A Silicon Valley lawmaker is gaining momentum with a bill that would require "climate change" to be among the science topics that all California public school students are taught.
The measure, by state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, also would mandate that future science textbooks approved for California public schools include climate change.
"You can't have a science curriculum that is relevant and current if it doesn't deal with the science behind climate change," Simitian said. "This is a phenomenon of global importance and our kids ought to understand the science behind that phenomenon."
The state Senate approved the bill, SB 908, Jan. 30 by a 26-13 vote. It heads now to the state Assembly. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken numerous actions to reduce global warming, but he has yet to weigh in on Simitian's bill. Other Republicans in the Capitol, however, are not happy about the proposal.
Some say the science on global warming isn't clear, while others worry the bill would inject environmental propaganda into classrooms.
"I find it disturbing that this mandate to teach this theory is not accompanied by a requirement that the discussion be science-based and include a critical analysis of all sides of the subject," said Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks, during the Senate debate.
Only two Republicans voted for the bill, Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-San Luis Obispo, and
One of the opponents, Sen. Jeff Denham, R-Modesto, said he wants guarantees that the views of global warming skeptics will be taught.
"Some wouldn't view them as skeptics. Some would view them as the right side of the issue," said Denham, an Atwater almond farmer who also runs a plastics recycling business.
"We don't have complete factual information yet," Denham said. "From what I have seen the Earth has heated and cooled on its own for centuries. I don't know that there's anything that is a direct cause of that right now, but we can do a better job of cleaning up our planet."
Simitian noted that his bill wouldn't dictate what to teach or in what grades, but rather would require the state Board of Education and state Department of Education to decide both.
Although global warming is mentioned in high school classes about weather, it is currently not required to be covered in all textbooks, said the head of the California Science Teachers Association.
"This is a great idea. I don't think there's any reason to talk about politics," said Christine Bertrand, the group's executive director. "There's no argument that there is climate change. The argument is how much is caused by the activities of mankind."
Bertrand said teachers would have plenty to discuss: rising levels of carbon dioxide, how temperatures are measured globally, and what is known and not known about global warming.
Meanwhile, the 10 hottest years - ranked by global surface temperature - since 1880 all have occurred since 1995, according to the National Climatic Data Center, a federal agency in North Carolina.
In 2005, America's most prestigious scientific body, the National Academy of Sciences, issued a statement with the headline "Climate change is real." It was signed by the national scientific academies of Japan, Britain, Canada, China, Germany, Italy, France, Russia, India and Brazil. Citing direct measurements of air and oceans, along with melting glaciers, it noted:
"There is now strong evidence that significant global warming is occurring. . . . It is likely that most of the warming in recent decades can be attributed to human activities. This warming has already led to changes in the Earth's climate."
IF YOU'RE INTERESTED
To read the bill, go to www.senate.ca.gov, click "legislation" and type SB 908.