Climate change is among the multiple issues addressed in this year’s lengthy slate of proposed bills — and not for the first time.
“Yes, there is some warming on the planet in the last few years,” said Rep. John Piscopo, R-Thomaston, when he proposed a bill in 2009 to repeal global-warming legislation. “A lot of it can be measured by the activity on the sun. The sun is just more active. We go through periods of warming. We’ll go through periods of cooling.”
“Mark my words,” Piscopo added. “In 10 years, we’re all going to be worried about late spring frosts, and early fall frosts, and crops dying and we’re going to be in some huge climate-cooling hysteria. That’s just the way it is with this globe. It warms and it cools.”
It has been exactly 10 years since Piscopo spoke those words, but I’m not hearing much about “huge climate-cooling hysteria.” Quite the opposite.
California’s Camp Fire in November — yet another wildfire in which human-caused climate change played a “significant factor,” according to scientists at the University of Idaho and Columbia University — became the worst in California history, costing roughly $16.5 billion in damage.
Annapolis, Maryland, experienced unprecedented flooding, not unlike many other American maritime municipalities. “Fifty years ago, the downtown area was underwater for fewer than 10 days a year,” according to the Washington Post. “Now, it’s flooded 40 times a year.”
Australia received “three years worth of rain in 10 days” earlier this month after seven years of drought, resulting in the loss of 500,000 cattle — a total of $300 million in lost revenue for cattle farmers.
In sum, 2018 became one of the “four hottest years ever reliably measured,” along with 2015, 2016, and 2017.
Piscopo’s response to this latest climate-change news? HB 5995, a bill “to eliminate climate change materials from the Department of Education’s adopted Next Generation Science Standards.”
The Thomaston legislator explained via email that his bill is “in no way politically motivated, but the opposite. In fact, I resent that the topic of climate change has moved away from scientific debate and has become a political one.”
He said the idea that “human activities are a major factor in the rise of the Earth’s mean surface temperature” is still “subject to scientific debate and should be noted as such. When one side of a scientific debate is mandated, that becomes political indoctrination, not education. As such, House Bill 5995 is an attempt to return our children’s education back to sound science.”
One could criticize this point as a false equivalence, given that “97 percent of climate scientists and 18 scientific associations attribute most climate-warming trends to human activity.”
Nevertheless, Piscopo has remained adamant in this view. As a board member for the American Legislative Exchange Council, he “reportedly worked with a staffer of the climate-change-denying Heartland Institute in 2017 to call for a review of the EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, has countered with HB 5011, a bill endorsed by calling for the addition of climate-change education in the elementary schools.
“The urgency of dealing with climate change cannot be overstated,” explained Rep. Palm in her email response. “Anyone still denying its existence at this point is living in a dream world and is doing a gross injustice to future generations. If enacted, my bill would be a very small step forward for our state. It will, by no means, come close to solving the problem, but I believe any step forward is better than none.”
Specifically, the first-term Democrat said she wants “all schools, beginning in elementary grades, to teach the reality of climate change at a grade-appropriate level.”
Even though climate-change is incorporated into the Next Generation Science Standards now being implemented across Connecticut, it does not begin until 5th grade, Palm said, and it’s only a guideline, not a requirement.
“I am aware that many will balk at what they perceive of as ‘government overreach,’ [but] putting things into statute gives them gravitas,” added Palm. “I respect the autonomy of local boards of education, but I don’t respect entrenched thinking. This is a matter of life-and-death for our kids, and I think any good educator would be willing to do whatever is necessary to protect children.”
While Piscopo said his bill was not raised for a public hearing, Palm’s bill — already endorsed by the National Council for Science Education — was referred to the Education Committee, where she said it was “blended into another bill that would address curriculum reform.”
Whatever becomes of her original bill, Palm encourages the public to speak out in favor of climate-change education: “I am already hearing from people who want to testify.”
Such testimony makes scientific sense. Then again, perhaps Nutmeggers prefer summers in Hartford that are 10 degrees warmer and 11 percent drier by 2080, as research from the University of Maryland now predicts.
Barth Keck is an English teacher and assistant football coach who teaches courses in journalism, media literacy, and AP English Language & Composition at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
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