School Climate & Safety

California Prodded on Climate Topic

By Sean Cavanagh — February 11, 2008 1 min read
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California has emerged lately as Climate Change Central, as the state scraps with the federal government over its right to set its own, more stringent auto-emissions controls.

Now a state lawmaker, Sen. Joe Simitian, has sponsored a bill to require that climate change be given more prominence in California’s science curriculum framework, which helps guide K-12 teachers’ instruction and the content of textbooks.

“Any rigorous program of science instruction has to be current and relevant,” Mr. Simitian, a Democrat, said in an interview. “Certainly, [the topic of] climate change fits that description.”

The California Senate on Jan. 30 approved his bill on a 26-13 vote, largely along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed. The bill is scheduled to move to the lower chamber, the Assembly, which is also under Democratic control.

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See other stories on education issues in California.

California’s science framework—set for revision in 2010—already mentions “global warming,” or rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gases. The state also offers K-12 curricular materials on climate change through a state-sponsored effort known as the Education and the Environment Initiative.

Action on Mr. Simitian’s bill has come not long after the Bush administration rejected California’s attempt to set vehicle-emissions controls stricter than the national standards. The state is appealing that decision.

There is broad scientific consensus that climate change is occurring, and “very high confidence” that human activities contribute to it, according to a report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released last year.

But some critics say environmental advocates are overstating that consensus.

“Forcing children to accept subjective and biased information is not the right approach,” said Mike Zimmerman, chief of staff for Assemblyman Martin Garrick, the ranking Republican on the lower house’s education committee.

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A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2008 edition of Education Week

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