Climate-change denialism added to West Virginia science standards to appease coal-loving officials
A member of the West Virginia Board of Education won a victory for climate-change deniers, as he convinced the board to alter the language of its K-12 science education standards to teach climate change as a controversy, The Charleston Gazette reports.
Wade Linger — at whose behest the changes were made — said that they are meant to encourage debate as to whether humans are the driving force behind climate change, and that the original standards attempted to forestall that debate by asking leading questions.
“There was a question in there that said, ‘Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century,'” Linger said. “If you have that as a standard, then that presupposes that global temperatures have risen over the past century, and, of course, there’s debate about that.”
Linger’s Facebook page, however, indicates that he does not believe there is a debate:
In the comments below that post, Linger wrote that “[t]he world isn’t warming. Scientists measuring surface temperatures and atmospheric temperatures using satellites — including scientists who believe in the global warming theory — say the Earth hasn’t warmed since the Clinton administration.”
“Global warming believers change their predictions,” he continued. “As their temperature predictions have not come true, activists have desperately started blaming global warming for hurricanes, tornadoes and even cold weather. But climate has natural variations, hurricanes and tornadoes have not increased, and snow and colder winters don’t prove global warming.”
The new curriculum standards reflect Linger’s belief that climate change is caused by such “natural variations,” as the new version asks students to “[d]bate climate changes as it relates to natural forces such as Milankovitch cycles, greenhouse gases, human changes in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, and relevant laws and treaties.”
Citing Milankovitch cycles as a possible cause for recent global temperature trends is a favorite tactic of climate-change deniers, but there are many problems with applying that theory to variation on the geologically brief time-scale of human history.
The real issue for Linger and his supporters, including fellow board member Tom Campbell, is that climate change is an “unproven theory” that is particularly detrimental to a West Virginia interest — the coal industry.
When asked why he and Linger were focused on climate change as an “unproven theory” — instead of similarly “unproven” theories that are almost universally accepted in the scientific community, such as gravitation or plate tectonics — Campbell replied that “West Virginia coal in particular has been taking on unfair negativity from certain group,” and “I would prefer the outlook [to] be, ‘How do we mine it more safely and burn it more cleanly.”
“But I think some people want to do away with it completely.”