Climate change bill sparks early blowback

Climate change bill sparks early blowback

(Conn.) Legislation that would require public schools in Connecticut to teach students about climate change beginning in elementary school is already receiving significant pushback even before going up for a committee vote, according to the bill’s author.

Though the state adopted the Next Generation Science Standards in 2015–which includes climate change education beginning in middle school–HB 5011 would make Connecticut the first state to write such a requirement into law.

State Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, said she has received more hate mail and angry calls from folks across the country than she had expected.

“What seems to have hit the biggest nerve are my two environmental bills: to require the teaching of climate change in elementary school and to prohibit seismic surveying (sonic explosions on the marine floor) off the Connecticut coastline,” Palm said in a Facebook post Monday. “The degree to which people are still denying the environmental crisis–and its causes–has been an eye-opener.”

Since being introduced in 2013, the Next Generation Science Standards have been adopted in 19 states, including Arkansas, California, New Mexico Kentucky, Illinois and Maryland. The sticking point for many lawmakers who have argued against the implementation of the standards has been focused on the inclusion of human contribution to climate change.

In Wyoming, for instance, the standards were temporarily banned with opponents arguing the potential impact the curriculum could have on the state's fossil fuels industry. And West Virginia’s Board of Education had considered adopting the standards while removing teachings of human contributions to climate change.

And legislation in several states has been proposed in recent years that would allow or require teachers to present alternatives to widely accepted viewpoints on topics such as climate change.

Other states have embraced the climate change aspect of the standards, such as Hawaii, where education officials have been working toward educating students about sustainable energy through hands-on projects and research tied to areas including solar energy, limiting waste, encouraging recycling and reducing water usage.

Connecticut would become the first state to require the teaching of climate change in the public schools, according to the National Center for Science Education, which noted that while many states already essentially require the teaching of climate change through its inclusion in their state science standards, it is not as a matter of statute.

A similar bill was introduced last year but failed to make it to the governor’s desk. Opposition mostly hinged on the fact that climate change was already part of the NGSS, which the state had adopted, and some argued that the goal of the bill would be accomplished without a statutory mandate.

Palm said in response to one Facebook comment that “so many people insist this is just a cyclical blip and that there's nothing we did to cause it and there's nothing we can do to slow it down,” despite evidence to the contrary.

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that about 97 percent of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities, according to NASA.

Although some of the feedback she has received has been “amazingly hostile,” Palm said she remains undeterred. “For every piece of hate mail, I get several approving of the bill, so that is what I focus on.”

The bill has been referred to the joint legislative committee on education. more