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April 10, 2008

Enough Already

We get a fair amount of letters here at Seven Days world headquarters. Most of them are pretty thoughtful responses to our stories and reviews and, for better or worse, they largely reflect Vermont's distinctly liberal ethos, especially when it comes to the environment.

In other words, it's pretty rare when we hear from someone like Angela L. Emerson of Essex Junction, who is living proof — she can correct me, if I'm wrong, but I don't think I am — that there is at least one global-warming denier living in the Green Mountain State.

"I have just been notified," Ms. Emerson states, breathlessly, in an April 4 email to Seven Days, "that the Essex High School Science Department has been showing the highly controversial movie 'The Inconvenient Truth.'"

After informing us that the movie was "made by a politician who has no scientific background what so ever" (sic), and whose motivation is mere "money and power," she directs our attention to "The Great Swindle," a British documentary that focuses on the scientists and "commentators" who don't believe that human-produced CO2 is the primary cause of climate change.

"These are the minds of science that we should be listening to," she says, "not some politician."

I understand there are people who don't like Al Gore, and I understand that not every person worried about climate change found "The Inconvenient Truth" to be flawless or, for that matter, worthy of an Oscar. But I've never understood people, like Ms. Emerson, who scream "propaganda," then attempt to set the rest of us straight by doling out manipulative and easily discredited pap of their own.

As the big-brained folks at desmogblog.com have so thoroughly established, "The Great Swindle" is itself a flight from reason, if not an outright fraud.

Among its prominent players are Paul Reiter, who sits on an advisory council for the "Annapolis Centre for Science-Based Public Policy," a think tank that has received $763,500 in funding from ExxonMobil. Another "expert," Tim Ball, works with the "Friends of Science," a Canadian organization of global-warming skeptics that, according to the Toronto Star, receives one-third of its funding from the oil industry. In an August, '06, another newspaper found that the FOS was funded in part by the oil and gas sector, but was attempting to obscure that fact.

"The Great Swindle" is also guilty of an egregious error of omission: It never mentioned that the science on climate change  — real science; you know, the peer-reviewed kind — is unanimous that global warming is real and humans are the cause.

Ms. Emerson's larger point is further lost amidst some poor sentence structure, but it seems to be that she wants us all, by God, to think for ourselves. Words to live by, I'd say.

Here's Ms. Emerson's letter:

It does not matter if you are a Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Independent, or Moderate. Political bias has no place in our school system.

I have just been notified that the Essex High School Science Department has been showing the highly controversial movie " The Inconvenient Truth".Regardless of my objections to the films scientific content. Potentially Political bias material should not be presented in a public school without the notification of parents. If your school was going to show a global warming movie created by George W. Bush with a pitch about how eco-friendly it is to drill for oil and continue using it. Wouldn’t you want to be informed before your minor was exposed to it? I think so! Not to mention the fairness doctrine was not used in presenting this material.

It has been decided in a court of law that The Inconvenient Truth film has 9 key specific errors including 3 errors that are apocalyptic gospel of climate change.

It was ruled by a court of law hearing both sides, that this film clearly violated 60 of the 127 scientific forecasting principles, critical to making sound predictions. Does a school know more than a court of law? So why on earth is it being show in our science classes?

Who made the decision to show it?

Upon speaking with department heads at the Essex High School Science Department. I have found that the responsibility to show the film lies completely in house. The state is not aware this film is being shown.

It does not matter if you believe in "Global Warming"/"Climate Change" or not. This material was made by a politician who has no scientific background what so ever. He has created a commodity out of a natural green house gas and he plans on exploiting it for every penny he can get by using scare tactics and time tables to create a sense of urgency. Money and power are the objective here, not saving the planet.

If you ever had any doubt or if you want the un-bias actual scientific truth about global warming, go to thegreatswindle.com. These are the minds of science that we should be listening to not some politician or school department head.

Please call your science department and get this movie out of the school. Let’s educate not scare and manipulate.

If anything, both movies should be shown and the students asked "what do you think? What do you believe?" afterward.

The fact is, we don't know who's right. We'll likely never know. You can tout all the numbers in the world, but we really don't know it all. All we can do is act on good conscience and do the right thing (drive less, turn the heat down, etc).

It's like the scientists in the 80s who were patting each other on their backs going "yep, we've solved it all. we know how Space works now." Then quantum physics comes along and flipped the Science community on its head.

It's a good lesson.

Anyway, frankly, you're criticism of Ms. Emerson's note is horrid. So what that her "sentence structure" isn't up to snuff with your writing standards. She makes no claim to be an expert. She's simply P.O.'d and wrote from emotion.

You're a news media source; I always expected an unbiased answer, but unstead you're trying to make a fool out of someone who wants fair an equal exposure to the students. I think it's you Brian who look like the fool at the moment.

Show both movies. That's best for the kids.

You're right, Saddened. Calling Ms. Emerson on her punctuation skills was a cheap shot, especially when there was so much more about the actual content of her letter that I could have had fun with.

As for you, young man (or lady), watch those apostrophes.

Yeah, a little balance might be nice.

Insteadf you dismiss out-of-hand any questioning of the climate change "crisis" - especially in light of the announcement by the UN last week (heard on NPR;s All Things Considered) that temps are *lower*.

This "Blurt" crap of a blog attempts to pick up on the edginess that Freyne used in his blog. Unfortunately you are failing.

The people who advocate teaching "both sides" of climate change tend to be the same ones who want "both sides" of many bogus bifurcations represented.

Life on Earth: evolution or creation?
Civil liberties: "genderless" marriage or traditional marriage?
The War between the States: slavery or economics?
The Holocaust: Genocide or not really THAT bad?
Earth: oblate spheroid or flat?
The U.S.: Separation of church and state or Christian Country?
Reality: objective consensus or the demon-filled inside of my head?

I feel compassion for the no-such-thing-as-global-warming camp, I really do. The idea that the global climate is changing in catastrophic ways is very scary and it's only natural to want to stick one's head in the sand. However, even George W. Bush and Pope Benedict have admitted it's real - maybe it's time to concede this one.

Molly -

The point of teaching both sides of ANY argument is to show them how to take a "FAIR AND BALANCED" approach to addressing an issue. With solid arguments and good data, common sense should prevail, as long as you haven't stopped teaching that as well.

I for one do not one my kids being brought up to accept the first thing they hear as the Word of Whatever.

Case and point. Most data out there today in mainstream media is "for" global warming. Are we just to accept that as "gospel" and be good little sheep? Or can we ask for a "second opinion" and get the "against" side to form our own opinions? I'll go with option two Alex for $200.

Same goes with your other comparisons. So what if most have clear data proving things one way or the other. Both sides should still be presented so it's clear to the newcomer why one has more weight than the other.

Oh, and not to be mean ... but please please please don't even think about trying to use the Pope and Bush as "experts" on anything ever again. They are the last people we should be turning to for the answers!

Yowza. You get an F in reading comprehension, Saddened. Your homework assignment is to look up the word "bifurcation" in any directory of logical fallacies and write a 500 word essay regarding it's applications in contemporary rhetoric.

Fine Molly, you win. I'm not as good of a wordsmith as you. You can sleep better knowing I've learned my lesson.

Sigh.

OK, for those that care, I mistakenly left out the fact that there is often more than two points of view in every argument. I should have been more clear when trying to suggest that one-sided rhetoric is bad for our kids.

I'm still curious though. Molly? You still haven't addressed this very point. Aren't you bothered that some schools are teaching only one side of the "global warming" issue?

If one wants to be credited with having an open mind, Saddened, one should resist using the expression "fair and balanced," especially in conjunction with the "caps lock" key. You'll never get both sides of the story from Fox News. But, I suspect that may be why you and others of like mind watch it.

Second, speaking of not addressing the issue at hand, you have ignored the well-established fact that all -- and I mean, ALL -- of the peer-reviewed science on climate change has shown that it is real and that it is caused by humans. Not one shred of credible evidence exists to say otherwise.
As some famous person or another said, You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.

That said, I very much appreciate your willingness to engage on the issue.

Fox News??? Are you kidding? I don't watch that crap. So sorry bud, I'm not Republican. I'm more open and liberal than you'll likely ever be by the read of it.

The caps were just to make a point that the presentation should be fair and balanced to all parties. Why do I even have to make this sort of thing clear? Sigh.

I didn't miss the memo on Global Warming. I'm merely suggesting that regardless of what is proved or not proved, let the kids sort that out for themselves. If the data is strong enough, and the kids know it's OK to ask questions and think for themselves, then they'll make up their own minds (likely the accepted one).

This isn't about Global Warming ... it's about not teaching one-sided opinion so that they go around singing it to others that it's the only truth. Yeah - here's an idea. Let's just tell them that Catholism is the only religion ... or that Heterosexuals are the only appropriate sexual orientation. Bloody brilliant.

Blah, blah blah. I'm done. This isn't a discussion --- not sure it ever was. I can see that Authur is the only one who really seemed to get it.

Really? You don't watch Fox News? I could swear your debate tactics -- dodge the question, ignore the evidence and, when you have no other place to hide, attack the messenger -- were lifted straight from the network's playbook.

Here's a memo you did apparently miss: Knowledge, whether gained in elementary school or on the Web, isn't attained by granting equal weight to competing ideas when every verifiable fact concludes there is a right side and a wrong side.

By your logic, we'd teach kids that AIDS is God's curse on homosexuality and the Grand Canyon was caused by Noah's flood, just because somebody out there believes it's true.

I don't know about you, but I'd rather my tax dollars weren't spent on an education system that lets fourth graders make up their own minds about scientific issues. That's not teaching, it's babysitting.


I haven't addressed your "point" because I'm trying to tell you that I think it's fundamentally invalid. Here's my final word on the matter:

1. I'm sure the Essex High School science department is perfectly qualified to determine their own curricula.

B. I seriously doubt they said, "Here's everything you will ever need to know about global climate change!", showed the film, then moved on to fetal pig dissection.

III. I wish everyone who got their panties in a wad about twaddle like this would redirect their passion to solving the real problems facing our public secondary schools. The misdirection is so typical of Americans, like screaming bloody murder about lead in your Chinese toys while your kids are all dying of complications from obesity. Big picture, folks, big picture.

I often wonder why there is a debate, quite frankly, and by that I don't mean that there is only one side of the issue.

Maybe I'm missing something, but is there a case to be FOR emmissions? I don't hear that argument, just the fact that humans aren't causing global warming.

Really, why is it a struggle to say that we should be limiting pollution? Can pollutants be a good thing? How can anyone make that argument?

I'll probably regret weighing in here. But all this sniping has really got my juices flowing. It sorta reminds me of Solid State, only with less name calling. Anyway . . .

Arthur, the report you refer to states that temps will be "slightly lower" this year because of the effects of La Nina. What you conveniently fail to mention is that temps will still be well above average, and possibly above the records set in 1998 and 2005. There's nothing like a good fact taken out of context to bolster a false argument. Just ask Bill O'Reilly.

Saddened, you claim that "With solid arguments and good data, common sense should prevail." Maybe I'm missing something, but when the world's scientific community is in practically unanimous agreement about Global Warming based on "solid arguments" and "good data," shouldn't "common sense" dictate that we believe them?

I'm not defending using Gore's film in a science class, just as I wouldn't justify using a Michael Moore film in a history class. However, to me this merely seems like an attempt by a teacher to engage his or her students — a notoriously hard thing to do — and open a dialogue about a very important issue.

When I was in high school, a history teacher took our class to see "Schindler's List" in an effort to illustrate the Holocaust in a way that textbooks, Maus and Elie Weisel books simply can't. I wonder if 7D got any letters about that?

WTF?

This was never about sides for me ... so I'll just spell it out for everyone. Here's a dialog I hope is happening in schools.

Teacher: "There are some who believe X. X is blah blah blah. There are some who believe Y. Y is lal lal lal. Then there is Z. Z is well, Z. Most statistics and generally smart people believe X is the most likely to be true. What do you believe and why?"

I fear some teachers, according to positions being made in this post, are saying this.

Teacher: "X is happening. X is blah blah blah."

Student: "I heard that Y is also happening."

Teacher: "That's nonsense. X is all you need to know about."

What in the world is wrong with what I'm suggesting? I would love to have had that sort of interaction in a classroom more often over being spoon-fed some of the shit that my professors were spouting when I went to school.

I've already wasted enough of my time on this. I still need to watch Al Gore's new video before Fox News at 6pm.

Saddened,

I think what the other commenters are trying to say is that some arguments don't deserve to be presented in a science class because they are not scientifically-derived arguments. For example, Intelligent Design proponents make a similar case for their "theories" being taught along side evolution in biology classrooms. But since ID is no more a scientific explanation of the diversity of life than, say, "the Flying Spaghetti Monster made us all this way" is, it's simply not appropriate material for a science class.

Also, you seem to be giving high school kids an awful lot of credit for being able to sort good information from bad. Some scientific theories are testable in a classroom environment, like measuring the force of gravity or the boiling point of water at sea level, but with something as complicated as global climate change, I think it's okay for high school students to rely on the research of experts. I would not expect high school level geology students to verify plate tectonic theory either. Merely acknowledging the girth of scientific support for the theory is adequate.

Science subjects are not like political subjects. Opinions are vastly less important than facts in a science classroom. A closer analogy is a math class. I assume you would agree that teaching an alternative to the Pythagorean theorem to high school students is a bad idea. That is, if there was a movement of Pythagorean deniers out there insisting that the square on the hypotenuse is NOT equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides of a right triangle, would you insist the alternative deserves to be taught as well? If your answer is yes, what alternative (and demonstrably wrong) ideas would you keep out of the classroom? There are an awful lot of crackpot theories out there. Shouldn't we stick to teaching kids things that are true?

To the writers and supportors of Seven Days -

You wonder why folks like me linger around don't you? It's because I like to remind you that your arrogance and ignorance can only take you so far.

The Universe is a really big place, and no matter how many smart people get behind a single idea (global warming in this case), there is an equal number of smart people (though keeping private in many cases) that have intriguing, valid counter points. I think "career suicide" is the proper term in this case.

Anyway, I urge you all to never get behind any idea just because it's hip or trendy or because someone told you to. I encourange everyone to keep an open mind and question everything.

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23583376-7583,00.html

These are the reasons I continue to stand behind my opinions. Because I'm not stupid. I don't know everything. The only thing I do know for certain is that even the most brilliant people don't know everything either.

All you can do, like me, is continue to read and learn. Am I saying that we're not spewing CO2 into the atmosphere. No. Am I saying we're not going through consumables at a rediculous rate? No. Do we need to recycle? Yes. Drive less? Yes. Find alternative, cleaner fuels (that don't impact our food supply)? Yes.

But will I get behind a single idea because most other people have? Hell no.

It's the same reason why I won't get behind any single religion or belief in "a" God.

I exist to question. Period. I only wish others had the courage to do the same and question more. It's good for the soul.

Anyway, you what's sad though? I bet you won't even read the article Brian, et all. And that's why I'm saddened.

". . . plenty of anecdotal evidence that 2007 was exceptionally cold . . . ."

"It is generally not possible to draw conclusions about climatic trends from events in a single year . . . ."

Anecdotal evidence? Not possible to draw conclusions?

Not surprisingly, this bullshit is all over the right-wing global-warming denier network as evidence of the climate-change fraud.

You might benefit from a little reading yourself, Saddened. Start with reports from the US National Center for Atmospheric Research and the Institute of Physics' Environmental Research Letters. Both concluded that the sun likely has a negligible effect on climate change.

Yet, here is Dr. Chapman: "The reason this matters is that there is a close correlation between variations in the sunspot cycle and Earth's climate . . . .

More reading: David Karoly from Melbourne University's School of Earth Sciences told an Australian TV reporters that Chapman's photo-gazing is "misinterpretation or misrepresentation and miscommunication of the factors that influence global temperature."

Karoly said that, yes, the climate system did cool from January 2007 to January 2008. But it wasn't because of sunspot variations. That cooling was associated with changes in the ocean temperatures in the Pacific, the El Nino to La Nina switch.

Dr. Chapman is a geophysicist?

Here's what the American Geophysical Union — 45,000 members from over 140 countries — says about global warming in an official position statement, revised in December:

"The Earth's climate is now clearly out of balance and is warming. Many components of the climate system — including the temperatures of the atmosphere, land and ocean, the extent of sea ice and mountain glaciers, the sea level, the distribution of precipitation, and the length of seasons — are now changing at rates and in patterns that are not natural and are best explained by the increased atmospheric abundances of greenhouse gases and aerosols generated by human activity during the 20th century."


You know Brian ... I do read ... alot. And I Google'd the man just like you. There is a lot data out there ... lots and lots and lots of data ... either way.

It's why I'm challenging things. Because I'm not convinced. I see all the same data, and while it's compelling, I choose to challenge it. Frankly, the only thing I'm convinced of is that we're not intelligent enough as a species yet to understand it all.

So my point remains. There is just too much complexity in our wheather, the Sun / Earth relationships, the Universe ... so much we don't understand and have been wrong about since the beginning.

We may never know, in our lifetime nor in our children's either, as to what really is happening. It may just take that long to validate the trends we're seeing.

Hey Brian, Part 1

I guess you have reading comprehension issues. As you have pointed out, my use of commas is excessive.

Under cover of web darkness I, only today find what I am responding now.

I was simply stating that politics has no place in our school systems and we should not be using material put together by politicians.

Apparently, you could not see or decode this.

With Vermont's education scores going down the irreversible camode. We should be focusing more on reading, writing, (as you point out), math, real science and history.

The global warming petition now has over 31,000 signatures of American scientists that concur that man has made no contribution to climate change.

Here are the names of Vermont Scientists that have sighed the petition. I guess I am not alone after all.

Paul A. Bailly, PhD, Paul A. Bailly, PhD, Robert A. Baum, Eric Bellows, Bruce Irving Bertelsen, Lawrence Bilodeau, Larry Bilodeau, James H. Burbo, Bernard Byrne, PhD, Robert E. Chiabrandy, Donald Lyndon Clark, PhD, William Wesley Currier, PhD, Barry S. Deliduka, Blair J. Enman, Nils C. Ericksen, James Evans, MD, Paul D. Fear, Daniel P. Foty, PhD, Daniel Foty, Paul D. Gardner, William Halpern, PhD, Ray A. Hango, Grant Hopkins Harnest, PhD, David Japikse, PhD, Thomas J. Laplaca, PhD, Anthony Lauck, Peter P. Lawlor, MD, George Butterick Maccollom, PhD, Kenneth Gerard Mann, PhD, William W. Martinez, John McClaughry, Jack Noll, Duncan G. Ogden, Donald C. Oliveau, MD, Frank R. Paolini, PhD, Henry B. Patterson, Malcolm J. Paulsen, MD, Hans J. Pfister, Kerri L. Polli, Olin E. Potter, F. H. Raab, PhD, Frederick H. Raab, PhD, Benjamin F. Richards Jr., PhD, Alvert L. Robitaille, Albert L. Robitaille, Thomas Dudley Sachs, PhD, Phillip J. Savoy, Christian T. Scheindel, Josh Schultz, Byron G. Sherman, MD, Thomas Smith, PhD, Frank J. Thornton, Waclaw Timoszyk, PhD, Ralph Wallace, PhD

By the way on November 16th 2008 a press release by the Telegraph, confirmed that Al Gore and his chief scientist perpetuated the biggest scientific blunder in history. Turns out the Russian data they presented to the U.S. congress was flawed. That and the latest news that simply brewing/roasting tea, coffee and cocoa is a huge contributor to Co2 gasses. I wager to think we are not going to give up our lattes and chocolate.

So much for Vermont being green with a coffee roasting plant in our midst.

Shame on me for attempting to stand up for all youth regardless of political affiliations. I think as a whole. I look out for my fellow man and his children.

I should have know that a liberal newspaper media would distort, rip apart and attempt to inflict charter assignation upon any opinion that does not coincide with their own. As usual liberals say they want peace but they react with anger and stick to the dogma of their party.

Just for your information, I own my opinion and am not afraid to sand up for what is right and what is wrong. What is wrong is to indoctrinate our youth in the most impressionable time of their lives.

Man made "Climate Change" or the lack their of, is for grown ups to deal with.

Angela L. Emerson

Oh Brian,

By the way, I left a ton of typos and mistakes for your future entertainment and criticism purposes.

Yes, when you write in the heat of the moment mistakes happen.

And another thing, you are soooooooooooo wrong. I am correcting you. But your mind only thinks in doubloons and you still live in the 60's. I feel sorry for you, trapped in your dark closed minded cavern. I will pray for you and I forgive you for you know no better.

Peace be with you my friend.
Angela L. Emerson

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