The inescapable urge to indoctrinate
Sep 12, 2014
Bishop Hill in Climate: Models, Climate: other, Education

The latest edition of School Science Review, a journal of the Association for Science Education, is a climate change special, featuring a review of mainstream positions on global warming by Eric Wolff and a host of other articles covering everything from how better to get children on board the global warming bandwagon to a look at biofuels.

Most of it is paywalled, but you can see the covering editorial here, although to tell the truth it's not particularly exciting. I was struck only by this sentence:

Some teachers may not agree that it is our duty to campaign but we surely have a duty to inform our students where the science is clear, and it is important to teach them about what is complex and uncertain and not known.

While I think most parents would be appalled at the idea that teachers should be campaigning at all, the rest of it is eminently sensible. It's therefore interesting to look at the Wolff's article, which was sent to me by a reader. Here are some excerpts:

Using so-called 'proxy' can be shown that the period since 1980 has probably neen the warmest 30 year period in at least the last 800 years.

Others might suggest that it cannot be shown at all.

Ocean heat content is rising, snow and ice cover is decreasing in the Northern Hemisphere, and Arctic sea ice is retreating.

But what about the south and the Antarctic?

The last decade or so has been a period of slower warming...[in part] because of a spate of small volcanic eruptions and a small reduction in the strength of the sun....Changing winds...can cause [changes] in the exchange of heat between the atmosphere and the deeper ocean.

I guess there wasn't room for all 39 reasons.

And what about our old friends the climate models and their manifold failings?

...these essentially contain our best knowledge of the physics and the chemical and biological processes that govern climate, coded into equations.

It's hard to avoid the impression that Prof Wolff thinks 'what is complex and uncertain and not known' should be swept carefully under the carpet.

I also have a copy of the article by Busch and Osborne, two researchers at Stanford. The abstract includes this:

Unlike many other science topics, mitigation and adaptation to climate change will require students to take action.

You can see where this is heading can't you? The authors spend a couple of pages discussing "challenges to knowing and acting that are specific to climate change", including a regrettable reluctance among science teachers to get involved with political campaigns

[Researchers] found that the teachers did not consider it their role to try to solve today's major social or scientific problems. Instead, the science teachers said they preferred to 'maintain the integrity' of the science rather than to explore the social, economic or political implications.

Needless to say, our authors were not impressed with this regrettable display of integrity (as an aside, they quote Michael Mann approvingly elsewhere). In their section on how to deal with these challenges, they declare that social aspects of science must be included too.

[Climate change] is not just a scientific problem for scientists to solve; rather, it is a socio-scientific issue that will require a multidisciplinary approach.

And here's how it ends:

The goal for teachers is to provide the balance between emotion and analytical reasoning to create a situation where students can effectively learn about climate change and feel empowered to act...we need to focus on actions that students can change to mitigate climate change. By promoting the positive, we can leave sudents with a sense of what they can do.

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