Yes, the U.S. Congress did pass the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454), but within Congress—in the House—there was clear evidence of “scientific illiteracy.” And no, it was not the kind of thinking that we as science teachers advocate. It turns out that one of the U.S. Representatives from Georgia, Paul Broun, who represents citizens of Georgia in Congressional District 10 (in the Athens, GA area) appears to advocate illiteracy. During the debate on H.R. 2454, Broun stated “Scientists all over this world say that the idea of human induced global climate change is one of the greatest hoaxes perpetrated out of the scientific community. It is a hoax. There is no scientific consensus.”
These comments are not surprising from this Georgia Congressman (read about him here), but it serves to support Mooney and Kirchenbaum’s thesis of their new book, Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens America. Here we have a member of Congress who denies the research on climate change, and makes false statements on the costs of the bill and how it would affect American households. Broun needs to consider a very basic idea, and that is: “there is no such thing as a free lunch.” Instead of doing his homework, and finding out how we have continued to get “free lunches from the Earth,” this man continues his demeanor as a denier of climate change and global warming, and serves as a poster-child for perpetuating ignorance in the face of searching for truth on one of of serious problems we face today. Our continued greed in taking from the Earth has come home to roost as seen in the warmest years on record, the melting of ice caps, the acceleration North of climates (New Hampshire could have a climate like North Carolina) as temperatures have increased, and many other examples.
Although his remarks received applause from some Republicans, other Representatives voted for the bill because of his incendiary and ignorant remarks. By the way, Broun has a medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia!
In an editorial piece entitled Betraying the Planet, Paul Krugman points out that many who voted against the bill did so because of an overall rejection of the idea of greenhouse gasses, climate change, and global warming. As others have pointed out, these represent the “deniers,” who simply are too lazy to pursue any investigation into the knowledge that has been accumulated by scientists around the world about climate change. Even their own government has just recently issued a report entitled Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences developed by the US Climate Change Science Program. Climate literacy—can you believe that!
Scientific illiteracy is not something to treat lightly. Mooney and Kirshenbaum have devoted an entire book to the subject, and cite scientist’s lament about the public’s “scientific illiteracy.” Yet when we have Representatives such as Broun as a talking head in Washington, we see that the illiteracy that appears to be rampant in society, is even more so in our House (of Representatives).
My own experience working with youth on issues such as global warming and climate change would put to shame Rep. Broun’s ignorance of one of the greatest problems facing our citizens, not only here, but around the world. There is more to talk about here, but that will come later this week. I think I want to listen to a baseball game!