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Proposed AZ bill hinders scientific advancement in global warming fight



I’m trying my best not to sound like an angsty teenager. I really am. But when I found out that Sen. Judy Burges, R-Ariz., was proposing a bill to the Arizona Senate that would enable teachers to teach that global warming isn’t caused by humans, I just wanted to go in my room and brood for a long time. Senate bill 1213 is designed so that teachers could examine “strengths and weaknesses of existing scientific theories.”

While the wording is innocent enough, the bill is specifically designed to allow science teachers to openly question scientific theories like global warming and evolution in class.

But this is what people have to understand: in science, theories generally have a pretty good idea of the truth. These theories have been studied and analyzed thoroughly by many different scientists, who work to poke holes in the arguments and independently verify the results. Yet Burges doesn’t think that scientific theory is good enough for the classroom.

“It actually says in the textbooks that if you don’t believe in global change that you’re very misinformed,” Burges said.

I wonder why? Could it be because 90 percent of scientists believe that global warming is man-made, according to a report published in 2007 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?

Or perhaps it’s because of the information more recently provided by the U.S. Global Change Research Program in 2009 that states, “The global warming observed over the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases.”

Burges is right in asserting that teachers should be able to tell students when there isn’t a majority agreement about a particular theory. But there is a majority agreement about global warming, along with the other theories that she is addressing, despite dissentors.

In 2012, Peter Ferrara wrote an Op-Ed to Forbes magazine criticizing “Global Warming Alarmists” and sharing information that he had learned from the International Climate Change Conference, in which there were “calm, dispassionate presentations by serious, pedigreed scientists discussing and explaining reams of data.”

The Heartland Institute, a conservative think tank, sponsored the International Climate Change Conference that he attended. The Heartland Institute also worked with Philip Morris to question the link between secondhand smoke and health risks.

While intelligent scientific discussion may have taken place at the conference (which has been subject to decreases in participation and funding in recent years), chances are that the science discussed there was about as fair and balanced as Fox News.

Burges might be focusing on this issue because she feels it’s important for all sides of a controversial issue to be discussed, but global warming shouldn’t be controversial anymore.

We have an obligation to teach future generations about the majority opinion in scientific studies. Yes, 30,000 scientists may have signed a paper claiming that global warming isn’t man-made, but those 30,000 people are not even close to the majority of experts.

It is time to put the global warming debate to bed. It has already stayed up way past its bedtime, and will likely be really grumpy tomorrow morning when it finds out that we haven’t done anything to fix it.

At this point, global warming isn’t a scientific issue, it’s a political one. With a consensus in the scientific community, the politicians now have to decide what is going to be done about the situation. Washington needs to provide legitimate, straightforward policy that supports alternative energy and lessens our reliance on fossil fuels.

We don’t want a debate about whether or not global warming is real, we want a debate about what can be done to fix it. We want students to do projects about the advantages of nuclear versus solar energy, biofuels and wind turbines.

But when people like Sen. Burges try to rekindle a debate that has long been settled in the scientific community, we take one giant leap backwards for mankind.

— Dan Desrochers is the opinions editor. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @drdesrochers.


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