ALEC Model Bill Behind Push To Require Climate Denial Instruction In Schools

Thu, 2012-01-26 00:15Steve Horn
Steve Horn's picture

ALEC Model Bill Behind Push To Require Climate Denial Instruction In Schools

On January 16, the Los Angeles Times revealed that anti-science bills have been popping up over the past several years in statehouses across the U.S., mandating the teaching of climate change denial or “skepticism” as a credible “theoretical alternative” to human caused climate change came.

The L.A. Times' Neela Banerjee explained,

“Texas and Louisiana have introduced education standards that require educators to teach climate change denial as a valid scientific position. South Dakota and Utah passed resolutions denying climate change. Tennessee and Oklahoma also have introduced legislation to give climate change skeptics a place in the classroom.”

What the excellent Times coverage missed is that key language in these anti-science bills all eminated from a single source: the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.

ALEC Exposed: No, Not Alec Baldwin* 

In summer 2011, “ALEC Exposed,” a project of the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)**, taught those alarmed about the power that corporations wield in the American political sphere an important lesson: when bills with a similar DNA pop up in various statehouses nationwide, it's no coincidence. 

Explaining the nature and origins of the project, CMD wrote, “[CMD] unveiled a trove of over 800 'model' bills and resolutions secretly voted on by corporations and politicians through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). These bills reveal the corporate collaboration reshaping our democracy, state by state.”

CMD continued, “Before our publication of this trove of bills, it has been difficult to trace the numerous controversial and extreme provisions popping up in legislatures across the country directly to ALEC and its corporate underwriters.”

CMD explained that ALEC conducts its operations in the most shadowy of manners (emphases mine):

“Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALECCorporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve 'model' billsCorporations fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills.”

So, what is the name of the “model bill” this time around?

The Trojan Horse: The “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act”

The Trojan Horse in this case is an Orwellian titled model bill, the “Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.”[PDF]

The bill was adopted by ALEC's Natural Resources Task Force, today known as the Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force, at ALEC's Spring Task Force Summit on May 5, 2000 – it was then approved by the full ALEC Board of Directors in June of 2000.

The bill's opening clause reads [PDF], “The purpose of this act is to enhance and improve the environmental literacy of students and citizens in the state by requiring that all environmental education programs and activities conducted by schools, universities, and agencies shall…”

Among other things, the bill stipulates that schools, universities and agencies should, 

  • “Provide a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner.”
  • “Provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific and economic controversies.” 
  • “Be presented in language appropriate for education rather than for propagandizing.”
  • “Encourage students to explore different perspectives and form their own opinions.”
  • “Encourage an atmosphere of respect for different opinions and open-mindedness to new ideas.”
  • “Not be designed to change student behavior, attitudes or values.” 
  • “Not include instruction in political action skills nor encourage political action activities.”

How does this language compare with legislation passed or proposed in various states? A review is in order.

ALEC Bills: From Model to Reality

The ”Environmental Literacy Improvement Act,” or at minimum, the crucial language found within it, has been proposed in seven states, and passed in three states, Louisiana in 2008, Texas in 2009 and South Dakota in 2010.

Louisiana

In 2008, the Louisiana state legislature introduced and eventually passed S.B. 733, the Louisiana Science and Education Act. The bill was originally sponsored by four members of the Senate, three of whom are current dues paying members of ALEC: Sen. Ben Wayne Nevers, Sr. (D-12); Sen. Neil Riser (R-32); and Sen. Francis Thompson (D-34).

The three ALEC members received a total of $9,514 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles in campaign money combined, and the four of them together received $13,814 in campaign cash from the oil and gas industry, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics' FollowTheMoney.org.

ALEC Model vs. S.B. 733

The Louisiana bill calls for, “an environment within public elementary and secondary schools that promotes critical thinking skills, logical analysis, and open and objective discussion of scientific theories being studied including…global warming…” The bill also calls for “instructional materials to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner.”

This bill mirrors the provisions of the ALEC bill which say that teachers should “provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific…controversies,” and mandates that “balanced and objective environmental education materials and programs will…be used.”

South Dakota

In 2010, the South Dakota Legislative Assembly passed House Concurrent Resolution 1009, a non-binding resolution introduced by 33 members of the House of Representatives and 6 members of the Senate, 39 in total, and 12 of whom are current members of ALEC. The bill calls for “balanced teaching of global warming in the public schools of South Dakota.”

The 12 members of ALEC who sponsored HCR 1009 received $1,900 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles combined, according to FollowTheMoney.org.

The bill mirrors the provision of the ALEC bill that call for the providing of “a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner.”

Kentucky

In 2010, the Kentucky state legislature proposed H.B. 397, the Kentucky Science Education and Intellectual Freedom Act, a bill that eventually failed to pass.

The bill was co-sponsored by two members of the Kentucky House of Representatives who were not members of ALEC, but one of whom, Tim Moore (R-26), took $3,000 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles combined, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics.

ALEC Model vs. HB 397

Two key provisions of the H.B. 397 “encourage local district teachers and administrators to foster an environment promoting objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of scientific theories” and “allow teachers to use, as permitted by the local board of education, materials in addition to state-approved texts and instructional materials for discussion of scientific theories including…global warming…”

This bill mirrors major provisions of the ALEC model bill that say teachers should “provide instruction in critical thinking so that students will be able to fairly and objectively evaluate scientific…controversies,” and mandates that “balanced and objective environmental education materials and programs will…be used.”

New Mexico

In 2011, ALEC member, Rep. Thomas A. Anderson, introduced H.B. 302. In the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles, he raised $2,650, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics' campaign finance database.

ALEC Model vs. H.B. 302

H.B. 302 says that schools shall “not prohibit any teacher, when a controversial scientific topic is being taught in accordance with adopted standards and curricula, from informing students about relevant scientific information regarding either the scientific strengths or scientific weaknesses pertaining to that topic.” One “controversial scientific topic” listed is the “causes of climate change.”

This bill mirrors the provisions of the ALEC model bill which call for teaching “a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner,” teaching “different perspectives” to allow for students to “form their own opinions,” and creating an “atmosphere of respect for different opinions and open-mindedness to new ideas.”

Tennessee

Tennessee's House bill, H.B. 368, essentially a replica of the ALEC model bill, overwhelmly passed the House in April 2011, but its Senate-version cousin, S.B. 893, failed to pass. As the Los Angeles Times article makes clear, efforts to push the bill through are far from over.

Key clauses of that bill read,

  • [T]eachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories covered in the course being taught.
  • “[P]ublic elementary and secondary schools…[should]…respond appropriately and respectfully to differences of opinion about controversial issues.” 

These excerpts match, almost to a “T,” bullet points one, three and four of the ALEC model bill.  

Nine of the 24 co-sponsors of the H.B. 368 are ALEC members, according to CMD's ALEC Members database.

In addition, these nine ALEC member co-sponsors received $8,695 in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry combined in the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles, according to FollowTheMoney.org. The other 15 sponsors of the bill, while not members of ALEC, received $10,400 in their campaign cofffers in the 2008 and 2010 campaign cycles combined.

S.B. 893, on the other hand, was sponsored by Sen. Bo Watson (R-11), a recipient of $1,800 in oil and gas industry money in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles combined.

Translation: between the 25 of them, on top of a model bill handed to them by corporate oil and gas industry lobbyists, they were also furnished with $20,895 in campaign cash by these industries with the expectation to do their legislative bidding.

Oklahoma

Titled, the “Scientific Education and Academic Freedom Act,” H.B. 1551 is also essentially a copycat of Tennessee's version of the ALEC model bill – it failed to pass. A Senate version of that bill, S.B. 320, was also proposed in 2009, but failed to pass through committee.

Key clauses of that bill read (emphases mine),

  • “[T]eachers shall be permitted to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review in an objective manner the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories pertinent to the course being taught.”
  • “[N]o student in any public school or institution shall be penalized in any way because the student may subscribe to a particular position on scientific theories.”

Notice how the first bullet is exactly the same in both the Tennessee and Oklahoma bills – also notice how similar bullet number two is in both language and substance in both states' bills.

Rep. Sally Kern (R-84), sponsor of H.B. 1551, is a member of ALEC, according to CMD. She received $12,335 from the oil and gas industry in the 2008 and 2010 election cycles, in total, according to FollowTheMoney.org. Sen. Randy Brogdon (R-34), sponsor of S.B. 320, while not a member of ALEC, received $22,967 from the oil and gas industry while running and losing for Governor of Oklahoma in 2010, according to FollowTheMoney.org.

On the whole, sponsors and co-sponsors from the six states in which the ALEC bill was proposed were recipients of $44,409 in campaign money from the oil and gas industry, a miniscule down payment for some of the most lucrative corporations known in the history of mankind.

Texas

Texas, in this case, is a bit of a wild card. Rather than a bill proposed by a state legislature, in 2009, the Texas School Board passed an amendent calling for the “balanced” teaching of climate change, meaning both science and “skepticism.”

The Austin Statesman explained,

“The State Board of Education…adopted standards on the teaching of global warming that appear to both question its existence and prod students to explore its implications.

Standards are used to guide textbook makers and teachers.

Language…instructed students to 'analyze and evaluate different views on the existence of global warming,'”…

This provision mirrors and is likely inspired by the ALEC model bill provision on global warming, which suggested science teachers should “Provide a range of perspectives presented in a balanced manner.”

A Bill In the Corporate Polluter's Interest

The money paper trail for this ALEC model bill runs deep, to put it bluntly. 

When the ALEC model bill was adopted in 2000 by ALEC's Natural Resources Task Force, the head of that committee was Sandy Liddy Bourne, who after that stint, became Director of Legislation and Policy for ALEC. She is now with the Heartland Institute as vice-president for policy strategy. In Sandy Liddy Bourne's bio on the Heartland website, she boasts that “Under her leadership, 20 percent of ALEC model bills were enacted by one state or more, up from 11 percent.” 

SourceWatch states that Liddy Bourne “…is the daughter of former Nixon aide and convicted Watergate criminal G. Gordon Liddy, who spent more than 52 months in prison for his part in the Watergate burglary…[and her] speech at the Heartland Institute's 2008 International Conference on Climate Change was titled, 'The Kyoto Legacy; The Progeny of a Carbon Cartel in the States.”

The Heartland Institute was formerly heavily funded by ExxonMobil and Koch Industries, just like ALEC was at the time that Liddy Bourne's committee devised the ”Environmental Literacy Improvement Act.” These two corporations are infamous for their funding of climate change “skeptic” think tanks and front groups.  

Today, the corporate polluter members of ALEC's Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force include representatives from American Electric Power, the Fraser Institute, the Cato Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the Institute for Energy Research, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the Heartland Institute, and the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, to name several.

Getting Them While They're Young: A Cynical Maneuver 

In the United States, the politics of big-money backed disinformation campaigns have trumped climate science, and serves as the raison d'être for DeSmogBlog. Polluters with a financial interest in continuing to conduct business without any accountability for their global warming pollution have purposely sowed the seeds of confusion on an issue seen as completely uncontroversial among scientists.

Maneuvering to dupe schoolchildren is about as cynical as it gets. Neuroscience explains that young brains are like sponges, ready to soak in knowledge (and disinformation, for that matter), and thus, youth are an ideal target for the “merchants of doubt.”

The corporations behind the writing and dissemination of this ALEC model bill, who are among the largest polluters in the world, would benefit handsomly from a legislative mandate to sow the seeds of confusion on climate science among schoolchildren.

Alas, at the very least, the identity of the Trojan Horse has been revealed: it's name is ALEC.

*Sorry Alec Baldwin, this isn't about you, please resume your Words With Friends. This ALEC is far more scandalous.

**Full Disclosure: At the time of the ALEC Exposed project's public release in mid-2011, Steve Horn was an employee of Center for Media and Democracy.

Previous Comments

From Reuters;

“Jan 24 (Reuters) - Representatives from around the world gather in Rio in June to try to hammer out goals for sustainable development at a U.N. conference designed to avoid being tripped up by the intractable issue of climate change.

But there is concern in the lead-up to the conference, known as Rio+20 or the Earth Summit, that it risks ending up as all talk and little action.

In an attempt to avoid too much confrontation, the conference will focus not on climate change but on sustainable development - making sure economies can grow now without endangering resources and the environment for future generations.”

http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL5E8CO3E720120124?sp=true

Imo, this is also related to why ‘balance’ is now being taught in classrooms where environmental issues are concerned. What Desmog is calling ‘anti-science’ is the attempt by teachers to offset what is thought by many to be the wild claims made by Climate alarmists.

Common sense is finally taking hold.

Lara.

Please.

What facts are you using?  Seriously… you call me an alarmist while providing zero information yourself.  Zero Nada Nothing, Zippo.

I have been hunting for a SINGLE fact disproving global warming for over a year now, and I have found NONE.

So please please please explain to me what makes you think all of our best and brightest are wrong.  Maybe in the US they give out PHDs like lollipops but in Canada they do not.

Be specific and be concise in your evidence.


On the other note, I can see how they want to take Climate Change of the table simply becuase they don’t want a bunch of oil mongers to take the whole conference off the rails.  The oil companies sure make this a devisive issue.

“I can see how they want to take Climate Change of the table simply becuase they don’t want a bunch of oil mongers to take the whole conference off the rails”

Really Oilman? Are you being serious? It’s the 20th anniversary of the Rio Earth Summit and they are not going to be talking about Global Warming!

I imagine it has nothing to do with all the failed predictions from the likes of James Hansen et al, and maybe that the planet hasn’t been warming for the past decade or more. No, that couldn’t be it, right?

‘…maybe that the planet hasn’t been warming for the past decade or more.’

And your evidence for that is found where, exactly?

Those who make such claims are simply liars, or simpletons who believe the liars.

Snake-oil salesmen just love folk like you.

I know I know… Fox Mulder told you….

If you’re sooo right, why don’t you show Hansen’s Graph from your sources?  Perhaps you could read his paper?  Let me help you, here’s Hansen for you…

http://www.skepticalscience.com/Hansen-1988-prediction-basic.htm

And because the skeptics here don’t like Skeptical Science… here’s the original paper;

http://pubs.giss.nasa.gov/docs/1988/1988_Hansen_etal.pdf

(I suppose its annoying for you to see this with all the original graphs….)

Imagine if American economists were that accurate? Imagine predicting global economic collapse…  The US wouldn’t be in the miserable shape its in now that’s for sure.

[Hmm… I think the reason the deniers out there don’t like Skeptical Science is that they do a good job of making this stuff understandable to people are not scientific.  Therefore I must quote it more.]

If science relied upon common sense then we would still be trying to get our fire from lightning struck tinder.

Any attempt to get so called balance in the classroom is a straight out attempt to pollute young minds just as with creationism v. evolution for the evidence for anthropogenic driving of climate is overwhelming as this make clear:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/climate_science_history.php

ALEC are moving on this as their favoured tactics, until now, are faltering as the ever more desperate machinations of the likes of Patrick Michaels demonstrates. Check out at Skeptical Science (linked to above), Deltoid or Rabbet Run for his latest ducking and diving whilst uttering nonsense.

Your use of a term such as ‘alarmist’ betrays the pedigree of your info sources, or rather brainwashing.

 

…that they only really need one good solid fact.  Yet they cannot find a single one at all.

Here’s what the Conservative Harper Government says is happening.

http://www.ec.gc.ca/adsc-cmda/default.asp?lang=En&n=77842065-1

 

Nice to see the down-voters are out in force to rabidly squash any deviation from the status warming quo.

Fwiw, it’s not up to poor Lara to prove anything if she doesn’t agree with the CAGW religion. It’s all on the high priests of climate themselves to prove that it is in fact happening, ok?

Please stop asking ordinary, free-thinking citizens to ‘prove’ why they are not buying in to the hype. And PLEASE stop using the SS website as your ‘proof’! That place is second only to Climate Progress for the most irresponsible claims regarding anything climate related.

You aren’t arguing about what you agree.

Agreeance implies facts.  Since you can produce none… you are talking about your beliefs in a religious sense.

Which is fine, but it should be presented as such.  Like the XFiles, God, Santa Clause, and the Tooth Fairy.  You should own your beliefs.  (That’s what I believe anyways.)

“Santa Clause told me its all fine.”, is certainly a stance I can accept and understand.

“I’m too lazy (pretty?) to do math, so I don’t think any of this is real.”, is certainly a stance I can accept and understand.

“I’m not smart enough to understand anything.”, ditto.

I use Skeptical Science as proof for a reason.  After painfully slowly debunking, multiple skeptic claims (by reading the original papers), Skeptical Science came up agreeing with me.  It took a good 6 months before I came to realize they were parroting me, not the other way around.  Even though I understand and can follow much sicence, its still painfully difficult to read and understand.  Since then Skeptical Science has become something as a crutch for me.

The other reason I quote skeptical science is that in scientific circles it is common practice to reference your sources so others can see where you are getting your information from and\or refute it.

It is Skeptical Science not SS. You make yourself look a jerk by using that shorthand.

Free thinking citizens can think what they like but they are not entitled to their own facts. That is why you detest Skeptical Science and Climate Progress - it is easier to shoot the messenger than defeat the scientific understanding by a fact based counter.

Here is evidence for the warming that you people try to say has not happened:

http://thinkprogress.org/romm/2012/01/27/413227/nasa-video-global-warming/

You cannot hand-wave evidence away and Skeptical Science provides study based evidence to support its arguments and refute those of the few poor scientists still trying to play down the issue to continue the delay on action - action already 15-20 years late. Time that humans and all other species on earth could ill afford.

I’ve noticed that right from the start.  Deniers don’t like you to present any sort of link.  I remember the first time one got mad at me. “Well! If you’re going to use the internet against me!”

Its about keeping people ignorant.

During the fall of apartheidt in South Africa, the ANC would attack and kill children who went to school.  Presumeably the population is easier to control that way.

[PS. I have the BEST graph iPhone app…]

For those that haven’t heard;

Rio +20 Drops Earth Summit drops Climate Change from it’s agenda this year.

http://af.reuters.com/article/commoditiesNews/idAFL5E8CO3E720120124?sp=true

Your ideological blinkers are betrayed by your language, such as ‘CAGW’ and ‘religion’.

A knowledge of anthropogenic climate change is based on fact and understanding, it is not a belief.

It is you guys that are trying to ‘believe’, or make others ‘believe’, that climate change is a hoax.

As at the link posted above there are hundreds of independent lines of evidence that global warming is real (have you noticed what is happening in polar regions and to the seasons - farmers have and those living above 60 degrees) and science of more than a century long tells us why.

If you have an argument that has not been rebutted here (and I suggest watching that video presented in the latest post):

http://www.skepticalscience.com/

then you have maybe something of value to say otherwise I would stop showing your ignorance or pretend ignorance because you are a fifth columnist for the pollution industries.

There is no longer any excuse for repeating the tired old mantra presented by you here.

16 leading scientists contributed to an artlicle released today in the WSJ.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204301404577171531838421366.html

“Perhaps the most inconvenient fact is the lack of global warming for well over 10 years now. This is known to the warming establishment, as one can see from the 2009 “Climategate” email of climate scientist Kevin Trenberth: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.” But the warming is only missing if one believes computer models where so-called feedbacks involving water vapor and clouds greatly amplify the small effect of CO2.

The lack of warming for more than a decade—indeed, the smaller-than-predicted warming over the 22 years since the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) began issuing projections—suggests that computer models have greatly exaggerated how much warming additional CO2 can cause. Faced with this embarrassment, those promoting alarm have shifted their drumbeat from warming to weather extremes, to enable anything unusual that happens in our chaotic climate to be ascribed to CO2.”

Of course, everyone here will deride the source saying the Wall Street Journal is owned by ‘Big Oil’ or something but please take the time to read the article. These are real scientists standing together against the vast spin machine that has taken over much of what some still call “Science”. Many are still too afraid to go against the establishmnent, for fear of being blacklisted.

“Although the number of publicly dissenting scientists is growing, many young scientists furtively say that while they also have serious doubts about the global-warming message, they are afraid to speak up for fear of not being promoted—or worse. They have good reason to worry. In 2003, Dr. Chris de Freitas, the editor of the journal Climate Research, dared to publish a peer-reviewed article with the politically incorrect (but factually correct) conclusion that the recent warming is not unusual in the context of climate changes over the past thousand years. The international warming establishment quickly mounted a determined campaign to have Dr. de Freitas removed from his editorial job and fired from his university position. Fortunately, Dr. de Freitas was able to keep his university job.

This is not the way science is supposed to work, but we have seen it before—for example, in the frightening period when Trofim Lysenko hijacked biology in the Soviet Union. Soviet biologists who revealed that they believed in genes, which Lysenko maintained were a bourgeois fiction, were fired from their jobs. Many were sent to the gulag and some were condemned to death.”

 

This article is about 16 stupid illiterate scientists…

Presumably they can read and write can’t they?  All they need to do is publish a single fact…   And there are crappy journals willing to do that…  If its good… it would get read, and this whole global warming thing would blow over.

So, fact, you are quoting the dumbest scientists on earth.

Short Time Line..  standard tactic.  When you look at the long time line its very very clear.

Claiming CO2 isn’t danagerous in small quantities.  I just wish everyone who agrees would put their money where their mouth is, and take two Arsenic pills and tell me how they feel in the morning.

Claiming CO2 helps plants grow.  Ignorning the fact that Texas Farmers are appearently too stupid to grow plants while being awash in plant food.  You need water and appropriate temperatures.  Perhaps if Texas put a tarp over the entire state, and pumped in water from an external source, they could reproduce the conditions in hydroponic farms.

In any case. No links or facts are offered by that opinion piece.  The only established fact is that they have found 16 scientists who cannot write.

 

There is only only science of climate, climatology.  There are a variety of cranks each of how has his own bizarre idea which he defneds against climatology and all the other cranks.


Its rather more like the flat earthers than the creationists, although the latter also come in a variety of flavors; lotsa cranks around.

[x]

While the oil and gas industry likes to claim that fracking is not an especially water intensive process, a new report has found that there are more than 250 wells across the country that each require anywhere from 10 to 25 million gallons of water.

The American Petroleum Institute...

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