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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa State University is introducing a climate science degree program this fall. But one member of the Iowa Board of Regents seems more worried about the program’s political climate.
“Climate change is a very politically charged topic,” said Regent Nancy Boettger, a former Republican state senator. “My concern is with freedom of speech. … My main concern is that we go the extra mile to protect freedom of speech or opinions that differ on this politically charged topic.”
Boettger offered to provide the program with materials on climate change she received as a state lawmaker, including what she called “non-PC opinions.” Thanks to reporting by The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller, we now know the two books Boettger provided to Iowa State were from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change.
The NIPPCC is basically a group of climate science deniers, skeptics and “realists” who question the overwhelming scientific consensus that human-caused global warming is altering our climate, spawning consequences we’re already seeing.
“The human impact on global climate is small, and any warming that may occur as a result of human carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions is likely to have little effect on global temperatures, the cryosphere (ice-covered areas), hydrosphere (oceans, lakes, and rivers), or weather,” one of the books donated by Boettger contends.
This, of course, flies in the face of a mountain of scientific research and data clearly showing a warming planet beset by extreme weather events made more intense and frequent by climate change. Without action to curtail carbon emissions responsible for warming, the crisis will only worsen in the decades ahead.
Iowa State’s program should be based on sound science, not on efforts to make sure “non-PC” opinions are granted equal weight in the classroom. The real speech issue is yet another attempt to apply political pressures on professors as they create curriculum and teach courses on subjects that make conservative politicians and appointees uncomfortable.
We’ve seen it as the Legislature attempts to control how issues of race and systemic racism are taught in classrooms. We’ve seen it as scientists sound the alarm about Iowa’s polluted waterways. We’ve seen it in the annual legislative consideration of a bill that would eliminate university tenure.
At the very least, these efforts make an educator think twice about addressing politically touchy topics, robbing their students of a chance to delve into important issues.
The Board of Regents job is to provide high-level management of state universities, not to reach into the classroom to micromanage curriculum. Leave it to the climate scientists to decide how best to teach climate science.
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