Under the hood on Science Academy’s climate schooling

By Tony Thomas

Jemima, aged 16, trudges home from high school.

Mum: “Have some Milo, darling. How’d that Australian Academy of Science   assignment go?” Jemima: “Terrible! I flunked Advocacy and Campaigning in Searching for the Truth.

“What? I thought you were doing monotremes!”

“Nah, I had to do a poster supporting action on climate change to share with the school, but my science teacher Mr Smith said it wasn’t emotive awareness-raising enough. Then he asked me, if I have ever taken action or advocated for a cause? I  said no.  And then he asked me if I know anyone who has? I said, yes, my Climate Champion is Bjorn Lomborg.”

“Jemima! You wicked creature!  Want to get yourself suspended?    What we pay for fees!   Wait till your father   blah blah…”

Links  to the Academy’s school material need registration, so I’m using bold type for important quotes from the material.

The Reach of the Academy Courses

The Academy operates in schools alongside activist groups Greenpeace, Cool AustraliaOxfam Australia  WWF, GetUp, Lock the Gate, you name it. But unlike those, the Academy’s  on–line course Science by Doing (SBD), including the exhortations to activism, has been directly taxpayer-funded with about $9m from Labor and conservative federal governments[1]. SBD is a total secondary science course for Years 7-10, delivering the required curriculum, whereas the other external purveyors offer only supplementary material.

Since the SBD site went live in mid-2013, about 9300 secondary science teachers, or 37% of Australia’s 25,000  science teachers, have signed on for the free course, along with 50,000 students. Total registrations at last week were 62,300, despite little marketing – word of mouth among delighted science teachers is doing the job. Hits on the website were running at 2.7m in August. Growth of penetration into school is so high that the courses’ executive director Professor Denis Goodrum expects “market saturation during 2017”.

AAS, science education, graph, uptake, propaganda

Source: Academy of Science

The Academy’s  SBD and primary courses have flown under the public radar,   because registration forms required school affiliation. Last month President Holmes[2] at a green conference in Hobart, invited the public to register and inspect[3]. Which I’ve done.

SBD was officially launched in October 2013 by Nobel Laureate  Brian Schmidt.  The bulk of the  primary and secondary science modules is not just good but excellent. Lord knows,  science help is needed in Australia, where 40% of adults don’t know how long it takes the earth to orbit the sun, 30% think humans  lived with dinosaurs, and science/maths students are tumbling behind their OECD peers.

Academy ex-president Sue Cory was 90% correct when she said SBD   reaches into science classrooms around the nation to inspire students with the wonder of curiosity and discovery.

The Bad Apple in the Barrel

But the climate   alarm-and-activism material (about 10% of the total) is    a soggy Jonathan added to the Academy’s  barrel of crisp Pink Ladies – see for example the absurd cover page for 16 year olds below.

Climate Change Graphic

The material’s not just crude, it’s also stale, with most climate material from the 2007-09 era of ‘settled science’. [4]

SBD   director Professor Goodrum has explained the courses’ rationale like  this“Science influences, or should influence, the decisions we make…all those types of decisions should be based on evidence, not on superstition, not on irrational thinking, but on facts, and this is important in every student’s life.” But the climate material features propaganda songs, cartoons of “CO2 elephants” dropping from the sky, conspiracists like Naomi Oreskes and video rants by alarmists competing with Al Gore to depict the coming apocalypse.

As of now, SBD  climate-change agitprop is confined to the Year 9 (15 year olds) unit  “Big Systems” and Year 10 (16 year olds) “Systems on the Big Scale”. The Year 10 unit will mercifully be replaced shortly by “Science Futures”, which according to Goodrum, “will not have an earth science focus”.    He further explained that the Year 10 unit “Big Scale” was too unwieldy for Term 4 in Year 10 (although some teachers are still using it) and the Year 9 and 10 units are being rationalised.

In the current  Year 10 “Big Scale” module, the modestly-named In search of the truth   section   suggests work on  advocacy and campaigning (e.g., produce a blog)”. 

The material adds, I hope not threateningly, This activity could be used for an assessment task – see assessment overview.”

  • Teachers are advised, in all seriousness, to “Ask [15-16 years old] students if they have ever taken action or advocated for a cause.   Do they know of anyone who has?”…  Key vocabulary: advocacy, campaign, champion, environmentalist. 


Teens are grilled in Activity 6.4 Climate change champions: 

“Which is more effective, science awareness or advocacy, when it comes to generating 
community action? What cause would you sign up for?”

And,

“Students analyse the media’s role in public education, delivering scientific truths and swaying opinion. They make a short film or poster supporting action on climate change to share with the school. Do we always tell the truth?”

The Academy provides a cartoon-video  sample for kids.

We see a city with everything belching mysteriously-black CO2. Voiceover (note the stale data): “In 2006 , the US pumped 5,877,000 tonnes   of carbon dioxide into the sky.” [They mean 5.8 billion tonnes, but whatever].  Banner: “That’s equal to 1,194,600 elephants!” Elephants then fall from the sky, crushing everyone.

One  man is unconcerned, but then an elephant falls on him too (Geddit?). Video:

“It’s time to stop ignoring the 1,194,600 elephants in the room.”

 

How to Network, Lobby and  Vote

There’s a special Activity 6.6 Climate change and Politics. “Lesson outcomes: At the end of this activity students will …  appreciate the need to lobby at all levels of government to ignite and lead change – even if it is unpopular with the voters.

The young climate zealots are  to pester politicians: “Encourage students to engage with a local MP or councillor about science policy, environmental concerns and action. Do they have a voice? How would they vote in light of current policy and action?”

And yet more. Teens are to invite local community environmental campaigners and champions into the class, “with your teacher’s permission”, to “discuss their cause and the science behind their campaign.” 

The   Climate Change Champions guide for teachers explains,

“Step 1: Start with a broad discussion on local champions and heroes – who are they?” 

And   “Students learn more about climate change action by studying environmental champions and campaigns in their local areas. What cause would you stand up for?”  

Occupy Highpoint Shopping Centre, perhaps?

 

climate activities, school, education

..

 

The guide continues, “Students research the political debate on climate change, analyzing scientific credibility and political agendas. Who will you vote for when it comes to science policy?” (Academy’s emphasis).

 

Teh Australian Biodiversity Knowledge Tree, Bob Brown

Sixteen year olds are exhorted: “In pairs, write a short speech, advocating for a change in policy or practice at a national level, to address global warming. The best four speeches will be put to the class vote.”

The course concludes by asking,  “If you were concerned about Earth’s sustainability, who would you vote for?”[Conservative? As if!]

The Academy happens to feature Greens icon Bob Brown to both age groups, literally at the top of the tree among its group of 27 esteemed scientists and communicators. They  are named in “The Australian Biodiversity Knowledge Tree: 20thand 21st century contributors”. We learn that St Bob “was the leader of
 the campaign against 
the Franklin Dam, director 
of the Tasmanian Wilderness Society, member of the Tasmanian parliament and the founder of Bush Heritage Australia. He was an Australian senator and leader of the Australian Greens Party. While in the Tasmanian parliament he successfully campaigned for a large increase in protected wilderness areas. He has published several books
 on the Tasmanian environment.” I couldn’t discover any other politician accorded an Academy encomium, other than Al Gore.

The Warming Debate (Minus Any Opponent)

The Teacher Guide lays out “A structured class debate on climate science. In one lesson, teams prepare and, in the following lesson, every student takes part in the live debate. Pink bat or sun hat?” A dull debate, given that students have been ruthlessly quarantined from discovering any sceptic argument.  Indeed in the Academy’s anti-sceptic fatwa, students are warned to browse “only reputable science websites” (UQ’s John “97%” Cook’s site  perhaps?) . World top-rated blogs like Anthony Watts (wattsupwiththat.com, with 250m views) and Joanne Nova (joannenova.com.au with 600,000 visitors a year) are obviously beyond the pale. The course does concede there’s a “debate”, viz “Over time, the debate has gathered momentum and national leaders are taking action …but is it enough?”

At several points in the course, presenters such as ABC “comedians” and Al Gore fabricate sceptic arguments and then ridicule their own fabrications. Real sceptic arguments such as peer-reviewed downgrading   of the IPCC’s CO2 sensitivity estimates, are unmentioned. The Academy thus presents to kids  a poor example of professional courtesy in scientific discussion.

One surprise is a little Year 10 accolade to Dr Garth Partridge (sic) who “has conducted research into Earth’s atmosphere, often from aircraft during thunderstorms. He is famous for his research on clouds and their effect on climate change.” 
The Academy does not mention that Academician  Garth Paltridge is   Australia’s most-honored climate sceptic.

Nor could I find one reference to the (now 18 years and 9 months) halt to atmospheric warming this century, as shown by RSS satellite-based  measurement . In other words, not one of the 16 year old students the Academy is preaching to about  horrific global warming, has experienced any global warming in their lifetimes. The warming stopped three years before they were born.

Academy’s Self-Interested Appeals

Most remarkable of all, the Academy instructs  students on the need for scientists’ salaries and gear to get a bigger share of the grant-funding cake, even relative to medical research.

Australian, Academy of Science, Activities, climate change

The Year 10 Teacher Guide includes 4.5 Big funding for big science:  Students debate the merits of government spending on science. They research six big-systems experiments and justify their funding proposals. Which big experiment will you fund?”[5]

We see an inspirational  picture of youthful demonstrators holding high  their protest placards.

AAS, Australian Academy of Science, Climate Change, Activities, Education, Schools

One sign:  “Climate science and research cents is all common sense”;    another   “Fund education in science”.

Students are shown pictures of the local synchrotron, the  Square Kilometre Array, the Parkes radio telescope etc and asked, “For each, what percentage of the total Australian Government funding would you recommend be allocated? Share your findings with the class. Maybe the Academy needs to footnote a “Declaration of Interest”?[6]

 A Unique  ”Sciencey”  Perspective

To really catch the teenagers’ interest, the Academy transposes climate instruction into song by melodysheep,   “A musical investigation into the causes and effects of global climate change and our opportunities to use science to offset it. Featuring Bill Nye, David Attenborough, Richard Alley and Isaac Asimov.”

The song’s lyrics go:

Climates all start in the sky/

When the C02 is high/ 

the temperature is high/

Moving together in lock step/

When the C02 is low/ 

the temperature is low/

Moving together/

We can change the world.

(The song  is wrong. Even the orthodox climate crowd  accepts ice core evidence that CO2 has lagged  temperature by 800 years or so.).

“Hottest summer EVER” shouts a sign about Australia’s 2012-13 summer, a big fib to children doing the “Big Scale” module as the Academy has no idea what temperatures got to in the pre-1900 millenia. Indeed the 1890s peak could well have been hotter than any in the 2000s – the Met Bureau  trashed all of its temperature data  pre-1910. Also odd is the Academy claim here that “climate” involves a 20 year span of weather[7]; the convention is 30 years. That’s an own-goal: the warming halt is now nearly 20 years and hence significant on the Academy’s definition of climate.

 

Australian Academy of Science, Climate Schools, Education, Record Summer Heat, Graphic.

The diagram here is headed “Our Record Melting Summer” with all sorts of heat and rain records shown as broken , without mention of data reliability at, say, “Lenora” WA [sic]. For some reason there is no equivalent diagram for breaking of cold-temperature records, which also happens often. To really labor the point, the map shows Australia heat-melting southwards to about 500km below   Hobart.  Southwards apparently equals down-hill. [Jo adds that there are alternate maps of record heat across Australia in the 1800s which were hotter].

 

Misleading Experiments and Experts

Thoroughly bad science work is promoted to bolster the warmist narrative – students put thermometers inside closed ‘greenhouse’ jars and tip acid into test-tubes of seawater contained crushed shells.

Students  are  invited to “research how computer modelling has improved knowledge and predictability of phenomena,  atmospheric pollution, ocean salinity and climate change.” Drawing attention to the models seems risky, as students may stumble across the IPCC’s 5AR admission (Box 9.2) that 111 of 114 of climate models wax  too hot. Warming predictions and actual temperatures have been widening progressively for the past decade.

The Academy also displays a carbon credits propaganda video for Year 10  created (ostensibly) by a colorful  UK broker. The video shows wind-tower blades transformed to beautiful green leaves. Alas, the broker was attacked by the  Daily Mail  for dubious hard-sell  and other malpractices — including misappropriating other parties’ videos.

In “The Experts Speak”, 16 year old students are advised to “Click here to hear some scientific points of view.” What they get is videos of conspiracist Naomi Oreskes  (warming sceptics = tobacco lobbyists); Greenpeace Australia/Pacific ex-CEO and Gore-worshipper Linda Selvey; US alarmist teacher Greg Craven (caution: not our ACU vice-chancellor Greg Craven); and a producer of alarmist videos James Balog. Alongside them is a suffering earth-globe holding a sign, “Act Now”.

Oreskes should be the  front-running joke with her fiction about a mass climate extinction of kittens and puppies in 2023 (not cited in any Academy material). But Craven takes the cake:

“The worst case – this is sea level rising 10-20ft, entire countries disappearing, hundreds of millions of people displaced, crowding in their neighbours causing widespread warfare over scarce resources and longstanding hatreds. Entire forests dying … a world that makes Al Gore look like a sissy Pollyanna with no guts, sugar coating the bad news.”

The Teachers’ Guide says:   “As a class watch the video by Greg Craven and have a class vote on whether action is warranted.“

Other videos feature  Gore himself in another of his error-riddled rants. This time (2009), he  claims that worrying climate trends are even worse than scientists predicted,  and agonises about polar ice shrinkage –the Academy does not alert kids that Arctic sea ice has recovered strongly and global sea ice trends show nothing abnormal.  ( Arctic sea ice extent is now at its highest level for November since at least 2005). The Antarctic, Gore says, “is now in negative ice balance” –   it’s actually positive,  says NASA .

In yet more  inaccuracy, Gore claims weather disasters “have been increasing at an absolutely extraordinary and unprecedented rate.”

  • Gore even adverts respectfully to the IPCC’s 2007 melting Himalayan glaciers  howler. Are the science teachers slamming or reinforcing Gore’s errors? I suspect the latter: Gore’s video is labeled “Al Gore campaigns on the need for action”. The Year 10 Teacher Guide also says, “You may stimulate discussion with local media articles or by showing the Al Gore film An Inconvenient Truth.”

Typically loaded questions include

                                         # Will mining scar the Tarkine forest?

#  Is the Murray-Darling on the brink?

#  Big waves and high tides: do we need to re-think coastal living? 
[The NSW government this month threw the IPCC sea-rise scenarios  under the bus] and

#   Is eco-tourism a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

Even now, teenagers are still being poked with  the notorious Hockey Stick of Michael Mann: “While Earth’s average temperature has risen over time, the increases now observed are unprecedented and thought to be largely due to population and human activity.” The “unprecedented” bit surely deserves an errata.

At the end of term, students are invited to select a (green) world conference  to hypothetically attend, including (by backward time travel) the June 2012 Rio+20 Agenda-21-touting jamboree. Links lead them to the preliminary conference on “Degrowth in the Americas” in May 2012 in Montreal, run by and for  certifiable  eco-lunatics. Aiming for a  “post growth healing earth” they want to send Western economies backwards to “avert ecological collapse while enhancing social justice and improving life’s prospects… and build towards a truly prosperous world.” A click away, kids can browse  a paper on eco-friendly and humane policies of the Cuban government.

Another suggested world conference is a student one  at Perth’s Murdoch University, with urgings for a   world free of ‘scary plastics’ (a new industrial revolution?) and tips for students on “where to buy bulk bicarb, and how to  make your own deodorant .

The Academy’s Distaste for Mining & Business

Miners aren’t the heroes of the Academy course.  The Year 10 Teacher Guide asks: “Mining is used to illustrate conflicting factors in scientific and technological progress… Is mining a scientific or environmental quandary?” Huh? Mining’s a “quandary”? Try doing without it.

At one section there is a reasonable treatment of mining, albeit on a pro and con basis. But then it segues to “Searching for the Truth” and  “THINGS TO CONSIDER AND HINTS FOR SUCCESS”

 This activity is not just about mining. Encourage students to reflect on the bigger issues – are there links between the impact of mining, human activity and climate change?   What is mining doing to the lithosphere? Are the changes manageable? Irreversible?”

Another video shows the ABC’s Emma Alberici  claiming coal is “the number one climate killer”.

Students are told, “Mining attracts its fair share of controversy. It is not a pretty site! [Cue picture of open cut stretching to the horizon]. Could we do without it?… Would you work for a mining company? In what capacity? [An example given is ‘an environmental geoscientist’].

“Explore two different sources of media and business websites on mining. What do you notice? Is mining portrayed as an asset or adverse experience for Australia? Are they telling the truth? [Cue picture of youthful protestors with a placard, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our CHILDREN”]

At Year 9 (age 15) level, kids are shown an ABC video about Arctic sea ice disappearing, with plenty of spooky music and shots of melting ice. An unnamed scientist intones, “There is a group that makes a very strong case that in 2012 or 2013 we will have an ice-free Arctic – as soon as that!” Reality: the 2013 minimum  figure was about  5.1 million square km of ice. Have science teachers been pointing that out – or might such objectivity hurt their careers?

At Year 7’s Circle of Life module,  13 year olds get a  picture of a horrid grey open cut mine with a poisonous looking pond at the bottom. A couple of stunted trees are at the top, not long for this world. What’s to like?

Photo of Mining, AAS, Education, Schools, Climate.

 

The 13 year olds  course Part 6. Can you defend your position about ecosystem management?”   has this picture:

 

Science Education Materials, climate change, AAS. National Park Cartoon.

 

Could one imagine the material’s loaded? Kids are directed to the scientific analyses of recreational hunting by rag-trader Prue Acton, super-model Tara Moss, show-offy Germaine Greer and  ABC  comedian Wendy Harmer.  Egad, they are all against recreational hunting!

To further make the case, illustrations show a small wallaby, a brolga, a climbing lizard and a cassowary, all with bull’s-eye targets on their chests. According to the Academy’s teacher notes, this sort of thing is how  students “create a well constructed scientific argument to support their view.”

A 13 year old would presumably be flunked for wanting judicious development in national parks to help  taxpayers afford the  employment of   Academy  Fellows.[8]

It may seem  a  wonder that none of 9000 high school science teachers (let alone Academicians of integrity) has had the wit or integrity to complain to the Academy about force-feeding climate-activism to students. Those with qualms may be relying on the Nuremberg defence – “I was following union orders”. The all-powerful teachers’ unions have not only endorsed  “action on climate change” and “lobbying in support of a sustainable low carbon economy” but proffered to teachers their own “Environment Resources and Action kit” and backed a Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) climate campaign based on “a union perspective”.

Academy at Primary Schools: Some Praise

At primary-school levels, the Academy’s separate Primary Connections includes   loaded material for 12 year olds   about   [intermittent, expensive] wind and solar power vs [cheap reliable]   coal-fired electricity “that can damage the environment”.[9]

The  Essential Energy text makes good points about careful use of the scientific method (without mentioning the  Feynman honesty test of   doing your utmost to refute your own findings pre-publication). However, the text harps on the “pollution” from fossil-fuel-powered electricity, ecological footprints (“choosing to purchase locally grown produce”), “clean energy” and exhaustion of fossil fuel reserves – however remotely into the future.

Energy issues for 12 year olds are seen through the  prism of the  warming catastrophe hypothesis. The primary course has nothing to say about   how fossil-fuel powered electricity has rescued billions from poverty  and early graves, and how its increased take-up is essential to lift the world’s   remaining billions from squalor.

The teachers also  teach 12 year olds that fossil fuels produce CO2 which raises the air temperature [how much?] or acidifies the ocean [how much?]. “The pollution released can cause ‘acid rain’ if its concentration is very high.” [The “acid rain” scare was  scare de jour a decade ago and has petered out].

“All of this is based on the best available science, and is reviewed by Academy Fellows,” President Holmes sums up the primary course reassuringly.

That material is certainly more sober   than the Academy’s secondary-school activism. For example, it  alerts kids that supposed black clouds in pictures of power stations are merely steam, not CO2,[10]  and that renewables’ ecological impact calculations must also include energy used for their manufacture and   disposal.

Kids are also asked to critique  propaganda by super-heroes Professor Pitch-black and Short Circuit (comic book figures) who claim to save the planet by totally shutting off electricity. This exercise could be viewed by greenie parents and maybe the secondary-course writers as sacrilege.

Summing up: the school lessons explored in this article are, sadly, normal in schools these days. But who’d have imagined the author is the Australian Academy of Science?

#   Tony Thomas blogs at No B/S Here I Hope 

His previous pieces on the Australian Academy of Science include  here,  here,  and here

REFERENCES

[1] AAS annual reports

[2] A Melbourne University chemist, Professor Holmes “has been recognised for his groundbreaking work on light-emitting polymers”.

[3] The same speech in which Holmes painted climate scientists as victims of abuse and harassment

[4] The courses were at “concept plan” in 2006 and Stage One was worked on in 2009-11.  The Academy’s relatively sober climate booklet “Questions and Answers” of mid-2010 gets only   passing mentions in the course. Goodrum says, “The Q&A material is available world wide, while Science by Doing is restricted for copyright reasons to only Australia.”

[5] “Students are probably unaware of the huge costs and budgetary restraints on scientific research. They may be aware there tends to be support for areas which give immediate benefits to the public e.g., medical advances, and not realise the general impacts of more academic research projects e.g., nuclear physics and astronomy.”

[6] Should History and Phys Ed associations (and medical research associations) also rev up school students to lobby for grants for History and Phys Ed professionals?

[7] The course consistently transfers to students its own muddles about  climate and weather

[8] 20 out of 20 Academy Fellows I sampled (using successive alphabet letters) were working or retired academics.

[9] President Holmes says of the 12 year olds “Essential Energy” unit that it  “gives students the opportunity to explore different energy sources—both non-renewable and renewable—and to begin to understand the environmental impact of using each one to generate electricity…  Students also read and discuss information about how most power stations in Australia burn fossil fuels to generate electrical energy and how burning these fossil fuels produces waste products that can damage the environment.”

[10] Science By Doing  routinely mis-uses the black-smoke image

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4 thoughts on “Under the hood on Science Academy’s climate schooling

  1. Pingback: Climate propaganda in Australian schools | Climate Scepticism

  2. Jimba

    does the SBD show any video of Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’? If you’re able to reference these claims against the respective student and teachers guides, and corresponding activites (which I see you’ve done at times), it will make a proper analysis so much easier 😉 Cheers.

    Reply
    1. tonythomas061 Post author

      Thanks Jimba, Gore’s Inconvenient Truth gets recommended twice in SBD.I’m not sure what you’re requesting but apart from linking to the nine errors found by the UK Court, I can’t do much more. The SBD climate units are like a random hodge podge of warmest talking points and dumbed down stuff like video cartoons and talking heads e.g. Oreskes and Bill Nye.

      Reply

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