Let's teach students science, not scary stories on climate change - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Let’s teach students science, not scary stories on climate change

By WIN GRUENING
SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR

A recent APRN news article got my attention.  It was headlined: “In Anchorage, emotionally preparing students for the scary prospect of climate change.”

After reading it, I was scared, but not about climate change.

The APRN reporter visited two Alaska classrooms to learn “how teachers and students are navigating these difficult conversations.”

According to the article, for the past 13 years, teachers have been working with a curriculum that gives little guidance on how to explain the science behind climate change.

A middle/high school class teacher who was profiled must “struggle with social complexities of teaching about climate change in an oil state, and then there are the emotional (complexities).”

“The future can appear increasingly uncertain, dangerous and even scary” for kids, who must deal with “increased anxiety and depression as Alaskans grapple with a changing environment.”

The future is so bleak, explains the instructor, that “some of his younger students have asked him to dial it back.”
Apparently, help is on the way.

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development is revamping its science standards. The Alaska state board of education unanimously approved a draft of new state science standards on March 29, 2019 — and climate change is included.

As parents, we know how critical it is that basic education be taught in our public schools.  These foundational subjects, Math, Language Arts, and Science are important enough that our educational institutions are required to measure student proficiency in them at various points between kindergarten and high school.

It’s no secret that Alaska’s scores in all three of these areas have historically been disappointing when compared to other states.

Curricula changes can be beneficial, but they also present challenges.

This is most evident in science where the temptation to advance political agendas turns controversial issues into opportunities for indoctrination.

Climate change is real. Teaching the science behind our changing climate is a good thing.  The controversy lies is in what we can realistically do about it.

Today, we are bombarded by politicians and pseudo-scientists who claim fossil fuel use must end and that an energy revolution is possible.  “Clean energy” in the form of wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, they say, is about to become incredibly cheap, making a “new energy economy possible.”

Unfortunately, what is unspoken is their general opposition to the expansion of the three most obvious sources of existing clean energy: natural gas, nuclear power, and hydroelectric dams – leaving us with few choices.

Mark P. Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a faculty fellow at Northwestern University, author of The New Energy Economy: An Exercise In Magical Thinking, states the problem.

“Never mind that wind and solar—the focus of all “new energy economy” aspirations, including its latest incarnation in the Green New Deal—supply just 2 percent of global energy, despite hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies.”

“It takes the energy equivalent of about 100 barrels of oil to manufacture a battery that can store the energy equal to one oil barrel. That means that batteries fabricated in China (most already are) by its predominantly coal-powered grid result in more carbon-dioxide emissions than those batteries, coupled with wind/solar, can eliminate. It’s true that wind turbines, solar cells, and batteries will get better, but so, too, will drilling rigs and combustion engines. The idea that “old” hydrocarbon technologies are about to be displaced wholesale by a digital-like, clean-tech energy revolution is a fantasy.”
Mills explains the only way we will change the “energy status-quo” is through foundational discoveries in the sciences – not by subsidizing yesterday’s technologies, including wind and solar.

Allowing students to skip classes to protest on the Capitol steps doesn’t teach them anything about atmospheric science, geology, geography or oceanography.

Emerging technologies that will help solve climate change issues are only possible if our current crop of high school students are grounded in foundational subject matter like mathematics and the earth sciences.

So yes, our schools should be committed to updating and teaching all science subjects – including climate change.  That’s the only way the next generation will meet this challenge with more than scare stories.

Win Gruening retired as the senior vice president in charge of business banking for Key Bank in 2012. He was born and raised in Juneau and graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1970. He is active in community affairs as a 30-plus year member of Juneau Downtown Rotary Club and has been involved in various local and statewide organizations.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • We don’t have schools, Win, we have leftist indoctrination centers. It is a feature, not a bug that the kids can’t read, write, or do math, but rather can only spout leftist cant and sing songs and carry signs in front of government buildings.

    • In other words, just another failure of a government bureaucracy. That our legislature, by continually funding the failure, gives its tacit approval.

  • The main thing the current and future students should be scared about, at this time, is the leftist propaganda being preached in the classrooms, instead of basic knowledge in math, civics, real history, real science and subject matter that will help them later in life. I suppose no one except real scientists knows anything about how the sun affects/alters climate. Is “climate” change responsible for the north pole migrating towards Siberia, at a furious rate? Is “climate” change responsible for the change in the route taken by the jet stream? Weather patterns, mostly generated by various, historically documented, periodic changes in the sun, are causing the climate to change on earth. Not people. China, India and most third world countries contribute magnitudes more pollution, in earth’s atmosphere, than any other source. Don’t hear much about that, even though street corner oxygen vendors are cashing in, due to the pollution caused by their irresponsible government .non-intervention policies. Yet, western idiots are blaming everything/everyone in their own countries for “climate change”. Teaching curricula in U.S. schools have reached ridiculous levels of leftist/socialist dogma. Not legitimate school programs, as mentioned above. I believe a correct term for what is being taught by the leftist/socialist “teachers” is “leftist political BS”, more than any real science or other valid learning choices. It’s a shame the students will be “graduated” from high school and many “universities”, with less useable knowledge than a sixth grader, in 1920.

  • If you had started and stopped here: “Climate change is real. Teaching the science behind our changing climate is a good thing. The controversy lies is in what we can realistically do about it.” Your effort would have been admirable.

    Jere

    • Jere,
      What would you do about the hole that opened up in the sun a few days ago? You know, the hole that’s 20 times bigger than earth. The one that’s shooting cosmic particles and “beams” at earth this weekend. Is that from “climate change” too? “Climate change” is real alright, but it’s not being caused by people, specifically. Smog, air pollution, etc., no doubt, is caused by human actions (and volcanoes, forest fires, and myriad others) but “climate change”? I must disagree with you on that one. It’s predominantly the sun. I don’t think there is much we can do about that, except realize that’s the cause of climate change. (Whatever happened to “global warming”?)

      Ben

      • Ben, I take it you fancy yourself to be a real scientist? If so you must know the earth’s relationship to the sun is now changing in such a way as to result in cooling rather than warming?

        I urge you to publish your work ASAP so all those climate scientists worrying about CO2, CH4 etc emmissions; positive feedback mechanisms and so forth can go back to more productive work.

        I’m concerned you have taken a position opposing a position on the science of climate change you attribute to me while I have not expressed such!

      • Maybe we harness it?

        Global Warming is alive and well – moving right along. Atmospheric CO2 on Earth just passed 415 ppm up ~4% since this video was producedd:

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3KB4U_TJEY

        Jere

  • If climate change is real why do we need to “hide the decline,” or use “Mikey’s nature trick”?

  • Just to clarify….I believe teaching climate change science can be done without “indoctrination”. Hopefully, the new standards will eventually let that happen. But now, the possibilities for addressing it are dismissed because they do not agree with environmental doctrine, ie. no natural gas, no nuclear, no hydro dams. What is needed is balance. The Green New Deal isn’t the answer and it wouldn’t work. The U. S. is not the only contributor to climate change, nor could it possibly solve it by itself. We need to look at less expensive, more practical solutions that don’t destroy our economy while science solves this challenge – just as it has solved numerous scientific problems throughout history.

    • Can climate change science be taught with altered data?

  • Win! I like your article. While I don’t believe humans cause anything near to what the media claims and I don’t believe in “global warming”, I am always supporting advancements in new technology to help us learn how to better take care of what we have. Hopefully someday, the environmentalists will let us solve costly power problems instead of holding capitalism back from helping the world.

  • I agree with the general premise if your article, in that we should all listen to what science tells us, and not just the science we agree with. Unfortunately, science, like statistics, is so often honed and distilled to reflect an outcome that resembles the political presumptions of those presenting it that it difficult to know what the truth really is.

    With that said, there are a couple of statements made herein which are pretty ridiculous. Your statement about advocates for “green” energy being generally opposed to the “three most obvious choices of existing clean energy: natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric dams” is inaccurate and furthers an often used argument of those who I would describe as anti- renewable energy.

    – Natural gas is not “clean” energy, it’s just less dirty that coal. But much like a diaper that has only been slightly crapped in as opposed to one that had the seams blown out, they both smell like sh*t. Natural gas burned produces CO2, which is then dumped into the ecosystem, just like coal. If you think that that is not a problem, please make that argument rather than just calling it “clean”.

    – Nuclear fission reactors produce radioactive waste which nobody really has any idea about what to do with. Currently the waste, which is incredibly toxic, is just stacked up onsite at most nuclear power plants where it waits for people in the future to figure out how to clean it up. It is definitely not “clean” just because it is not venting CO2 into the atmosphere. If you think that that is not a problem, then please make that argument instead of just ignoring it and calling it “clean”.

    – Hydroelectric dams are probably the cleanest of your “clean” sources of power, but every dam has major impacts to the land around it and the waterways used for it. Is the trade off worth it? Maybe, but it is not without consequence.

    Your other quote from Brian Mills about the barrels of oil used to produce a battery is specious at best, and is a good example of people selectively choosing their statistics and science to bolster their presumptions. A stiff fart could knock that argument over.

    Granted, there is no free lunch, and any set of actions will have consequences. Green energy, renewable energy, and hydrocarbon based energy all have pros and cons, so let’s not ignore the ugly aspects of whatever it is you are advocating for because they are inconvenient to your argument. And maybe start your argument by answering this question first: Is it ok to dump our waste products into the ecosystem, and if so, are there any negative consequences to doing that? If you can’t honestly answer that, then you are just blowing smoke.

    • Ethan,
      To start, C0 2 is not all bad. It is essential to the prolific growth of all flora on the planet. A couple of months ago, liberals were saying that early settlers of America prevented the native Indians from “farming”, and thus hindered the growth of forests due to lack of C0 2.

      Nuclear fission does produce toxic waste. Disposal is controversial, but not insurmountable. One possible solution might be to put the waste back into the radioactive mines the uranium ore came out of. It’s radioactive also. The reactors produce steam and water vapor from cooling. Not toxic materials into the atmosphere. The benefits are, indeed, “clean energy”.

      Hydro electric dams impact an insignificant amount of “land around them”. The water source management provided by dams prevent flooding, hold massive reservoirs of fresh water, necessary to many needs other than human consumption. The problem the dams create for migrating fish have mostly been resolved by “fish ladders” and other methods. Dams on the Columbia river in
      Oregon are a perfect example of use and remediation of any difficulties involved.
      Not long ago, cow flatulence was perceived as a major “environmental” problem. Should we remove one of the largest sources of food in the world to comply with liberal idiocy? Try telling that to Indian (from India) citizens. They would probably want to hurt you for disrespecting a “deity” of their religion.

      Mr. Gruening has made intelligent, knowledgeable comments that do not deserve to be disrespected. Your non specific arguments against his comments border upon insults.

  • Win, you want ideology or science…
    .
    You want ideology, Alaska’s education industry does day-care ideology. The quality and cost of what they produce reflect how well their product works in productive American society.
    .
    You want science in the classical sense, Alaska’s education industry does not seem to be an option for the foreseeable future, so you get a second, a third job, put your child in a private school which has a reputation for producing classically educated, self-reliant, patriotic, employable Americans.
    .
    Enough parents do this, the union-management cartel which makes up the education industry could crumble under its own weight as cartel members eat their own because their money and customers dried up.
    .
    And the problem, along with its scary stories, goes away.

  • Ethan,
    Your statements seem to ascribe to the “green new energy” program promulgated by AOC and others. The trouble with that, is the solutions you and others give to the “problem” of rational energy, currently available, are not reasonable. For instance, natural gas combustion does produce C02. Don’t you realize that that mixture of carbon and oxygen is essential to flora growth? Not long ago, misinformation was presented by liberals, that early settlers prevented native Americans from “farming”, hence, reduced the C02 required for vegetation to flourish. Now, it seems to be the opposite opinion of opponents to sensible energy production. Nuclear waste is toxic, I agree. Disposal is indeed a problem. But not one that is insurmountable. If we shipped it to china, or other countries, they would probably make bombs out of it. Hydro power impacts a tiny portion of land around the source, but the benefits far outweigh the detriments. How about cow farts? That was being touted as a major problem for the environment, only a couple months ago. Try telling Indian (from India) people that is a problem. They would want to punish you for disrespecting “deities” of their religion. In any case, solutions will eventually turn up. Just not the extremes being touted by the dims/libs. America has some of the brightest minds in the world. Give them a chance. Maybe nuclear “fusion” is close on the horizon. Who knows?

  • I thought my latest comment to Ethan (above) did not go. My internet connection failed. Please disregard my recent one as it rehashes the same issues.

  • I just ran across a rather entertaining quote from George Bernard Shaw.
    Quote: “He, who can, does. He, who cannot, teaches”. I thought it would fit into this discussion.

  • Life-long Alaskans know climate change has accelerated recently. From Cedars to Salmon, our resources are threatened by this reality.

    Any responsible science teacher works to make real connections between the hard realities of science and the practical lives of their students.

    Making sense of science in Alaska means teaching students about their world. In Alaska, their world is changing at a rate 2.5 times faster than the rest of the states.

    The only folks who are afraid of teachers teaching scientific reality are the willfully ignorant. If it’s not climate change deniers, then it’s anti-evolutionists.

    Climate change deniers are the problem. Science teachers are the solution.

  • I understand the reluctance of many people on this board to accede to the reality of global warming. If thousands of scientists can’t convince them, I am certainly not able to. It’s a deep part of human nature to create a narrative that makes the world orderly. We all do it, and we’re all wrong sometimes. In the case of climate change, though, it’s important that most people get it right.

    I imagine this board is mostly people over 50. We’ve all become what we are by playing a certain game. Unfortunately, the game has changed, and a lot of people want to stick to the one they know, because it works for them. Many people seem to think that a good “Conservative” automatically supports fossil fuels. In fact, fossil fuels are a technology, like the steam engine or the water mill, and unfortunately, they are a technology that is destroying us. A person can still be a conservative and want to get rid of fossil fuels.

    Conservatives who desperately believe that fossil fuels are somehow more “American,” or “real” certainly have the power to obstruct climate progress and thereby win their game. Unfortunately, their children will be the losers. We are all responsible for this mess, and we all need to work together to get out of it. We need to start making dramatic strides in the next couple of years, not in some hazy far-off future.

    As to the original point of this article, about teaching climate change in school, both my sons graduated from Juneau Douglas High School. One them is about to matriculate at UC Berkely to get his Ph.D in Artificial Intelligence and Chemistry. I’m pretty sure he understands the science. He is deeply discouraged about the world he is going to live in when he’s my age. My other son, a college senior, will soon be coming home for the summer. An avid sport-fisherman and erstwhile commercial fisherman, he probably would have taken fishing as a career path, but he is watching the demise of the fisheries in Alaska and sees no future in it. Instead, he’s surveying the decline as a dock sampler for Fish and Game, often filled with a sense of dread about the future of our species and fellow creatures. Among his friends, those who allow themselves to think about it feel the same way. Others tune it out.

    People over 50 have the luxury of believing climate change won’t affect them. Children in school don’t have that option. All over the state, students are aware of melting permafrost, closing ski areas, disappearing salmon runs and missing sea ice. In reality, they are facing catastrophe. They deserve to be educated about this reality, not have a curriculum that steers around it as if it’s no big deal. It is the biggest deal of their lives. Perhaps WE are the ones who feel more comfortable pretending to them that it’s no big deal, because it belies how badly we are failing them.

    As to the students skipping school: they are fighting for their future with the very few tools that are available to them. I only hope they will be heard.

    • Rarely see quite so much drivel in one place…
      .
      Understand what you wish about global warming. Point is, like any other person on this planet, you have no idea what makes up the chaotic climate model, how each or any combination of its pieces affect the whole.
      .
      But you know your ideology. Your coup d’état is capsizing, so it’s time for Plan B: Weaponize global warming hysteria, bombard Americans with pseudoscience, and tax them into submission.
      .
      Only an arrogant so-and-so presumes to know what Americans over 50 have the luxury of thinking… which is a good thing; arrogant so-and-so’s tend to make self-destructive mistakes, big ones.
      .
      Your mistake is infusing your progeny with pessimism, they’ll be back under your roof, you’ll be supporting them because it’s just too scary (and warm) out there.
      .
      Thank Dear God, my America was not founded by self-centered, pseudoscientific pessimists such as yourself.
      .
      As to the students skipping school, imagine how quickly that would change if parents were fined a thousand bucks a day and the miscreant were forced to make up for skipped days at year’s end… or if the student were simply expelled and replaced by a legal immigrant who wants an education.
      .
      No, your lazy twits are no more “fighting for their future with the very few tools that are available to them” than you are learning the effects of orbital mechanics on climate change with the very many tools available to you…
      .
      or learning about the whole process that ended the last Ice Age…
      .
      or learning about the whole process that started the last Ice Age…
      .
      or doing something more useful than worrying about what people over 50 have the luxury of thinking.

    • Geez, Stu, you ever thought about writing your kids grants? Love the emotional appeal.

  • Win, great piece. you nailed it. You should be in the legislature.

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