Koch-Funded Group Tries to Persuade 200,000 Science Teachers That Climate Change Is Debatable
The conservative and libertarian think tank has sent out 25,000 copies of the organization's book, Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming, and an accompanying 10-minute DVD to 25,000 science teachers this month, according to a Frontline report. The book argues that climate change is not settled science.
Katie Worth, who authored the Frontline report, called the effort a "massive propaganda campaign by the nation's leading climate change skeptical think tank."
The Heartland Institute, which has received funding from polluting industries such as Exxon and the Koch family, rejects the scientific community's widespread consensus that human activity causes climate change.
The organization plans to send the materials to another 25,000 teachers every two weeks until every public-school science teacher in the nation has a copy, Heartland president and CEO Joseph Bast said.
This means the book and DVD could end up in the mailboxes of more than 200,000 K-12 science teachers in the country. The campaign began in mid-March.
Frontline also published a cover letter of the materials from Lennie Jarratt, project manager of Heartland's Center for Transforming Education, who asks that the teacher "consider the possibility" that climate science is not settled.
The 2015 book is coauthored by Drs. Craig D. Idso, Robert M. Carter and S. Fred Singer, who have been heavily involved in the "debate" over global warming.
Here are some tidbits about the authors:
- According to DeSmog, Idso believes that "CO2 is not a pollutant" and is the chairman and former resident of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, which has a mission is to "separate reality from rhetoric in the emotionally-charged debate that swirls around the subject of carbon dioxide and global change."
- Carter, who passed away last year, was an Australian marine geologist and a paid climate change denier, SourceWatch noted. He once asserted that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has not found evidence that global warming was caused by human activity.
- Singer, a former space scientist and government scientific administrator, founded the Science & Environmental Policy Project in 1990, a 501(c)(3) "educational group" focusing on global warming denial, according to DeSmog. Idso and Singer helped develop the Heartland Institute's "Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. Singer said in Jan. 2016 that "the real threat to humanity comes not from any (trivial) greenhouse warming but from cooling periods creating food shortages and famines."
The letter directs teachers to visit Izzit.org to access an online guide to using the DVD. Izzit.org is a "right-wing advocacy organization" that provides free educational videos to U.S. educators and homeschoolers.
The National Center for Science Education, an Oakland, California nonprofit that monitors climate change education in classrooms criticized the mailing campaign.
"It's not science, but it's dressed up to look like science," NCSE executive director Ann Reid told Frontline. "It's clearly intended to confuse teachers."
Climatologist Michael Mann also tweeted that the Heartland Institute is trying to "indoctrinate children with climate denial propaganda."
Bast, Heartland's president, said that some teachers have appreciated the information and even asked for a Heartland speaker to visit a class.
However, many science teachers have not welcomed the campaign.
As Frontline wrote:
Lori Baker, a sixth-grade science teacher at North Putnam Middle School in Roachdale, Indiana, found the package in her school mailbox and was dismayed by its contents. "I read quite a bit of the book, actually, and it was extremely frustrating. It's an attempt to sound science literate, but there's very little actual data," she said.
Baker pointed to the first paragraph of the foreword, written by Marita Noon, executive director of Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy, a nonprofit and lobbying group that advocates for the use of fossil fuels. In it, Noon writes that Obama's description of climate change as the greatest threat facing mankind is "laughable" at a time when "ISIS is beheading innocent people."
"That as a foreword to something claiming to be scientific is pretty shocking," said Baker.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday saying that the Federal Environmental Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) failed to adequately review the environmental impacts of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the fracked gas Sabal Trail pipeline, which runs more than 500 miles through Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
As ocean waters warm and acidify, corals across the globe are disappearing. Desperate to prevent the demise of these vital ecosystems, researchers have developed ways to "garden" corals, buying the oceans some much-needed time. University of Miami Rosenstiel School marine biologist Diego Lirman sat down with Josh Chamot of Nexus Media to describe the process and explain what's at stake. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What is killing coral?
I wish we had an easy, straightforward answer for what's killing corals. We know there are many, many different factors influencing coral abundance, diversity, distribution and health these days, but I think the specific answer varies based on where you are.
Temperatures play a major role at global scales, and then you have all of these other, more local factors like disease, physical impacts of storms, or ship groundings.
Researcher Stephanie Schopmeyer prepares to out-plant Staghorn coral onto a Miami reef. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
We had the dredging of the Port of Miami channel a couple of years ago and that caused a lot of localized mortality due to sediment burial and sediment stress. You also have land-based sources of pollution that can damage by location and nutrient influence that causes algal overgrowth of corals.
Local factors are superimposed on regional factors directly related to global climate change. Changes in temperature, more temperature extremes, acidification of the water, changes in storm frequency and sea level rise— all are at different scales — but they all combine to cause coral mortality.
Factors vary both spatially and temporally, but the outcomes are all the same. Regardless of where you are, we've lost a tremendous amount of coral.
Nursery-raised Staghorn coral out-planted onto a reef by a citizen scientist.
In the face of all those threats, can restoration work?
Historically, restoration was developed and used for acute disturbances. A ship runs aground, and so then there's a recovery, and funds are allocated to recovering the reef structure at a given location, and then corals are planted on top of that. But as global conditions decline for coral reefs, there's now a need to scale up. So, we're not just dealing with the localized impact—we're looking at species declining throughout their range.
We need other tools at larger scales, and that's where coral reef gardening has come into play, because it works at larger scales compared to just dumping cement and rebuilding reef structures, costly endeavors that recover just a very small footprint. We're growing and planting these organisms.
Do you worry about planted coral dominating the reefs?
Initially, these techniques were developed for fast-growing corals. The genus that we're focusing on, Acropora, is threatened, so these are very important reef-building species.
When abundant, they monopolize shallow environments. They form thickets, extensive areas of high-density colonies. That's the way they used to grow, until about three to four decades ago when they got wiped out by disease and other factors. The branching corals that we're working with grow between 10 and 15 cm per branch per year, so that's very fast growth.
Through recent advances in coral aquaculture, we're now also able to grow massive species, the ones that grow very slowly. Mote Marine Lab has developed microfragmentation techniques where they can cut coral colonies very, very small and make them grow very, very fast. Although we focused on branching corals initially, now most of the programs, especially here in Florida, are expanding onto other threatened species.
Citizen scientists plant coral. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
Can these efforts solve the problem, or are they a placeholder until climate stabilizes?
You hit the nail on the head. One of the early criticisms of reef restoration was the scale issue and spending a lot of resources working on a very small footprint.
We've dealt with that now, over the past 10 years we've expanded to the point where we're growing thousands and thousands of corals—we're planting thousands and thousands of corals—so that issue of scale is no longer a valid criticism.
The other major criticism is that, even though we're planting a lot of corals, we're planting them onto environments where the same stressors that caused their initial mortality are in place. Now there is ocean acidification and increased temperatures, so things have gotten, in some cases, progressively worse.
Staghorn corals create a sustainable source of corals for use in restoration. Rescue-A-Reef, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science
That is a valid concern if we were just planting corals, but we're not just doing that. We're still concentrating on all of the other aspects of reef restoration, setting up marine protected areas to protect fish stocks and coral impacts, working to curb land-based sources of pollution, and setting up sedimentation and nutrient controls. And then, on a much larger scale, we're all trying to curb carbon emissions, trying to limit the greenhouse impacts and acidification impacts. All these tools just help us buy time.
We're also doing a lot of genomics work to see how corals can increase their resilience. A colleague of mine here at the Rosenstiel School at University of Miami, Andrew Baker, is stress-hardening corals. He works on coral symbiosis, and he found that by applying a little bit of non-lethal stress, he can make corals shuffle their Zooxanthellae, which are the endosymbiotic microalgae that provide energy to the corals. In that process, they're able to uptake Zooxanthellae that are more thermally tolerant. So, through the forced shuffling of symbionts, you may be able to buy these corals one or two degrees of tolerance, so that they become more tolerant to bleaching in future years. That is cutting-edge science.
We're trying to actually find out what makes corals survive, and trying to beef up their defenses and their resilience over time. And that's because we have access to all these coral genotypes through the active propagation from coral gardening.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
By Karen Perry Stillerman
This job has responsibility for scientific integrity at the USDA, as well as oversight of the department's various research arms and multi-billion dollar annual investments in agricultural research and education that are essential to farmers and eaters alike.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club lodged formal comments with the federal government Monday opposing a massive gas fracking project that spans 220 square miles of public land in Wyoming south of Yellowstone National Park.
The Normally Pressured Lance gas field would destroy wildlife habitat and worsen ozone pollution, a major cause of childhood asthma, in areas already suffering from extreme air pollution.
Sierra received complete surveys from a record-breaking 227 schools—in 36 states, the District of Columbia, and for the first time ever, Canada.
By Andy Rowell
The decades-long struggle for social and environmental justice in the Niger Delta continues, largely unseen by the wider world.
On Aug. 11, hundreds of people from the Niger Delta stormed the Belema flow station gas plant owned by Shell in the Rivers State region of the Delta. The plant transports crude oil to the Bonny Light export terminal, from where it is shipped overseas.
The National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said in a statement the Interior Department has directed it to cease its study on the potential health risks for people living near surface coal mines in Central Appalachia.
The Interior Department, which committed more than $1 million to the study last year, has begun an agency-wide review of grants over $100,000 because of the "Department's changing budget situation."