Two New Children’s Books Take on Global Warming

Published December 1, 2007

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

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. This book is authored by resource economist Holly Fretwell, an adjunct professor at Montana State University and a senior research fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC).

The two books sharply disagree on whether humans are causing global warming. If rising amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide do not drive global temperature increases, then there is little reason to panic about human-caused global warming.

Disagreement over Causality

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,” they 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.”

Sorting Truth from Fiction

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 new report from the Science and Public Policy Institute.

“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.”

Falsehoods Remain

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.

Fretwell Book Is Accurate

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 books contains, Fretwell’s strength is that her text is easy to read and, most importantly, is scientifically accurate.

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

A front-page Washington Post story reported global warming is taking a terrible emotional toll on children. “Psychologists say they’re seeing an increasing number of young patients preoccupied by a climatic Armageddon,” the Post reports.

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. This article originally appeared on on September 27.