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Leaked: a plan to teach climate change skepticism in schools

By Bill Dedman (MSNBC) - February 15, 2012

Internal documents have been leaked from the Heartland Institute, a Chicago nonprofit think tank, showing its funding of leading skeptics of global warming and a plan to teach climate change skepticism in schools. An anonymous person leaked the documents to several publications and activists supporting the science of climate change.

“The heart of the climate denial machine relies on huge corporate and foundation funding from U.S. businesses, including Microsoft, Koch Industries, Altria (parent company of Philip Morris) RJR Tobacco and more,” reports the DeSmogBlog, which published the documents on Tuesday. The blog opposes what it calls the “climate denial machine.” (Disclosure: msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal.)

The first batch of documents is here on the DeSmogBlog, and a second batch dealing with fundraising.

The documents show a plan to develop a curriculum for teaching about climate change in K-12 schools, focusing on the message that “the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain — two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science.”

From the fundraising plan:

Global Warming Curriculum for K-12 Schools

Many people lament the absence of educational material suitable for K-12 students on global warming that isn’t alarmist or overtly political. Heartland has tried to make material available to teachers, but has had only limited success. Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective. Moreover, material for classroom use must be carefully written to meet curriculum guidelines, and the amount of time teachers have for supplemental material is steadily shrinking due to the spread of standardized tests in K-12 education.

Dr. David Wojick has presented Heartland a proposal to produce a global warming curriculum or K-12 schools that appears to have great potential for success. Dr. Wojick is a consultant with the Office of Scientific and Technical Information at the U.S. Department of Energy in the area of information and communication science. He has a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science and mathematical logic from the University of Pittsburgh and a B.S. in civil engineering from Carnegie Tech. He has been on the faculty of Carnegie Mellon and the staffs of the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Naval Research Lab.

Dr. Wojick has conducted extensive research on environmental and science education for the Department of Energy. In the course of this research, he has identified what subjects and concepts teachers must teach, and in what order (year by year), in order to harmonize with national test requirements. He has contacts at virtually all the national organizations involved in producing, certifying, and promoting science curricula.

Dr. Wojick proposes to begin work on “modules” for grades 10-12 on climate change (“whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy”), climate models (“models are used to explore various hypotheses about how climate works. Their reliability is controversial”), and air pollution (“whether CO2 is a pollutant is controversial. It is the global food supply and natural emissions are 20 times higher than human emissions”).

Wojick would produce modules for Grades 7-9 on environmental impact (“environmental impact is often difficult to determine. For example there is a major controversy over whether or not humans are changing the weather”), for Grade 6 on water resources and weather systems, and so on.

We tentatively plan to pay Dr. Wojick $5,000 per module, about $25,000 a quarter, starting in the second quarter of 2012, for this work. The Anonymous Donor has pledged the first $100,000 for this project, and we will circulate a proposal to match and then expand upon that investment.

Here’s a copy of the group’s fundraising plan, with a list of donors.

The documents also show funding of leading voices among the opponents of the idea of global warming: “At the moment, this funding goes primarily to Craig Idso ($11,600 per month), Fred Singer ($5,000 per month, plus expenses), Robert Carter ($1,667 per month), and a number of other individuals, but we will consider expanding it, if funding can be found.”

Also described is an effort to place favorable articles — and block unfavorable articles — in the business press, including Forbes.

About its funders, the group refers to a single anonymous donor: “Our climate work is attractive to funders, especially our key Anonymous Donor (whose contribution dropped from $1,664,150 in 2010 to $979,000 in 2011 – about 20% of our total 2011 revenue). He has promised an increase in 2012…”

Other donors are named: “We will also pursue additional support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation. They returned as a Heartland donor in 2011 with a contribution of $200,000. We expect to push up their level of support in 2012 and gain access to their network of philanthropists, if our focus continues to align with their interests. Other contributions will be pursued for this work, especially from corporations whose interests are threatened by climate policies.”