March 8, 2013

New textbooks may allow our children to escape climate change skepticism.     Photo: Peter Blanchard/Flickr

26 States Adopt New Science Curriculum

Includes climate change education

The Next Generation Science Standards developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Achieve, and two dozen states are set to be released this month. The standards will recommend that educators teach the evidence for man-made climate change starting in elementary school.

Twenty-six states helped write the standards and are expected to adopt them. Another 15 have indicated they may accept them as well. In total, this could bring climate change education into the classrooms of more than 40 states.

The nation's education publishers, such as Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and McGraw-Hill, are already trying to incorporate the recommendations into their texts, but not all agree on the changes.

James Taylor, a senior fellow at the conservative Heartland Institute, which is developing a school curriculum that promotes climate skepticism, said the standards' stance on climate change is based on "unscientific speculation and hype." But he also said the group has no plans to fight their adoption by the states.

Texas, one of the largest textbook buyers, is one of the few states planning not to adopt the standards. In the past, this might have caused publishers to ignore changes, but the introduction of e-textbooks has reduced the clout of larger states.

Some states have passed "academic freedom bills" bolstered by conservative groups that mandate teaching dissenting views on climate change, but so far the new standards have escaped widespread criticism.

Via Inside Climate


    Photo: Courtesy of BP

BP Gives Up on Solar Energy

CEO: "We have thrown in the towel"

According to CEO Bob Dudley, BP—a.k.a. the company with the tagline "Beyond Petroleum"—is getting out of the solar-power business. As Susie Cagle wrote over at Grist, this is the same BP with the re-branded logo that looks more-than-vaguely like a sun and which, again, began referring to its efforts as "Beyond Petroleum."

From NPR's Morning Edition:

"We have thrown in the towel on solar," Bob Dudley said after delivering a wide-ranging speech Wednesday.

"Not that solar energy isn't a viable energy source, but we worked at it for 35 years, and we really never made money," he added.

BP, which announced it was winding down its solar business last year, says it is still committed to other renewable resources, such as wind power and biofuels production.

BP made ... wait for it ... $11.6 billion in profits last year.


    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

TSA Allowing Small Knives on Flights

Sparking protests

Concern is growing within the public and numerous agencies over the TSA’s recent decision to begin allowing passengers to carry some kinds of small knives and other potentially threatening objects onto planes. “The charter, the mission of TSA is to stop an airplane from being used as a weapon and to stop catastrophic damage to that aircraft,” said TSA spokesman David Castelveter. “These small knives, these [souvenir] baseball bats, these sporting items aren’t going to contribute to bringing an airplane down.”

Among the protestors is the Flight Attendants Union Coalition, which announced it is coordinating a nationwide legislative campaign to reverse the decision. “Our nation’s aviation system is the safest in the world thanks to multilayered security measures that include prohibition on many items that could pose a threat to the integrity of the aircraft cabin,” the coalition said in a statement. “The continued ban on dangerous objects is an integral layer in aviation security and must remain in place.”

The new policy has aviation insurers worried as well. According to the International Air Transport Association, incidents of passenger-related disturbances are up, with an estimated 10,000-plus events annually.


Firefighters take a break from battling the blaze.     Photo: Coconino National Forest

Forest Service Will Let Some Blazes Burn

Policy shift from last year

The Forest Service will let some fires in remote wilderness areas burn this year, after spending $400 million over budget during last year's record fire season. The policy change, announced last month by Forest Service chief Tom Tidwell, aims to keep firefighters out of danger and save money, as well as reduce the possibility of cataclysmic fires later by eliminating dead trees and other possible fuel sources. It also brings the agency back in line with the Wildland Fire Policy, which it, along with all other federal land managers, adopted in 1995.

Timothy Ingalsbee, the executive director of Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics, and Ecology, praised the change in an interview with the Associated Press:

This new policy gives a lot more flexibility. It takes the blanket policy where every fire was treated the same and gives fire managers more options.... Chief Tidwell's move should restore the confidence of the fire management community that all the training and technology that's been invested to give fire crews the ability to work with fire to restore ecosystems will not be wasted by a return to yesteryear's all-out war on wildfires.

The Forest Service expects to lose $212 million from its 2013 budget due to sequestration. That includes $134 million for fighting fires.

Via OnEarth