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May 13 2013


Enviro News Wrap Up: 400 PPM CO2 Threshold Reached; Winters and Global Warming; Innovative Solar Financing a Game Changer, and more…

The Latest Environmental News HeadlinesGlobalWarmingisReal contributor Anders Hellum-Alexander wraps-up and comments on the climate and environmental news headlines for the past week:

  • 400 ppm (parts per million) of CO2 has been reached! Congratulations Planet Earth you are on your way to being unsuitable habitat for billions of humans. Humans will watch our animal brethren decline, then we will follow them. If you don’t like this reality, then “clean” up your life and get political.
  • Oil prices are very important for clean energy industries. Higher oil prices encourage consumers to look for alternatives, increase efficiency and decrease use. The other side is that higher oil prices encourage oil companies to develop previously unaffordable sources of oil in environmentally sensitive locations. Think deep water oil exploration and the BP-Transocean-Haliburton Gulf of Mexico oil spill and the Canadian Tar Sands. We need high oil prices but there will be a period of time when oil companies rush to produce as much oil as possible before they get under-priced by clean fuels.
  • Belief in global warming by the American public is always fluctuating, but is it fluctuating with temperature itself? Belief in global warming increased sharply last summer and then rose in the fall again due to the east coast storm Sandy. Then, after a cold winter we have backed down to a nation of 60 percent believers. This shows a real lack of understanding of science on the part of the American people. Its sad when a government by the people, of the people, for the people does not have a people smart enough to understand the more important and complicated issues. Without a united, consistent, overwhelming voice from the American people our government is confused about the issue leaving a void that is filled by dirty energy lobbyists.
  • Man-made dust bowls through climate change will be just like natural dust bowls, people will be displaced and they have to go somewhere. The problem with human caused climate change is that it is happening all over the globe and if people do not have any where to go, what will they do?
  • Solar technology is developing at a steady pace, but the real potential for changing the game in the short term is solar financing (full disclosure: I work for a solar company). When companies get creative and are allowed to fund solar projects in unique ways (like leasing) then solar becomes more affordable for homeowners. Without improving the technology solar can be sold for less than current utility prices. This has happened in California, New York, New Jersey and many more states. Many people do not know that solar leasing is illegal in many states, literally. If our government would just get out of the way deployment of residential solar would explode more than it already is.
  • Banks fund business, so Rainforest Action Network is putting pressure on banks to not fund dirty energy businesses. Bank of America, CitiGroup and JP Morgan Chase are the biggest investors in dirty energy. I quite Chase bank years ago and switched to credit unions, but Bank of America has got me with the credit card. Disassociating and divestment are difficult but we should all slowly figure out how to take our money out of the “dirty economy.”
  • After the devastating loss of the Rainforest Action Network’s executive director Becky Tarbotton RAN appoints an acting executive director, Lindsey Allen.
  • Being the richest nation in the world, you’d think that our drinking water would be, well, drinkable. Too often that is not the case and our government is not setup to ensure its drinkability.
  • Pacific Gas and Electric in California blew up a neighborhood in San Bruno, now their time in court is coming and it could cost them $2.5 billion.  In recent years PG&E has made about a billion dollars of profit annually.



The post Enviro News Wrap Up: 400 PPM CO2 Threshold Reached; Winters and Global Warming; Innovative Solar Financing a Game Changer, and more… appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

February 16 2011


The Coming Classroom Climate Conflict

I’ve just completed a trip out to the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado—a town that’s in many ways the chief hub for our country’s climate scientists, as well as for a variety of other researchers (especially on weather and renewable energy) and many science education specialists. My visit was focused on science communication, but another theme kept coming up: climate science education, and the conflicts arising therein.

A lot of people out here seem worried about growing resistance to climate science teaching in schools. It was a regular topic of conversation, and at the end of my public talk, one audience member asked whether there needs to be an equivalent of the National Center for Science Education for the climate issue. (The National Center for Science Education is the leading organization defending the teaching of evolution in the U.S.). And no wonder: This state has already seen one of the most direct attacks on climate education yet—although it seems to have fizzled.<!--break-->

Last year, a group called “Balanced Education for Everyone” was linked to an effort to try to prevent teaching about human-caused climate change in Mesa, Colorado schools—although the Denver Post reports that the organization has since disbanded, for reasons that seem unclear. “Balanced Education for Everyone" had also been supporting including the anti-global warming movie “Not Evil Just Wrong” in schools, as well as a climate “skeptic” curriculum that went with it.

Similarly, in a recent study published in the Journal of Geoscience Education, researcher Sarah Wise reports on a 2007 survey of 628 Colorado teachers, which sought to determine what they currently teach about climate change and what kind of resistance they’ve seen as a result of doing so. The most troubling finding was that 85 percent of the teachers felt that “both sides” of the “debate” over whether climate is human caused should be presented in the classroom. Furthermore, 13 percent of the earth science teachers surveyed said they had experienced pressure from another teacher, parent, or other party not to teach global warming.  

Does the future hold more of these conflicts? I think the only reasonable supposition is, “yes it will.”

I’ve already discussed here the growing trend towards folding climate change into anti-evolution bills, and singling “global warming” out as a uniquely controversial subject to be critiqued in the classroom. I think the most logical expectation is that the national controversy over climate change will continue to filter into schools just as it diffuses across all levels of society--and moreover, it should follow a predictable pattern.

Just as the general public breaks into “6 Americas” when it comes to levels of knowledge about (and acceptance of) climate change science, so will teachers, school districts, and communities. And in those communities where the so-called “dismissives” (the most devout climate science rejecters, and currently about 12 % of the U.S. as a whole) are most prominent, conflicts will be most likely to erupt.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of what's going on in schools will never draw significant public attention. A recent study on evolution education, for instance, found that 13 percent of public school science teachers in the U.S. actively teach creationism—even though this has repeatedly been ruled unconstitutional. Legally, every one of those teachers (and their schools) could be sued, but we see nothing like a proportionate number of lawsuits erupting. In all likelihood, this creationist teaching is mostly happening in communities where it is perfectly well accepted and not even controversial. It’s under the radar.

Meanwhile, the evolution survey also found that fully 60 percent of teachers “compromise” in some way on its teaching so as to avoid controversy—showing “both sides,” dodging the issue, giving caveats, etc. In light of the politicization of climate science—and the Colorado data above—we have to assume that many teachers will follow a similar pattern on the teaching of the anthropogenic causes of climate change.

What can we do about this? We certainly do need a national organization to defend climate education in schools—and we need much more focus on preparing teachers for handling controversies. Those teachers who are well informed, and confident in their abilities, will be the least likely to fall into the bad teaching traps outlined above, or to cave to political pressure from parents and others in the community. We need to empower them—so they can accurately inform their students about the single most important thing happening to the planet.

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