The PBS NewsHour sets up a premise about ‘harmful politics’ of global warming creeping into classrooms that is superficially plausible as long as nobody looks deeply into it.
On Wednesday, the PBS NewsHour aired a taped discussion segment which appeared – to the untrained eye – to be a benign explanation of the pressure on educators to teach the truth about global warming without succumbing to political intimidation which might ‘incorrectly’ skew what students learn. Ordinary viewers not familiar with details of the topic would come away with a reinforced impression that the science is settled, and students would understand this if there weren’t politically motivated troublemakers manufacturing doubt where none exists.
But a little digging reveals the segment shares the general storyline (‘supporting the teaching of climate change science against the efforts of skeptics or deniers’), some of its specific wording (“Kool-Aid of the left-wing liberal conspiracy”), and the central figure (teacher Cheryl Manning), with a January online piece at Climate Central. As pointed out just over a month ago right here at JunkScience, Climate Central is demonstratively an organization that rejects critics in a very questionable manner while advocating the idea of man-caused global warming.
In the NewsHour’s version of the story, Ms Manning is portrayed as a teacher who wants her students to consider and question what they’ve heard about the issue, and then – key words here:
…walk away with a clear understanding of [the] difference between the scientific understanding of the processes and the political conversation that’s going on. I don’t want them to confuse the politics and the economics and all of that with the actual — actual data that exists.
What ‘politics’ would that be? The NewsHour’s example was James Taylor from the “conservative think tank, the Heartland Institute,” as described by the segment host. Taylor was allotted all of six sentences to say how the weather and climate isn’t bad as the global warming alarmists claimed it would be. But without giving Taylor the courtesy to respond in this taped piece, the segment host dismissed it by saying, “These are views challenged by scientific evidence.”
Supposedly, Cheryl Manning and other teachers like her have been intimidated by conservatives, which prompted Manning herself to consult with another person prominently featured in the NewsHour’s segment, Susan Buhr, an ‘education outreach director’ of a group working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the University of Colorado. Ms Buhr described the challenge for teachers this way:
…it’s difficult for them … because of resistance from parents or from students to hearing about the evidence of climate science and climate change.
You can’t let someone who denies the evidence for climate change hijack the classroom….
…. we have to wonder if she doesn’t believe in censoring information from skeptic scientists, or as they are more commonly labeled, “deniers”. Such scientists have never actually denied the climate is changing, thus her use of the word is, at the very least, highly questionable.
…. the facts are as clear as they are for plate tectonics: the climate is changing and the burning of fossil fuels is causing much of the change.
For anyone familiar with the global warming topic, the ‘climate facts’ she cited at her blog after this statement are easily seen as points skeptic scientists vehemently dispute using incredibly detailed scientific assessments. But the simple question here is whether she allows her students to see how the skeptic scientists contradict her assertions.
An even more basic question arises out of a potentially ironic statement made by Susan Buhr in the above-mentioned 2010 article, where she claims the skeptics’ position has…
…to do more with a personal or political identity than it does with real, intellectual consideration of the topic.
So when Ms Manning unabashedly admits in another of her blogs (backup link here) that she is a supporter of Obama, the Occupy movement and economic justice, while railing against people who “make millions, pollute our planet, [and] degrade free and public education”, what assurance do we have that her views about climate change do not have more to do with a personal or political identity than a real, intellectual consideration of the topic, especially when her apparently forgone conclusions about it are at odds with skeptic scientists who are significantly more qualified to make such assessments?
And when the PBS NewsHour arguably continues on a 16 year pattern of excluding lengthy detailed explanations of the skeptic side of the issue, how do they avoid an appearance of having exactly the same problem?
Take this NewsHour segment at purely a superficial level, and you see exactly what they want you to see. Dig into it and others like it, and it becomes obvious who is manufacturing doubt here: those who only tell half of the story while marginalizing skeptics in order to prevent others from learning the idea of man-caused global warming has been faulty since its inception.
JunkScience guest blogger Russell Cook can be followed at Twitter: @questionAGW