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A political organization that doubts climate science is sending this book to 200,000 teachers

A book titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming” has been delivered to 25,000 science teachers. It will go out to around 175,000 more in the coming weeks, until every science teacher in the country has a copy.

At least, that’s the Heartland Institute’s plan, according to reporting by PBS Frontline.

The book itself looks pretty official. It’s got a badge in the upper right-hand corner that labels it a second edition, though I have to admit I didn’t know there was a first.

“It’s not science, but it’s dressed up to look like science,” Ann Reid, the director of the National Center for Science Education, told Frontline. “It’s clearly intended to confuse teachers.”

These Trump mega-donors were front and center at Heartland Institute conference

From the Frontline story by Katie Worth, published Tuesday:

Accompanying the materials is a cover letter from Lennie Jarratt, project manager of Heartland’s Center for Transforming Education. He asks teachers to “consider the possibility” that the science is not settled. “If that’s the case, then students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists,” he writes. The letter also points teachers to an online guide to using the DVD in their classrooms.
The Heartland initiative dismisses multiple studies showing scientists are in near unanimous agreement that humans are changing the climate. Even if human activity is contributing to climate change, the book argues, it “would probably not be harmful, because many areas of the world would benefit from or adjust to climate change.”

News of the propaganda campaign is particularly relevant.

On Wednesday the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology (let’s just agree call it the House Science committee) held a hearing on climate change. They invited three people who reject the overwhelmingly accepted science of climate change and one active climate science researcher (you can probably imagine how it went).

Why does this matter? If it can be proved the science isn’t settled, regulations on carbon dioxide will be very difficult to implement. Fossil fuel industry will be able to continue as they have been for the past century.

If it turns out the science is good (99 percent of climate scientists agree about that) it means fossil fuels are changing our climate, and if it’s a bad change, then we should probably do something about it. The Heartland Institute covers itself on this one, saying that even if the science is settled, climate change “would probably not be harmful.”

The content of this book is not surprising coming from the Heartland Institute. It’s not shy about its feelings with regard to climate change. (In 2012, a billboard showed up in Chicago that read, “I still believe in Global Warming. Do you?” alongside a picture of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. It was a Heartland billboard.)

What does surprise me is that political organizations are writing books that appear to be about science and sending them to science teachers.

In my very unscientific, unvetted poll of the people who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, the feelings among teachers and parents were not positive. A few parents expressed downright horror and one even called his own school district to find out if teachers had received the book yet. I couldn’t find any teachers who said it was common for political organizations to send ostensibly educational material to teachers.

In some ways this is just a sign of a political climate in which science is now a part of, for better or worse. But there will be some teachers who are unfamiliar with the sources of this material, and they will read it and may present it to their students as fact. Ultimately, it’s up to the parents to decide if it’s okay for political think tanks to persuade their child’s learning.