Children are being targeted by climate disinformation campaigns from the Heartland Institute. This fossil fuel-funded group is at the forefront of efforts to confuse the public and thanks to the deep pockets of the dirty energy industry they have a lot of money to play with (the organization’s budget was $5.3 million in 2015). The Heartland Institute has been disseminating propaganda on behalf of the fossil fuel industry for decades. In 1998 the institute began targeting students with climate disinformation. Over the last couple of decades, they have encouraged teachers to teach alternate facts and ignore the body of evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change.
Most recently the Heartland Institute is distributing a book and a DVD to public school teachers that claim that climate change is a natural phenomenon and not due to human activities. The misleading book is titled “Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming”. It is being sent to all 200,000 K-12 public school teachers in the US. The foreword was written by Marita Noon, executive director of Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy which is another fossil fuel front group.
The slick book is meant to look like a science textbook. It makes the disingenuous claim that the science on climate change is not settled. The fact is the science is settled and there is a strong body of evidence that has forged a consensus of scientific support for anthropogenic climate change. The book also claims that even if climate change is real it will be beneficial in many places around the world.
The book was challenged by National Center for Science Education (NCSE), who stated “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.”
Many teachers have pushed back against the book. Lori Baker, a sixth-grade science teacher at North Putnam Middle School in Roachdale, Indiana told Frontline: “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.”
However, some educators are embracing the disinformation and teaching it to their students as though it were fact. Some teachers even asked the Heartland Institute to send speakers to come to their classrooms and address students directly.
The Heartland campaign dovetails with the climate denial that is rampant in the Trump administration starting with Trump himself and running down through many of the president’s top appointees including Education Secretary Betsy Devos.
Trump is well known for his deceit and his climate denial so it is not surprising that he asked people with similar views to lead government agencies. Heartland Institute ally Myron Ebell was tasked by Trump to oversee the transition at the EPA that ultimately tapped climate-denying fossil fuel advocate Scott Pruitt to head the agency. Pruitt was an essential part of Trump’s insane energy agenda. Before resigning, Pruitt decimated the EPA and like his boss, he repeatedly lied to advance an agenda that included killing the Clean Power plan.
Like the Trump administration and many Republicans, organizations like the Heartland Institute use disinformation to divide Americans and polarize opinion. They muddy the waters and confuse Americans so that their outlandishly false claims seem credible. This is reprehensible but it is particularly odious when they use the education system to deceive children.
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Stay tuned for more green school information and resources. From August until the end of October, the Green Market Oracle will feature weekly posts as part of the 2018 edition of the Green School Series which includes links to almost 400 articles covering everything you need to know about sustainable academics, student Eco-initiatives, green school buildings, and college rankings as well as a wide range of related information and resources.