Students Thrown Climate Life Preserver

Published December 1, 2007

Two new children’s books on global warming are out. One is designed to reduce anxiety among children; the other is designed to heighten it.

So which is better? That depends on how you like your facts–right or wrong.

September 1 brought the release of The Down-to-Earth Guide to Global Warming, co-authored by Al Gore acolyte and An Inconvenient Truth co-producer Laurie David and former advertising copywriter and environmental activist Cambria Gordon.

Two weeks later, The Sky’s Not Falling! Why It’s OK to Chill About Global Warming was published. The book was written by resource economist Holly Fretwell, an adjunct professor at Montana State University and senior research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC).

Judging from the authors’ credentials alone, you may already suspect where this comparison of the two books might be headed–and you really don’t have to go too far into either book to confirm that suspicion.

False Information

The key issue in the controversy about whether humans are causing global warming is whether manmade emissions of carbon dioxide are causing global temperatures to increase.

If rising amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide don’t drive global temperature increases, then there is little reason to panic about greenhouse gas emissions for the sake of averting global warming.

On page 18 of the David-Gordon book, the authors present a graph of the relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures for the past 650,000 years.

The accompanying text reads, “The more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the higher the temperature climbed. The less carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the lower the temperature fell. You can see this relationship for yourself by looking at the graph on the left. …

“What makes this graph so amazing is that by connecting rising carbon dioxide to rising temperature, scientists have discovered the link between greenhouse gas pollution and global warming,” David and Gordon conclude.

But page 19 of the Fretwell book presents essentially the same graph with accompanying text that reads, “Because the lines of the graphs seem to move together, many people believe that it proves that carbon dioxide causes global warming. However, a closer look at the evidence shows that temperatures peak hundreds or even thousands of years before carbon dioxide levels peak.”

‘Unsuspecting Children’

So the two books are precisely 180 degrees apart on the crucial issue of the global warming controversy. Which book is correct?

“What really makes [the David-Gordon] graph ‘amazing’ is that it’s dead wrong,” says a report from the Science and Public Policy Institute released in mid-September.

“In order to contrive a visual representation for their false claim that carbon dioxide controls temperature change, David and co-author Cambria Gordon present unsuspecting children with an altered temperature and carbon dioxide graph that falsely reverses the relationship found in the scientific literature,” says the SPPI report.

“The actual temperature curve in the chart was switched with the actual carbon dioxide curve. That is, the authors mislabeled the blue curve as temperature and the red curve as carbon dioxide concentration,” the report notes.

Uncorrected Text

You might think that with a mistake of that magnitude, the David-Gordon book would be immediately consigned to the ash heap of global warming history. But like The Down-to-Earth Guide, you’d be dead wrong.

The David-Gordon book is published by Scholastic, the children’s publishing company whose self-described mission is to “help children around the world to read and learn.”

“This essential guide will help you understand why global warming happens, how it affects the planet, and the simple steps you can take to get involved in protecting the environment,” reads the Scholastic Web site’s plug for the David-Gordon book.

Scholastic has acknowledged the error in the graph and plans to issue a correction–but the correction will involve only the graph, according to SPPI staff. Scholastic is refusing to acknowledge and correct the erroneous text, even though the graph expressly served as the basis for it.

Accurate Alternative

While Scholastic may want to risk its reputation with the David-Gordon book, parents who want their children to have the correct information about the pivotal relationship between atmospheric carbon dioxide and global temperature will want to check out Fretwell’s The Sky’s Not Falling.

While Fretwell’s book does not come close to matching the number and visual quality of distract-from-the text illustrations that the David-Gordon book contains, Fretwell’s strength is that her text is easy to read and, most importantly, scientifically accurate.

The Sky’s Not Falling is meant to spark discussion and rational thinking among kids–not to scare them.

Antidote to Terror

A front-page Washington Post story published in April 2007 reported global warming is taking a terrible emotional toll on children.

“For many children and young adults, global warming is the atomic bomb of today,” says the story. “Parents say they’re searching for ‘productive’ outlets for their 8-year-olds’ obsessions with dying polar bears. Teachers say enrollment in high school and college environmental studies classes is doubling year after year. And psychologists say they’re seeing an increasing number of young patients preoccupied by a climatic Armageddon.”

Fretwell’s book–the presentation of facts instead of the fomenting of fear–is a terrific antidote to the intellectual and emotional child abuse committed by climate alarmists.

Steven Milloy ([email protected]) publishes and He is a junk science expert, an advocate of free enterprise, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

For more information …

“A Fundamental Scientific Error in ‘Global Warming’ Book for Children,” Science and Public Policy Institute, September 13, 2007:

“Climate Change Scenarios Scare, and Motivate, Kids,” by Darragh Johnson, The Washington Post, April 16, 2007: