Quinton: Climate change consistency and accuracy in education to be applauded
There is rightly concern about the quality of education in this country. For example, the Program for International Student Assessment tests 15-year-old students around the world. In 2018, when the test was last administered, the U.S. placed 11th out of 79 countries in science. (It did worse in math, ranking 30th.)
In that context it was most heartening to read a Vail Daily opinion writer note earlier this month that a group of children aged 8-18 attending different schools in different states had received consistent and, by the sound of it, accurate and fact-based teaching about climate change.
Thankfully, in this instance, it seems that teachers are doing their job and “teaching the science:“ the extensive research and analysis that explains why our planet has warmed considerably and rapidly since the pre-industrial era is very well supported and documented by numerous peer reviewed studies. (Timely further support for the teaching profession can be found in the “Summary for Policymakers” of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis” fresh off the press on Aug. 9. This provides the most up-to-date physical understanding of the climate system and climate change.)
There are uncertainties yes, although it is becoming evident that climate scientists have unfortunately erred … in that they have not accurately taken into account the feedback loops and accelerating pace of change in climate impacts. These have become painfully evident to us all this year in terms of the number and global reach of extreme and deadly weather events that lie well outside normal experience and forecasting.
Further, while powerful voices such as Greta Thunberg have rightly “raised the alarm” on climate change, as Bloomberg reported recently “climate science and economics are inherently conservative.” The result: in the past the experts themselves have not sounded the alarm bells loudly enough. As Naomi Oreskes, a historian of science at Harvard University notes: “The scientific conception of rationality as sitting in opposition to emotion, leads many scientists to feel that it is important for them to be ‘sober,’ dispassionate, unemotional, and ‘conservative.’ This often leads them to be uncomfortable with dramatic findings, even when they are true.”
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The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.
Given all this it is encouraging to hear that young people, who will live with the increasingly dire impacts of a warming planet passed on to them by their elders, are getting the information they need to make informed decisions about our environment. Not the least of which is raising the pressure on politicians at all levels, corporate executives, investors, regulators, utilities and more to take the actions needed now and in the coming years to stave off climate change’s worst impacts.
Adam Quinton lives in Edwards and is a member of the Boards of Holy Cross Energy, the Colorado Rural Electric Association and Walking Mountains Science Center. He holds a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University, England.