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AAAS Op-ed: Texas Textbooks Need to Get the Climate-Change Facts Straight

Textbooks now under consideration in Texas should be rejected, unless they are revised to correct the facts about human-caused climate change, climate scientist Camille Parmesan and AAAS CEO Alan I. Leshner write in today's Austin American Statesman.

The Texas State Board of Education is expected to consider the draft textbooks at a November 19-21 meeting. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) has described some proposed language in the textbooks as "deeply concerning," "misleading," and "scientifically inaccurate," Parmesan and Leshner noted in their op-ed article. 

News, AAAS statement, Leshner third, 25 Apr 2014

Camille Parmesan and Alan Leshner | University of Texas at Austin, ©

Specifically, some of the proposed textbooks "would badly misinform K-12 students by suggesting that scientists do not agree on what is causing climate change, and by incorrectly suggesting a cooling trend," said Leshner and Parmesan. Two of the five proposed textbooks also even confuse climate change with the ozone hole, which the authors pointed out is "a separate concern and driven by different human actions."

Parmesan is a professor of geology at the University of Texas at Austin, and she holds the National Marine Aquarium Chair in the Public Understanding of Oceans and Human Health at the University of Plymouth, U.K. In 2013, she was named the Distinguished Texas Scientist by the Texas Academy of Science.

The vast majority of climate scientists are now in agreement that "rising temperatures, rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and increased frequencies of drought and ferocious storms have resulted largely from two human activities: fossil-fuel burning and deforestation," Parmesan and Leshner wrote in the Statesman. "From the scientific perspective, there are simply no longer `two sides' to the story: The debate is over. The jury is in, and humans are the culprit."

One of the draft textbooks inaccurately says that scientists "do not agree on what is causing the change" in the Earth's climate, the NCSE has reported. Another textbook incorrectly asserts that scientists "predict we'll have some cooler years and things will even out." Parmesan and Leshner emphasized that such notions "have been soundly debunked."

In a separate op-ed in the Houston Chronicle, NCSE directors Josh Rosenau and Mark McCaffrey noted that one draft textbook actually gives equal weight to the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and an ideological advocacy group that denies the facts about climate change. "It's a mistake for a textbook to lend credibility to such propaganda," Rosenau and McCaffrey wrote.

The Statesman article by Parmesan and Leshner reinforced key messages in the AAAS What We Know report, which was prepared by a scientific advisory panel that included Parmesan. That report concluded that human-caused climate change is real and happening now; we must consider the small, but real, risk of massively disruptive impacts; and the sooner we respond, the better off we will be.

"Texas students deserve to know the true scientific facts about human-cause climate change, Leshner and Parmesan concluded.