Well here we are again with the aftermath of another “Once in a century storm” as Hurricane Sandy steered north away from the Gulf of Mexico and left the Northeastern United States reeling. On an ABC News interview following the storm, Governor Cuomo commented, ““I said kiddingly the other day, ‘We have a 100-year flood every two years now.’ These situations never happened or if they happened, they were never going to happen again. … I think at this point it’s undeniable that we have a higher frequency of these extreme weather situations, and we’re going to have to deal with it.”” Mayor Bloomberg a few days later endorsed President Obama in large part for his attention to climate change. Meanwhile, Forbes magazine published an op-ed piece, Climate Change: ‘Hoax’ or Crime of the Century?, calling into question global warming, and many politicians running for office have energy policies centered on fossil fuels. What’s going on here?
2000 years ago, the Greeks came up with a model of the universe that placed the Earth at its center. The data were pretty supportive of such a Geocentric model. After all, the sun and other celestial bodies appeared to circle the earth, and all objects fell towards the earth through gravity. However, the model was wrong and 1500 years later data revealed the sun was actually the center of “our” universe, and we and the other planets and celestial bodies in “our” solar system revolved around the sun. Interestingly, it took nearly two more centuries and an overwhelming amount of evidence before the Heliocentric model was fully accepted world-wide. Can the same case be made for the Global Warming Hoax and Climate Change? Is the data robust enough to once and for all stop the debate on whether or not humans are accelerating climatic processes?
Actually, for the climatologists who pore over the data constantly, there is no debate with 97% agreeing that humans are causing climate change. But wait. If 97% of scientists believe that anthropogenic factors are causing more droughts, rises in sea level, increases in atmospheric energy, earlier springs and later falls, etc, then why are we as a nation still not fully convinced that climate change is upon us? For a good number of Americans, it comes down to opinions based on sound bites and disreputable sources of information, rather than on research and valid, reliable data. We need to do a better job of using evidence to support our positions. We need to become less reliant on others’ opinions and media blitzes to shape our minds, and more attuned to the facts underlying the issues.
I think/hope the Common Core Learning Standards and Instructional Shifts hold promise for our future. By asking students to write from sources, use text-based evidence, and focus on knowledge in the disciplines, schools can ultimately graduate students who entertain others’ opinions and thoughts without accepting them outright. Graduates who ask for evidence, and who have the habit of mind to draw from data to base their arguments and not on the sound bites and media that saturate our busy world. Most importantly, our schools must graduate students who are ready and able to contribute to society and a democratic way of life.