American Government Textbook References A Rogue’s Gallery Of Climate Deniers

Houghton Mifflin, the publisher of the climate-denier textbook American Government, responded to criticism on Andy Revkin’s Dot Earth blog with the following claims:

The authors do not provide a history of global warming; rather they use the issue to illustrate “entrepreneurial politics.” As part of this illustration, the book cites a wide range of sources, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore.

Late last year, we released the 11th edition of “American Government,” which included some revisions to the “entrepreneurial politics” section. These revisions reflect current developments in environmental policy research.

Not a single sentence in their response accurately represents the textbook’s content.


HOUGHTON-MIFFLINFACT”The authors do not provide a history of global warming…”The authors provide a misleading history of global warming:

Second, many environmental issues are enmeshed in scientific uncertainty: the experts either do not know or they disagree about what is happening and how to change it. For example, some people worry that society is burning so much fuel (thus producing a lot of carbon dioxide) and cutting down so many trees (thus reducing the plants available to convert carbon dioxide back into oxygen) that the earth will soon become a greenhouse: the excess carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere will prevent heat from escaping, and so the earth will get warmer with disastrous effects for humanity. But there are some scientists who say that human activity is not a major cause of global warming; instead, they argue, it is the result of natural changes in the earth’s temperature.3 — American Government, 11th Edition, p. 556

“…rather they use the issue to illustrate ‘entrepreneurial politics.’”According to James Q. Wilson, “entrepeneurial politics” is a situation where “the costs are heavily concentrated on some industry, profession, or locality but the benefits are spread over many if not all people.” In Wilson’s mind, it is the government that burdens industry with regulations, rather than industry burdening the people with pollution.”As part of this illustration…”The section on global warming (p. 559) is illustrated with a photograph of a snow storm, without explanation.”…the book cites a wide range of sources…”Of 22 sources cited in the the 11th edition’s environmental chapter, nine are about global warming. Of the nine, five question climate change science:

“… from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change…”None of the references are from an IPCC publication, although Dr. Schneider is an IPCC scientist.”… to Nobel Prize Winner Al Gore.”The reference including “activists” Al Gore and Schneider contrasts them to “skeptics” Seitz, Easterbrook, and Michaels.”Late last year, we released the 11th edition of ‘American Government’ …True. “…which included some revisions to the ‘entrepreneurial politics’ section. These revisions reflect current developments in environmental policy research.”A section that claimed “neither all nor almost all scientists believe” in global warming in the 10th edition was replaced with the following in the 11th:

But our natural concern for global warming must address three difficult questions. First, we do not yet have an accurate measure of how much human activity has contributed to the warming of the earth. The earth has become warmer, but is this mostly the result of natural climate changes, or is it heavily influenced by humans putting greenhouse gases into the air? Second, if human activity is a main contributor, what would it cost in lost productivity and income to reduce greenhouse gases? Since America acting alone cannot eliminate greenhouse gases, we have to figure out how to get other countries, especially rapidly growing ones such as China and India, to absorb their share of the cost. Third, how large would be the gains to humankind, and when would they occur? On the one hand, a warmer globe will cause sea levels to rise, threatening coastal communities; on the other hand, greater warmth will make it easier and and cheaper to grow crops and avoid high heating bills.7 — American Government, 11th ed., p. 559

The revisions reflect current developments in right-wing tactics for blocking global warming solutions, replacing talking points for denying anthropogenic climate change with talking points for delaying action. Tellingly, the citations were not updated. In fact, the latest citation for the passage is from 1998.

Friends of the Earth has a petition to Houghton Mifflin to repair the book’s distortions, bias, and lies.

UPDATE: Local TV and radio stations like KIDK (Pocatello, ID) and KTAR (Phoenix, AZ) are covering the story, interviewing students and teachers who use the book. WIVB (Buffalo, NY) has interviews with Matthew LaClair and a representative from the Center for Inquiry.

Citations for Chapter 21 of American Government, 11th Edition, are peppered with global warming deniers:

  • Alexander W. Astin et al., The American Freshman: National Norms for 1989 (Los Angeles: UCLA Graduate School of Education, 1989), 89.
  • John W. Bridgeland, speaking at the Robert A. Fox Leadership Forum, University of Pennsylvania, September 30, 2004.
  • Sallie Baliunas, “The Kyoto Protocol and Global Warming,” Imprimis 31 (March 2002); Climate Change: An Analysis of Some Key Questions (Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences, 2000); Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), ch. 24.
  • Barry G. Rabe, “Statehouse and Greenhouse: The States Are Taking the Lead on Climate Change,” Brookings Review 20 (Spring 2002): 11–13.
  • Baliunas, “Kyoto Protocol,” 2.
  • David Vogel, National Styles of Regulation (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986), 19–30.
  • For arguments by activists, see Albert Gore, Earth in the Balance (Boston:Houghton Mifflin, 1992), and Stephen Schneider, Global Warming (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1989). For arguments by skeptics, see Gregg Easterbrook, A Moment on the Earth (New York: Viking, 1995), ch. 17; Frederick Seitz et al., “Environmental Effects of Increased Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide,” on the World Wide Web at; and Patrick J. Michaels, “Global Deception,” Policy Study 146, Center for the Study of American Business, Washington University (1998).
  • Easterbrook, A Moment, 309.
  • R. Shep Melnick, Regulation and the Courts: The Case of the Clean Air Act (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1983) 84–96.
  • Pietro S. Nivola, The Politics of Energy Conservation (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1986), 11–12, 244–247.
  • Robert W. Crandall, “Pollution, Environmentalists, and the Coal Lobby,” in The Political Economy of Deregulation, ed. Roger G. Noll and Bruce M. Own (Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise Institute, 1983), 84–96; Crandall, Controlling Industrial Pollution (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1983).
  • Bruce A. Ackerman and William T. Hassler, Clear Coal/Dirty Air (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1981).
  • Robert Dorfman, “Lessons of Pesticide Regulation,” in Reform of Environmental Regulation, ed. Wesley A. Magat (Cambridge, Mass.: Ballinger, 1982), 13–30.
  • Easterbrook, A Moment, 386–395.
  • Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report (January 12, 1990): 166–170.
  • Richard Doll and Richard Peto, “The Causes of Cancer,” Journal of the National Cancer Institute 66 (1981); World Cancer Research Fund, Food, Nutrition, and the Prevention of Cancer (Washington, D.C.: American Institute for Cancer Research, 1997).
  • R. Shep Melnick, “Deadlines, Cynicism, and Common Sense,” The Brookings Review (Fall 1983): 21–24.