Base the UIS climate program on science, not politics

Regent Nancy Boettger listens to University of Northern Iowa President Mark Nook during the Iowa Board of Trustees meeting at the Levitt Center for University Advancement at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

Iowa State University is launching a climate science degree program this fall. But one Iowa board member seems more concerned about the program’s political climate.

“Climate change is a very politically charged topic,” said Regent Nancy Boettger, a former Republican senator. “What interests me is free speech. … My main concern is that we go the extra mile to protect free speech or dissenting opinions on this politically charged topic.

Boettger offered to provide the program with climate change materials she received as a state legislator, including what she called “non-PC opinions.” Thanks to reporting by Vanessa Miller of The Gazette, we now know that the two books Boettger provided to the state of Iowa were from the International Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change.

The NIPPCC is essentially a group of climate science deniers, skeptics and “realists” who challenge the overwhelming scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is altering our climate, causing consequences we are already seeing. .

“The human impact on the global climate is small, and any warming that may occur due to human emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is likely to have little effect on global temperatures. , the cryosphere (ice-covered areas), the hydrosphere (oceans, lakes, and rivers), or weather,” says one of the books given by Boettger.

This, of course, runs counter to a mountain of scientific research and data clearly showing a warming planet beset by extreme weather events made more intense and more frequent by climate change. Without action to reduce the carbon emissions responsible for warming, the crisis will only worsen in the decades to come.

Iowa State’s curriculum should be based on sound science, not efforts to ensure “non-PC” opinions have equal weight in the classroom. The real talk problem is another attempt to exert political pressure on professors as they create curricula and teach courses on topics that make conservative politicians and appointees uncomfortable.

We have seen it as the legislature attempts to control how issues of race and systemic racism are taught in classrooms. We saw it when scientists sounded the alarm over polluted Iowa waterways. We saw it during the annual legislative review of a bill that would eliminate tenure.

At the very least, these efforts make an educator think twice about tackling politically sensitive topics, depriving their students of a chance to delve into important issues.

The job of the Board of Regents is to provide high-level management of state universities, not to reach into the classroom to micromanage the curriculum. Leave it to climatologists to decide how best to teach climate science.

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