Monday, September 22, 2014

Heartland Institute Responds to Activist Groups’ Attempt to Purge Texas Text Books of Inconvenient Climate Science Facts

The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and the Texas Freedom Network, two left-wing activist groups, released a report this week claiming non-alarmist facts about the climate “distort” science and must be removed from drafts of new social studies textbooks for Texas public schools.

The five-page report, titled “Analysis of Climate Change in Proposed Social Studies Textbooks for Texas Public Schools,” singled out The Heartland Institute for criticism, saying it has no standing to provide balance to the alarmist views of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Heartland Institute has published five reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), which amount to more than 3,000 pages of research with several thousand citations from peer-reviewed scientific literature. The two latest reports are Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science (2013) and Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts (2014).

Among the claims of the NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network:

- 97 percent of all climate scientists believe human activity is causing a climate crisis; and

- No prominent climate scientists believe Earth is in a cooling trend.

The Heartland Institute has long pointed out that the “97 percent consensus” figure often cited by activists and the media is a myth based on a purposeful misreading of flawed surveys. It is also a fact that, based on NASA satellite temperature data collected by Remote Sensing Systems, atmospheric temperatures have not risen for more than 17 years. In addition, Dr. Judith Curry, professor and former chair at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech University, noted in a presentation this week that the IPCC has acknowledged a “hiatus” in global warming, adding that evidence of a global cooling phase continues to accumulate.

Read the summaries and reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) at the Climate Change Reconsidered website. Watch hundreds of presentations by leading scientists who reject climate alarmism at the archive site for The Heartland Institute’s nine International Conferences on Climate Change.

The following statements from environmental policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.

“The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has long used attacks on Heartland as a fundraising tactic, and this latest flimsy report is part of that effort. Even the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was forced to admit earlier this year what the data shows their alarmist predictions of runaway global warming have not come to pass.

“Students in Texas and across the country need to know the truth, which is obtained through strict adherence to the scientific method, not alarmism and appeals to authority. The IPCC’s Nobel Peace Prize – accepted in person by a politician and a bureaucrat – doesn’t make its politicized claims about the climate infallible. In fact, it only makes them more suspect.”

Jim Lakely, Director of Communications, The Heartland Institute

“The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) asserts the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the world’s leading scientific authority on climate science. Such an assertion is nonsense. IPCC is a political rather than a scientific organization. Its participants are chosen by governments, not scientific organizations. Many of its participants are not even scientists. Its lead authors are often agenda-driven environmental activists from groups such as the World Wildlife Fund, Environmental Defense, and Greenpeace. “In contrast to IPCC, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) is a scientific report, written by scientists, with hundreds of pages of text and thousands of citations to peer-reviewed literature indicating global warming is not a human-created crisis. Even if environmental activists at NCSE refuse to acknowledge this, practicing scientists do.

“NCSE grossly misrepresented the results of two surveys in an attempt to attack science and shut down scientific discussion and debate. NCSE falsely claimed the two surveys (which themselves contain serious methodological flaws) rule out significant natural contribution to recent global warming. Instead, the two surveys merely claim human activity is a significant factor.

“Obviously, one significant factor does not exclude other significant factors, including factors of even greater significance. NCSE misrepresents these two surveys because NCSE has no valid justification for shutting down scientific discussion and debate on such a contested issue. NCSE has lost all scientific credibility by so grossly misrepresenting its two asserted sources of supporting evidence.”

James M. Taylor, Senior fellow for Environmental Policy, The Heartland Institute

“Textbooks should always strive for accuracy and avoid political spin. Nowhere is this more true than on questions of science. Concerning the ongoing scientific debate surrounding the causes and consequences of climate change, the proposed Texas textbooks have struck the right note. Any claim that a consensus of 97 percent of scientists agree that humans are causing catastrophic global warming is false, and those making the claim know it.

“One can only hope that the members of the Texas Board of Education reviewing these books will stand up for students and not buckle under the pressure being applied by these activist groups to alter these books in order to deny the open questions in the climate change debate.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News, The Heartland Institute


Ofsted: British primary schools 'place too much focus on three-Rs'

Ofsted inspections in primary schools could be overhauled to place a lesser focus on English and maths amid fears pupils are missing out on a “broad and balanced” curriculum.

The education watchdog said it was considering reforming the inspections process because an overemphasis on the three-Rs often came at the expense of children’s understanding of other subjects.

The move – to be outlined in a consultation document – will represent a significant shift for primary schools in England which have been repeatedly warned of the importance of the two core subjects for pupils aged under 11.

Mike Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s director of school standards, said the watchdog needed to be sure that it had struck the right balance between English and maths and other subjects such as art, music, history and geography.

The move follows the watchdog’s inquiry into the alleged Trojan Horse plot to impose hardline Islamic teaching in Birmingham schools.

It led to the introduction of a new inspection framework – imposed this month – that places a greater weight on ensuring of all schools run a “broad and balanced” curriculum to prepare children for life in modern Britain.

But speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, Mr Claddingbowl said further work may need to be done to emphasise the importance of all subjects and prevent primary schools focusing just on the three-Rs.

“We must continue to emphasise the importance of English and maths, but we should not do that at the expense of other subjects,” he said. “There will be certain circumstances where it’s right for children to be given additional help with English and maths at the expense of something else, to get them to a point at which they can access the curriculum properly.

“But, through our consultation, we’ll want people to ask themselves searching questions about to what extend that should happen. At what point should it stop?”

Teachers have repeatedly complained that they have been forced to marginalise other parts of the curriculum to pass Ofsted inspections, with sport and art frequently being downgraded.

Labour famously introduced the literacy and numeracy hours in the late 90s that enshrined the importance of the three-Rs in law. The Coalition has also promoted these subjects, with a new national curriculum setting out more thorough requirements for the teaching of English, maths and science than other disciplines.

Mr Claddingbowl said Ofsted now favoured a “broad and balanced” curriculum that did not “limit children’s experiences or… fail to prepare children for secondary school or life in modern Britain.”

“We want to look and see if we’ve got the balance right between the core subjects and the foundation subjects; between English and mathematics, and art, history, music, geography and so on," he added.

But head teachers’ leaders warned that any rebalancing of the inspections system would fail because SATs tests taken by all 11-year-olds are based around performance in the core subjects – forcing schools to give them a higher priority in the timetable.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “What Ofsted focuses on tends to get done, but floor standards for English and maths are still a powerful driver that is out of Ofsted’s control.”


Australian women desert technology courses, as tertiary IT enrolments fall

Enrolments in Australian tertiary information technology courses have been falling, as local female students recoil from the sector's masculine reputation.

Among domestic students, enrolments have dropped from a peak of 46,945 in 2002 to 27,547 last year, the latest available figures show.

While enrolments have rallied slightly in recent years, the proportion of students studying IT has reached an all-time low. IT courses made up 4 per cent of tertiary enrolments last year, compared with 9 per cent in 2001.

Figures from the Department of Education show just over one in four domestic IT enrolments were female in 2001, but by 2013 girls made up fewer than one in five tertiary IT students.

Three times more Australian female tertiary students were studying IT in 2001 than last year, despite a 50 per cent jump in total tertiary enrolments among girls over the same period.

The courses' dwindling popularity echoes a similar trend in final-year IT enrolments in Victoria, which have reached a 20-year low. But the trend does not apply to international female students who are choosing IT ahead of locals. A total of 4526 Australian female students were studying IT last year, compared with 5381 international students.

RMIT Computer Science senior lecturer Phil Vines said there was a prejudice in the way people continued to see information technology and engineering as not a "feminine discipline".

"Fifteen years ago we were scratching our heads and saying 'what can we do?' so it's not a new phenomenon," Dr Vines said.

University of Wollongong Information Systems and Technology Associate Professor Katina Michael said the lack of female role models for girls contemplating IT was a factor in lower enrolments, as views of the sector were focused on company founders like Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page and Bill Gates.

She said women brought unique perspectives to the industry and were generally better communicators and big picture thinkers. "Women are generally good strategists," she said. "They can think laterally, they can multi-task and be personal at the same time."

On a more general level, she said IT courses faced additional competition from other disciplines such as business and marketing, which were incorporating elements of technology training into their courses. "The purest form of IT is being somewhat ignored but should not be," Dr Michael said.

Australian Computer Society spokesman Thomas Shanahan said he expected total IT enrolment numbers to rebound "once people realise how important digital literacy is going to be" and as the demand for graduates with technology skills increases.

"We can't continue relying on mining and manufacturing," he said. "We have to be building the world's most digitally educated future workforce."

He pointed to the British curriculum, where there are classes in coding for primary school students, as a step in the right direction.


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