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Climate Change Denial in the Classroom

Hal Harris's picture
Sat, 05/04/2013 - 23:40 -- Hal Harris

Universities should be and are expected to be sources of truthful and unbiased information about controversial subjects, especially in the sciences.  Unfortunately, that is not always the case.  Instructors at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada used "academic freedom" to present an egregiously biased and unscientific course that misrepresented the facts of climate change.  This was not a case of missing a few fine points - the authors claim to have recorded 142 instances of equivocal or incorrect scientific claims, from the video of twenty seven hours of the course.  Unfortunately, I am sure that this documented instance of professors teaching climate change pseudoscience is not the only such course or university where it has and does occur. it is not easy to find remedies for instances such as this, where a tenured professor abuses the trust implicit in the conferal of academic freedom.

Classroom chemistry teachers are sometimes challenged by students to defend against arguments by climate change "denialists", who claim either that the earth's atmosphere is not changing, that it is changing is but the changes are not due to human activity, or even that the changes are beneficial.  Since most chemistry teachers are not experts on climate change, they usually do not have convincing, understandable, and science-based responses.  I would recommend first that professors and teachers take advantage of the excellent ACS resource, The Climate Science Toolkitportal.acs.org/portal/acs/corg/content?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=PP_MULTICOLUMN_T2_50&node_id=819&use_sec=false&sec_url_var=region1&__uuid=8551c3ab-78c8-4909-93dd-8fcc8af2943c, which is clearly-written, comprehensive, and referenced. However, many will also this May/June issue of Skeptical Inquirer useful, because it includes a short article on pages 5-6, "Battle of the Op-Eds: Scientists Defend Reality of  Climate Change" containing written by Dave Thomas, President of New Mexicans for Science and Reason on behalf of seventeen members of NMSR, and by Kendrick Frazier, a science writer and editor of the Skeptical Inquirer.  They reply to some of the most common denialist arguments, which had been published in an op-ed column of the Albuquerque Journal. 

This journal is available at newstands, but the content becomes publically available free about four months after publication. 

Pick Attribution: 

"Climate Change Denial in the Classroom" by Christopher Hassall, Chris A. Hebbern, and Carley J. Centen, Skeptical Inquirer May/June 2013 37 40

Publication Date: 
Saturday, May 4, 2013
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$35.00
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Comments

Hal Harris's picture
Submitted by Hal Harris on

My review of Michael Specter's book, "The Denialists" was published as a Pick in November, 2009.

Hal Harris