Friday, May 23, 2014

The global warming debate: let the children decide

Right here on the cover of Newsweek magazine
opponents of the global warming theory
are made out to be bumbling idiots
for not becoming sheep.
Global warming does exists, and if we do not change our way of living we are going to send the planet to Armageddon. Global warming does not exist, and if we don't stop taxing and regulating American industries because of the hoax of global warming, we are going to destroy our economy.  This, in essence, is the modern global warming debate, raging since the early 1990s. 

So, who is right?

I watched a news program in March of 2008 on ABC news about this one scientist who had gone public with his notion that global warming was a hoax. I don't remember the name of the show, the host, nor the guest, although it really doesn't matter for the sake of our discussion here.  What happened was that, instead of the host of that program allowing this scientist to show his evidence that global warming is a hoax, he basically made an effort to discredit him, making him look like a bumbling idiot.

I was actually watching this show with a friend, and while the show was progressing, my friend kept waving his hand through the air saying things like, "See? See?  Global warming is real!"

I said, "That was a terrible report. That scientists barely had a chance to make his point."

My friend said, "Why's that? Because it proved you wrong."

The next morning I awoke and found my son, then nine-years-old, standing in the kitchen.  We heard a huge gust of wind, and both looked out the window to see a fresh blanket of snow.  I said, "Wow, it's not supposed to be doing this in March."

He said, "Yeah, especially with global warming."

Now, at nine, I don't know if he thinks about global warming, although I have a raging suspicion that it is taught, not as the theory that it is, but as a fact.  Chances are that most of his teachers tell him that people are destroying the planet.  I could be wrong, but by the things he brings home, by what I read, that's what I suspect.

I am willing to bet the other side of the argument does not see the light of day in schools. In fact, I bet the global warming debate is not even brought up in schools, meaning the global warming theory is simply a given fact in school not even worth debating.  

Yet I think that's wrong.  I think it's wrong to use a theory as a fact; a given.  I think it is wrong to thing that a theory is a fact, when it fact it is just a theory, an educated guess.  

Like I said, I do not have a problem with my children being taught about global warming.  I have a problem with them being told it's a fact.  I have a problem with it not being taught along with other theories that are equally credible, and that are supported by 50 percent of scientists and 50 percent of Americans.  

That said, if I were a 4th grade teacher, this is how I would teach about global warming.  Ready, here goes.  
"Today, guys, we are going to talk about global temperatures. Basically, there are two theories, and I'm going to leave it up to you what theory you want to believe in. What I'm going to do is give you the facts, and you can decide for yourself what you think.
"About 50% of scientists believe in global warming. The basis of the global warming theory is that we humans are causing the planet to warm up. By our use of fossil fuels, we are causing CO2 to build up in the atmosphere, and this is causing a greenhouse effect, where the planet keeps getting hotter and hotter. Since about 1970, the global temperature has increased by about one degree.
The people who believe in global warming, that we are causing it, want to regulate businesses and, tax them, and make laws that force them to stop doing things that they think are causing global warming, like driving gas guzzling cars, emitting pollution from factories, etc.
"Any questions?" 
After a discussion, I would continue the discussion:

"Okay, now I'm going to give you the facts provided by the scientists who do not believe in global warming. In fact, these scientists do believe in global warming, there is scientific evidence that the earth has increased by one degree since about 1970, although this temperature had not risen since about 1997.  
"However, according to scientific data, there is also evidence that from 1900 to about 1940 there was a period of global warming. This was a time when there was very little use of fossil fuels. Then, from 1940 to 1970, there was a period of global cooling.
"In fact, this global cooling became so bad in the 1970s that some scientists actually proposed melting the polar ice caps. They were never allowed to do that, but it was a proposition that was seriously discussed in Washington. Could you imagine what would have happened if they did melt the polar caps?  What repercussions would that have resulted in?
Here we might have another discussion, and then I would continue.
"What these people contend is that the global warming believers, the people who believe that man is causing the planet to warm, are only using data from 1970 on. The truth is, if you use data from 1900 on, there is evidence to support a cyclical trend of global warming and cooling. What do you think of that? 
"Thus, while the weather is warming now, it will at some point start to cool again. Likewise, to add one more fact, global temperatures cooled in January, 2008,  in all five locations where global temperatures are measured.
Economists who believe in global warming is a hoax think taxing and regulating businesses based on fear is only going to cause economic trouble.  Instead, they postulate reform to benefit the planet through public education and incentives for businesses to conform to better practices that are more planet friendly.   
"Now, based on the facts I just presented, let's have a discussion."
Just before class ended, I would remind my students of the following.
It is important to know there will always be people who put money before taking care of the planet. There will also be people who will support the global warming theory as though it were a religion even when presented with facts.  That is just a given.
Still, and most important, is that most people, regardless of whether or not they believe in the global warming theory, still love the planet Earth and want to do their part to maintain a good environment.  It is always important to work together to be environmentally responsible, no matter what theory you believe in.  
So, that said, what theory do you believe in?  Why? Let's have a discussion. 
Of course, now we would have a discussion. Then, later in the day, or perhaps the next day, I would tell my students that while I don't care which theory they decide to support, it is still important to work together to be environmentally responsible.

I also believe it is okay for a teacher to tell students their opinions, it's just not okay for teachers to use schools as training grounds for recruiting.  That, in my opinion, is what evil dictator nations do.  I think it is wrong.

I would say something like this: 
Now that we are done with our discussion, and before the bell rings, here's my opinion.  Please do not let my opinion influence you.  I believe that no matter what theory you decide to support, that there is global warming right now. There is also evidence that man has caused some effect on this global warming, but to what extend the facts we presently have access to do not show
The question is, will there be a period of global cooling in the future? Or, will temperatures of the earth steadily increase until our planet is destroyed?  
Regardless how you answer those questions, there is not reason to make decisions today out of fear and anger.  We need to make environmentally sound decisions in an environmentally friendly way.  We need to be happy and enjoy today, while considering the future. 
Plus, and most important, no matter what you decide to believe in, you must respect the opinions of those who disagree with you.   

I might think about it, but I would not say:
You are not an idiot if you do not believe in global warming.  You are not an idiot for not being a sheep and following the crowd. To say such things is a maneuver to stifle creativity.  If we do that, then we will prevent further investigations that present newer facts and newer, better, theories from developing. 
We must never try to indoctrinate children to support idealistic theories, nor should we keep them ignorant on such matters.  Instead, we must teach our kids, or encourage our kids, to think, to investigate evidence, and decide on their own. Creative thinking and open mindedness are what made our nation the best nation in the history of the world.

So, when it comes to the global warming debate, we must teach our children how to think, not what to think.  Instead of forming sound conclusions at such an early time in the debate, we must encourage environmental responsibility over dogmatic idealistic solutions. the defense.