The O. Zone

Climate change skepticism heats up debate in Vail Valley classrooms

By David O. Williams
Real AspenJanuary 31, 2012
Climate change skepticism is creeping into classrooms even as advocacy groups try to broaden their reach using new-school X Games athletes to spread the message to high schools students.

Here's a recent example of negative parental reaction to a climate change presentation last week at a Vail Valley high school:

“The school brought in this company to push liberalism and radical environmentalism,” wrote Paul Gallagher, a Gypsum resident whose niece attends Eagle Valley High School. “My sister and I sat through this almost one-hour of garbage and heard the presentation about ‘climate change,' a lack of snow in Colorado due to global warming, ‘glaciers melting,' ‘polar bears' disappearing, how cow ‘flatulence' contributes to the problem, how we all should ‘walk or bike somewhere if less than five miles away,' buy ‘local farmers markets' produce, the importance of ‘recycling,' ‘doomsday' is approaching without taking action, etc. It was very concerning.”

The presentation by Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) aims to increase awareness of global climate change – sometimes using Winter X Games athletes such as Gretchen Bleiler and Seth Wescott.

A record December drought in Colorado's high country underscored evidence of increasing warming in the Rocky Mountain West – a situation that has led to a widespread mountain pine bark beetle epidemic and mounting susceptibility to massive wildfires. It also took a toll on the state's ski industry earlier this season.

“Climate science denial has been a really hot topic recently and we've faced our fair share of skeptics when trying to book presentations and during their delivery,” acknowledged Kara Muraki, program manager for Alliance for Climate Education. “The science behind our presentation is based entirely on the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report, and we believe that if students have the opportunity to learn the conclusions of 98 percent of the world's leading climate scientists – no matter what else they hear -- it will help to reverse the recent increase in public skepticism about global warming.”

Based on his email, Gallagher won't be helping to reverse the trend any time soon:

“At the end of the assembly, kids were asked to come onstage if they had an interest in starting a ‘climate change' group at their school,” he wrote. “I would say two-thirds of the kids went onstage. Not good. I would say brainwashing, scare tactics, lies and peer pressure made them feel obligated to get involved onstage.”

Even the U.S. Department of Defense is preparing for significant military interventions resulting from climate change, including “violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics.”

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