every 5 years or so there will be a prediction of disaster and a call for action. Also predictably, the solution will always be along the same lines: power and choice must be stripped from the citizen and invested in a small class wise men who will make wise choices to steer humanity through the shoals.

    But let’s talk about AGW, i.e. Anthropogenic — human caused — Global Warming. I think I can fairly non controversially describe this as follows (in broad strokes):

    1. Humanity is pulling a lever (i.e. primarily C02 emissions) that is predictably making the climate hotter and/or more unstable
    2. If we stop pulling that level, the climate will predictably improve
    3. The present value of the costs of AGW (- the benefits) is less than the PV of stopping pulling the lever

    There’s two aspects that we can examine AGW and the case for doing something about it: either through modeling or though the historical record.

    The climate is an unstable chaotic system, with a rough ice-age to ice-age periodicity of about 10,000 years. Our knowledge of how the atmosphere (and the ocean) works is _very_ incomplete; our present knowledge of the _state_ of the atmosphere and ocean is likewise incredibly crappy: we simply don’t measure that many data points. Our knowledge of their _past_ state is even more spotty and goes back at most a century. Then add in other factors such as extraterrestrial effects such as solar energy and the effects of radiation and solar energy output (and composition) and where do we end up? AGW proponents claim a model that can predict the climate to within a few tenths of a degree over the course of a century? Sorry, models of chaotic systems with poor data inputs and incomplete system knowledge _do not_ have this sort of predictive power.

    So then we look at the historical record. Now, one expects that when one is making the claim that significantly restructuring is needed in our economy/society (see point #3 above, the PV(future expenses – future benefits)

  8. Here’s rest of the comment, which got chopped:

    one would expect the people making the claims would put their best foot forward. What do we get? The hockey stick is wrong, and almost certainly fraudulent; polar bears aren’t drowning, they’re at near peak populations; various glaciers being pointed to melted long before atmospheric CO2 attributable to humans was significant; and so forth. I’ve documented much of this on my blog over the last 5 years. (This looks good too, though I haven’t gone through it in depth).

    So what’s after that. Lomberg gets physically attacked while giving presentations, ad-homenim attacks are considered debate, people like me are compare to Nazis (the point of the phrase “GW denier”), Nuremberg trials are proposed. Is this science? Truth? No, it’s the voice of goons.

    I’m one of these weirdos that believes that science is understandable and access able to all, and furthermore, that science isn’t about Truth but about methodology. When I’m told to lie back and think of England, excuse me, lie back and accept without question what selected scientists are saying, I know I’m in the realm of politics, not science and certainly not Truth.

  9. Hi Mark,

    (Arriving via David’s blog, btw) Personally, I’m quite skeptical regarding the alarmism that Gore promotes. I’ve tried to be objective regarding what’s out there, and I don’t believe that we’re seeing a reasonable debate based on the available science.

    An example of an opposing view to that of Gore is via the 60 scientists who recently wrote Canada’s PM suggesting that Kyoto would not be signed today if the available information was fairly presented.

    http://www.canada.com/nationalpost/financialpost/story.html?id=3711460e-bd5a-475d-a6be-4db87559d605&rfp=dta

    As recently as this month, Gore has been publicly pushing the MBH’98 ‘hockey stick’ graph which effectively removes the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period from our collective history. There are serious concerns relating to the hockey stick, one being that the key proxy which dictates the shape of the stick, bristlecone pine tree ring data, is subject more to atmospheric moisture than temperature. As well, it ignores the historical record of human life over the last millenium.

    There is increasing evidence that our current climate change is not abnormal; rather, it’s happened like this over and over during our current Interglacial – fast and dramatic climate changes, from warm to cool back to warm, etc. There is also a great deal of evidence relating to the sun as a major forcing agent for global temperature (as well as studies that suggest that there is not a strong correlation historically to CO2 and temperature).

    I’m not a scientist nor am I associated with the energy sector, but another factor that needs to be further discussed is that degree to which human activity impacts on greenhouse gases – water vapour is the main one, CO2 is a relatively small GG, and human-caused CO2 is a fraction of that. I’m someone who has tried to look at things objectively, I am left dismissing the alarmism.

    Gore also is calling for an immediate freeze on emissions to be followed by stark cuts ~ the impacts of these decisions are not discussed (nor is the clean option of nuclear power). Not to use an overused phrase, but I don’t see him as being ‘fair and balanced’. I’m sure there are better examples for students in terms of bringing in the political questions to go along with the science debate.

    Suggested reading for science classes: Brian Fagan’s “The Little Ice Age” (Fagan is not an AGW skeptic but describes how life changed during the dramatic climate changes from about 1300 to 1850 AD; and Bjorn Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist” [chapter on GW] (neither is Lomborg an AGW skeptic; in fact, he takes the IPCC models and explains them). I’m not really aware of a good book that would lend itself to a science class and provide a fair look at all sides of the issue – would love to find one though.

  10. Mark, you say that “To say that the political discussion does not belong in a science class does young people a disservice and is to my mind a narrow definition of education.” If a science class is going to be opened up to politics, surely it should examine various points of view, not just Al Gore’s.

    Sticking to science for a moment, there are so many variables involved in the climate system that only limited conclusions can be drawn about the future. Which is why weather forecasts get less reliable the further out you go. But that won’t stop many people from extrapolating certain of the forces at work way out, while ignoring others (because once you have more than a few variables each with a lot of variance, you have nothing that is statistically significant, and then you can’t really accomplish anything). The same mistake is being made now as when Ronald Reagan relied on supply-side economics: the Laffer Curve was based on actual economic forces, but it left out others.

  11. Several comments here, and the NSTA’s decision, assume that a teacher accepting “An Inconvenient Truth” wouldn’t have the good sense to show an opposing viewpoint, direct students to alternate claims, or otherwise put the students in positions to judge for themselves the veracity of the arguments presented. Just because “An Inconvenient Truth” is used in the classroom does not mean that’s the only side of the issue discussed.

  12. Todd, thank you. I agree 100%. The process of science and science education should be richer than statements of sterilized fact, devoid of their social context. Argument and debate are absolutely central to the entire process of discovery! Engaging children in that process using all the tools available, by continually emphasizing the importance of science to the world they will inhabit makes more scientists. Isn’t that the point?

  13. I’m on the fence over whether the NSTA should have accepted the offered Inconvenient Truth materials. Initially I thought they should have
    accepted the offer, though I can see the arguments against it.

    I’m rather concerned by some of the other comments in this thread though. Particularly, I’m uncomfortable with David Janes’ apparent labeling of Anthropogenic Global Warming as ‘folk wisdom’.

    Perhaps I’m just a sucker for the wise men cabal’s propaganda, but the scientific organisations who support the position that Global Warming is real, man made and dangerous seem to be a few notches above the ‘folk wisdom’ level to me.

  14. Thanks Patrick. I agree that David’s skepticism moves beyond healthy towards baiting.

    David’s a smart fellow, has children who have a stake in the future, believes in science and has the healthy skepticism of a conservative/libertarian. His site is fertile ground for understanding the skeptic’s perspective. So, David, where does your passion for arguing against the climate science mainstream come from?

    One of the most troubling aspects of this debate is that while people are arguing the science, I believe they take positions based on prior attitudes and beliefs. David’s often-repeated refrain is that global warming is a dangerous tool used by elites too wrestle power from freedom loving individualists. Many in the environmental movement make arguments infused by the values and culture of earth-mother morality. Many of the professional skeptics are politicians, academics and think-tanks who are defending particular powerful economic interests.

    Back to topic. In order to engage the climate change debate, we need to understand the complex and rapidly evolving body of scientific evidence, comprehend the socially-constructed nature of the interpretation of that science and arrive at conclusions that cannot avoid the political sphere.

    So, science teachers, show the film and engage the students in understanding the debate. Arm them with the tools (internet anyone?) to investigate further and make their own minds up. But most importantly, communicate how important and meaningful it is to pursue a career in science. The politically charged nature of this issue is an opportunity to engage students passionately and deeply into understanding the content, process and context of science in society.

    Ignoring such a fantastic learning opportunity for fear of the political is cowardly.

  15. Where does the fear of presenting this material come from? Was the teacher afraid she was presenting inaccurate information or supporting a political adgenda?

    Do we really think that all theories taught in our schools are totally accurate? – Our education system is itself evolving and learning and there should be no harm in presenting facts that support a yet to be proven argument.

    Are we naive enough to think that politics isn’t already a driving force in our schools curriculum? Choosing to not present the material and open it for disscussion is in effect choosing a side and supporting a political adgenda.

  16. I am so glad we don’t have this kind of problem in Quebec (in eastern Canada by the way) ! We have full confidence in our scientists. Even on the streets, you don’t hear regalar people doubt evolution or climate change. Scientists have a regorous methodology, and whenever they make a false conclusion, the peer review really corrects falty assumptions. I should know, I do research in atmospheric science.

    So, people, there is no debate among climatologists that the Earth’s surface is warming, and the indication of human influence is 97% according to the last IPCC report.

    So while kids in Montreal and Quebec are learning about the science of climate change IN SCHOOL, we have a full generation of people already aware and ready to find solutions.

    Good luck with this social problem !

    A concerned neighbor.

  17. Norman, just to clarify, I (the Remarkk blog author) am in Toronto! I share your amazement at our southern neighbours’ official skepticism of climate change and official skepticism of science in general, as witnessed by the sanctioning of “intelligent design” for equal time and status as the theory of evolution.

    21st century America is a strange place indeed.

  18.  Thank goodness there is still some integrity to science in U.S. schools.

    Al Gore and his “Inconvenient Truth” has been soundly rejected.  His LIES have been aligned with facts instead of money making schemes to line HIS pockets as well as other self centered agenda driven leftists.

    Below is a brief summary of Al Gore’s incessant lies.  By no means is in complete. This is just a cursory summary.

    How marvelous. And what are those inaccuracies?
    The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting, the evidence was that it is in fact increasing.The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.Let’s not also CONVENIENTLY forget Climategate where e-mails where hacked.  Yes, LIES were exposed there too!

     What began with hacked emails in the United Kingdom has mushroomed into a crisis affecting an entire scientific discipline. At its center is an elite and highly influential scientific group, the  Global temperature averages peaked in 1997, and have been on a slight overall decline through 2009. . Among the six global warming gases, water vapor and cloud formation contributes 66% to 85% of total atmospheric heat retention, with carbon dioxide (CO2) the second most contributing gas.  CO2 readings have been increased  beyond 1997 through to the present. The global warming argument is that CO2 increases causes increased global temperatures. The scandal is that scientists at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), the main data point for the global warming argument, had thousands of internet e-mails leaked  that revealed the following unethical and possibly criminal behavior: 

    Manipulating computer programming to “hide the decline” of global temperatures.Lying about the decline of average global temperatures, stating in their most official report, “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”“Losing” their data to prevent independent verification of their models and conclusions. This followed years of refusing to provide such data to other scientists to test for replicable results.Cherry-picking data to show their predetermined conclusion rather than letting the data drive the conclusion.Suppressing scientific papers with data that challenges their global warming idea.Personally attacking scientific journal editors who favor publishing papers that challenge their explanation.Admission to destroying some of the data that contradict their explanation.Taking the above actions with understanding their conclusions were driving a soon-to-be trillion dollar global tax to reduce CO2 in order to stop “global warming.”
    […]This is hardly OBJECTIVE science and it is DISHONEST at best.  It’s hard to believe that people still believe in gloBULL warming but look at the replies below.  There are still some die hard ignoramuses that don’t care about truth, have a science background that is based on science or common sense.  Then again, it has become a RELIGION to many.

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