Climate change is one of the biggest issues of our time, and with nearly three-quarters of Americans accepting that it’s real and caused by human activity, it’s no surprise that those who reject this reality have had to change their tactics. However, one group that has stayed true to its old ways is the Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank that has been at the center of climate change denial for decades.
This week, the Heartland Institute sent copies of its new book, “Climate at a Glance,” to 8,000 middle and high school teachers across the country, claiming that it provides the data to show that the Earth is not experiencing a climate crisis. The 80-page document is presented in a slick, authoritative textbook style and covers 30 climate topics that are often discussed in science classes.
However, the book has been criticized by science education advocates as a misleading interpretation of scientific facts, drawing questionable inferences from cherry-picked data from unreliable sources. Glenn Branch, Deputy Director of the non-profit National Center for Science Education, says that this is not Heartland’s first attempt at influencing science education, but in previous campaigns, the majority of teachers and students who received the materials either threw them out or put them in the recycling bin.
Heartland’s new booklet is defendedable by H. Sterling Burnett, who directs Climate and Environmental Policy for the Heartland Institute and edited the book. However, the Heartland Institute has a history of receiving funding from fossil fuel companies and industrial billionaires such as the Koch brothers, until association with outright science denial started to become more of a liability for the industry. Today, its revenue has declined, but it still receives millions from conservative foundations and philanthropies.
The Heartland Institute is hoping to reach teachers who haven’t been equipped to understand climate science well enough to realize the highly misleading nature of their materials, says Branch. A survey from 2015 found that about 57 percent of high school and middle school science educators have not formally studied Climate change. That’s why Branch hopes to see more states follow in the path of Washington, California, Maine, and New Jersey in appropriating funds for teacher professional development on Climate change, which would equip them with the tools to identify misinformation.
While today’s teachers are unlikely to fall for Heartland’s claims, the organization’s messaging could still help to spread confusion and delay action on Climate change. That’s why it’s crucial that we all do our part in promoting accurate science education and taking action on Climate change. Whether it’s by supporting organizations that promote science education, reducing our carbon footprint, or advocating for policies that address climate change, every little bit helps. So don’t wait – take action today!
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