If you were already disturbed by what we've already told you is in the proposed social studies textbooks soon to (most likely) be in a Texas classroom near you, you probably don't want to know what the books say about climate change, since a lot of it is about as accurate as The Day After Tomorrow. (Spoiler alert: the people writing these textbooks seem to have some problems with things like "fairness" and "facts".)
However, the folks over at the National Center for Science Education got curious enough to take a look at these textbooks, written according to the guidelines provided by the State Board of Education a few years back. The NCSE just published a report on their findings -- likely after they all got done dry-heaving and breathing into paper bags to adjust to what could be entering Texas classrooms come 2015. Here's a few of our, for want of a better word, favorites:
5. The text is fuzzy on what is causing global warming, even though scientists are, well, not. "Is global warming a result of human activity?" The Macgraw-Hill textbook, World Cultures and Geography, a sixth grade textbook, presents the whole global warming thing as a question. "Scientists agree that Earth's climate is changing. They do not agree on what is causing the change," according to the text. We know it's a shocker, but NCSE had some issues with that statement, which is addressed in the report with about as much subtlety as a sledgehammer. "This entire section is misleading. Scientists do not disagree about what is causing climate change, the vast majority (97 percent) of climate papers and actively publishing climatologists (again 97 percent) agree that human activity is responsible."
4. Fossil fuels punched a hole in the ozone layer in Antarctica. It's so cute that a textbook (specifically Social Studies Grade 6 and 8 by Social Studies School Service) made by and for the great state of Texas, of all places, would claim that fossil fuels (re: oil) caused the hole in the ozone layer. It is also factually inaccurate. The culprit is actually Chlorofluorocarbons, (CFCs) -- the stuff used since the 1930s for refrigeration and such -- not fossil fuel emissions, that made that gaping hole in the ozone layer.
3. Scientists are totally predicting the Earth will cool back down in just a bit. "Some scientists say it is natural for the Earth's temperature to be higher for a few years. They predict we'll have some cooler years and things will even out." Yep, all of you who have been worried about the Earth heating up and making us live out that Twilight Zone episode "Midnight Sun," where the planet is heating up and basically roasting everyone to death, should fear no more, because scientists who know things expect the Earth to start cooling off any day now, according to Social Studies K-5 by Studies Weekly Publications.
Of course, they don't actually name any scientists who have said this. While the folks critiquing the history aspect of these textbooks tended to be a little more passionate sounding, the NCSE report comes off cold, clinical and at its most withering here. The NCSE report rather pointedly notes that this statement isn't backed up with anything resembling fact or proof, saying they haven't seen any currently publishing climatologists who are predicting a cooling trend where "things will even out." "We wonder what the source of this information was," they say.
2. Heartland Institute (which has received funding from Big Tobacco) and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (a Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientific crew) are equally credible. Yep, the Heartland Institute is given as much space and credence as the IPCC when discussing opposing views on climate change in McGraw-Hill's World Cultures and Geogrpahy. Because being a "think tank" that took tobacco money to question the science behind second-hand smoke risks is totally same thing as being group of Nobel-winning scientists. Totally.
1. The ozone hole and climate change are basically the same issue. We know, we were surprised too. See, we always thought that the ozone hole was caused by those CFCs we mentioned earlier. But no, according to Economics, by Worldview Software, the ozone hole and climate change are basically the same issue -- never mind the National Center for Atmospheric Research, which states that, while there are some connections, the two are "largely separate issues.". Also, according to one proposed textbook, the ozone hole and climate change are being caused by deforestation, i.e. the excessive burning of trees. Yep, just take a moment to take this one in:
"Scientists and environmentalists are concerned about deforestation. The burning of the forests has been a factor in the developing greenhouse effect. The forest burning and the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, gasoline) release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Holes in the ozone layer allow sunlight to come through and be trapped beneath airborne pollution. The sunlight is absorbed, warming the earth's atmosphere."
So the greenhouse effect is being caused by our habit of burning forests. Yeah sure, we use, you know, just a smidge of fossil fuels, including oil, but mostly it's because we just can't seem to kick our 100-tree-a-day habit. Now, according to the report this statement is "inaccurate" and it appears "to be rooted in a misunderstanding of what the problem with the ozone hole is and how the sun's radiation interacts with the Earth system." But you know what, we're gonna go ahead and believe it's forest burning. Maybe it will turn into a movement and everyone will start talking about preventing forest fires again. Smokey the Bear will be so proud. Or possibly disappointed. Probably both.