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25 March 2010

Battle over climate science spreads to US schoolrooms

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SCHOOLS in three US states - Louisiana, Texas and South Dakota - have been told to teach alternatives to the scientific consensus on global warming

The moves appear to be allied to efforts to teach creationism in public schools. Such efforts have in the past been thwarted when courts ruled them unconstitutional, but those advocating the teaching of sound science may find it harder to fight misrepresentations concerning climate change.

Last week, South Dakota's state legislature adopted a bill which "urges" schools to take a "balanced approach" to teaching about climate change, because the science is "unresolved" and has been "complicated and prejudiced" by "political and philosophical viewpoints".

When New Scientist asked what these were, the bill's sponsor, Don Kopp, mentioned claims commonly cited in opposition to the idea of human-induced global warming: for example, that any global warming is due to changes in solar activity. "I am against bankrupting the country to fight warming," he said, "without being sure it's true."

The measure makes no mention of evolution, but its wording resembles bills in other states primarily aimed at teaching alternatives to evolution. Since a court in Pennsylvania ruled in 2005 that "intelligent design" had religious origins, so could not be taught in state schools, states have used vaguer language in bills when calling for schools to teach alternatives to established science.


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