Textbooks proposed by both Pearson and McGraw Hill, two of the largest educational material publishers in the country, suggest that scientists are divided on what causes climate change. McGraw Hill’s textbook argues that “scientists agree that Earth’s climate is changing. They do not agree on what is causing the change,” asking if it is “just another natural warming cycle like so many cycles that have occurred in the past? Scientists who support this position cite thousands of years’ worth of natural climatic change as evidence…” However, around 97 percent of climate scientists agree that human activity is mainly responsible for global warming. The Pearson textbook also suggests that only “some” climate scientists believe the human burning of fossil fuels is responsible for climate change.
The McGraw Hill textbook also gives the opinions of two employees from a conservative think tank equal weight to the findings of actual scientists. In one of the book’s sections, students are asked to compare two passages: one is from two employees of the Heartland Institute, a think tank that has been described as the “primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism,” while the other comes from the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is composed of experts who looked at research from thousands of top climate scientists.
The National Center for Science Education found other inaccuracies in how proposed textbooks teach climate science. A book from Studies Weekly Publications suggests that “some scientists say it is natural for the Earth’s temperature to be higher for a few years. They predict we’ll have some cooler years and things will even out.” The Center said they could not find any currently publishing climate scientists who support this belief and “wonder what the source of this information was.” Two others confused the relationship between the ozone layer and global warming.
In addition to the inaccuracies about climate change, education watchdogs say that the proposed textbooks also included biased and untrue information, such as claims that Moses inspired American democracy and “materials downplayed the hardships blacks faced under segregation.”
If these proposed textbooks are accepted with the inaccurate information they contain, it could affect more than just Texan students. After California, Texas is the largest textbook market in the country, and publishers sell the Texas version of textbooks in many states. Within Texas alone, the inaccurate books could be used for up to a decade.
The question over whether to include content that questions climate change is an issue that has arisen in other states. In June, a Pennsylvania school board rejected a proposal to include material that would question the existence of climate change in a textbook. Earlier this year, Wyoming and Oklahoma rejected parts of new national science education standards due to the inclusion of the human impact of global warming. In Kentucky, Gov. Steven Beshear had to use an executive order to implement the standards. A majority of American adults say that there is solid evidence that climate change is occurring, and a plurality say its from human activity.
Amelia Rosch is an intern for ThinkProgress.