In February, 2017 the Idaho legislature, led by members of the Republican Party declined to allow climate science to be part of the state’s education standards. Many who had contacted the legislature in support of science, were disappointed.
Sen. Steven Thayn, R-Emmett was contacted about the vote. In his response to the Spokesman Review’s Betsy Russell, she wrote, ‘Senator Thayn said after visiting with House members and House GOP leaders, “I believe it’s the intention of the Legislature not to reject the topics, that we think climate change needs to be studied, that CO2 levels need to be studied. What we’re basically sending to the committee is that those standards need to be rewritten.”
(I have provided the full text of the five paragraphs below…)
Here is the first page of the letter written (with a link to the remainder) by John Kennedy and contributed to by our group of concerned citizens and voters who signed with Dr. Kennedy. The letter addresses the response we, as a group, received from Senator Thayn via email (also included).
21st February 2017
To the Honorable Senator Steven P. Thayn, District 8
Vice Chair, Idaho State Legislature Education Committee
P.O. Box 83720
Boise, ID 83720-0081
On Thursday, February 9, 2017, the Idaho Legislature House Education Committee voted to remove requirements for teaching the scientific basis of human influences on global climate change from the proposed state education standards. In response to inquiries from the citizens of Idaho, you released a five page statement outlining your opposition to these standards, and questioning the scientific basis on which these standards were developed. We are scientists, engineers, educators, activists, and concerned citizens of the state of Idaho. We are writing to rebut the many fallacious claims in your statement, as well as to offer our expertise and assistance in current and future science education deliberations.
Upon reviewing your statement in detail, it quickly became apparent that a point-by-point rebuttal would likely be too long for a succinct discussion. Therefore, this letter will instead discuss the underlying singular issue with your position – namely your lack of trust in the scientific expertise of those who have studied this issue in exhaustive detail.
As a senator in the Idaho legislature, you have a sworn duty to deliberate and enact legislation which addresses the current and future needs of your state’s citizenry. This responsibility presents a significant challenge in that no one person could be expected to be an expert on all of the varied topics which you may encounter as a senator. To resolve this issue, you have the capacity as a senator to consult with various experts on any of the issues you may face.
Scientific experts are capable of providing the context, data, and scientific consensus necessary in making informed decisions on any of the topics you may encounter. In choosing to deny the overwhelming scientific consensus for the human causes of climate change, you and your committee failed in their duties to consult with experts and make informed decisions on complex issues. In short, sir, you substituted your own biased, partisan, political opinions for the scientific reality provided by experts.
To see the entire letter, references and signers – click here (PDF).
Here are the full text of the five paragraphs that were removed from the new science standards:
ESS3-MS-5. Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
Further Explanation: Examples of factors include human activities (such as fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and agricultural activity) and natural processes (such as changes in incoming solar radiation or volcanic activity). Examples of evidence can include tables, graphs, and maps of global and regional temperatures, atmospheric levels of gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, and the rates of human activities. Emphasis is on the major role that human activities play in causing the rise in global temperatures.
ESS3.C: Human Impacts on Earth Systems
Human activities have altered the biosphere, sometimes damaging or destroying natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species. But changes to Earth’s environments can have different impacts (negative and positive) for different living things.(ESS3-MS-3)
Typically as human populations and per-capita consumption of natural resources increase, so do the negative impacts on Earth unless the activities and technologies involved are engineered otherwise. (ESS3-MS-3, ESS3-MS-4)
Human activities (such as the release of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuel combustion) are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature. Other natural activities (such as volcanic activity) are also contributors to changing global temperatures. Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities. (ESS3-MS-5)
LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans
Biodiversity is increased by the formation of new species (speciation) and decreased by the loss of species (extinction). (LS2-HS-7)
Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustaining biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value. (LS2-HS-7, LS4-HS-6.)
LS4.D: Biodiversity and Humans
Humans depend on the living world for the resources and other benefits provided by biodiversity. But human activity is also having adverse impacts on biodiversity through overpopulation, overexploitation, habitat destruction, pollution, introduction of invasive species, and climate change. Thus sustaining biodiversity so that ecosystem functioning and productivity are maintained is essential to supporting and enhancing life on Earth. Sustaining biodiversity also aids humanity by preserving landscapes of recreational or inspirational value. (LS4-HS-6, LS2-HS-7.)
ESS2 .D: Weather and Climate
Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere. (ESS3-HS-6)