Must try harder - Education Publisher called to Book by An Taisce

4th September 2016
Press Release

An Taisce welcomes the decision by Ireland’s largest educational publisher, Folens, to contact teachers this week advising them to discontinue using a chapter in its ‘Unlocking Geography’ textbook for 6th class students.

The chapter in question, an 8-page section on ‘Global Warming’ was reviewed by An Taisce’s climate change committee, advised by climatologist, Prof John Sweeney, and found to present a flawed and seriously misleading account of the state of current scientific understanding on global warming and climate change.

The textbook, ‘Unlocking Geography’, frames this critical issue as a debate upon which science is totally divided, and then invites 11-12 year-old children and their teachers to pick whichever side of the ‘debate’ they prefer.

John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee spokesperson stated:

Framing climate change as an issue upon which the scientific community is completely divided is a gross misrepresentation of the powerful international scientific consensus that has emerged over the last several decades confirming climate change as being both extremely dangerous and predominantly occurring as a result of emissions arising from human actions”.

Scientists have a similar level of certainty about the reality and causes of global warming as now exists linking smoking with cancers and heart disease. The ‘Unlocking Geography’ textbook attributed the following comments to its ‘Meteorological Researcher’:
humans are not to blame (for global warming) because we have very little control over nature… Our research has indicated there are other factors, such as gases deep in (sic) the Earth’s surface, a natural increase in solar radiation and variations in the Earth’s orbit…greenhouse gases are only a small part of a much larger, natural event”.

These are a series of manifestly incorrect statements given credibility by being stated by a ‘scientist’ and indicate a profound misunderstanding on the part of the book’s authors and publishers on the reality of climate science. This misleading impression is reinforced by statements in the same chapter in its fictitious ‘online debate forum’ which includes the following:
All of this talk of Global Warming is silly. I think scientists are trying to get people worried over nothing…those scientists are always trying to scare us, now they want to scare us about the weather! So what! We have had a few good summers, it’s about time”.

An Taisce became aware of this chapter almost a year ago, and have worked behind the scenes with Folens to complete a full re-write. The updated chapter was issued as an insert for distribution to schools this month, but due to a production error, Folens failed to label the updated chapter as replacing the existing flawed chapter.

In response to further representations from An Taisce, Folens issued a letter to all 6th class teachers which included the following clear statement:

There is no longer any doubt that Global Warming is manmade. The scientific community is united and the weight of evidence as presented by the IPCC is undeniable. At Folens, we recognise the importance of Global Warming and believe that energy sustainability is critical to dealing with the results of climate change. We, as educational publishers, want to help raise awareness of this key issue in your pupils and provide the most up to date information to them.

An Taisce welcome this clear statement

When An Taisce sought to ascertain who signed off on educational material to ensure its accuracy, Folens stated as follows:

unfortunately neither the Department of Education nor the NCCA are willing to either review or approve educational content for publishers”.

This should be of real concern that there appears to be no official or independent expert oversight of the output of Irish educational publishers.

Today’s schoolchildren are tomorrow’s citizens; they will have to deal with the profound effects of climate change across all aspects of their lives”,

Gibbons added.

Given the amount of anti-science propaganda and misinformation online and in some media, surely the very least we can expect is that the Department of Education and Science ensures that schoolchildren receive scientifically sound information from one of the key sources they should be able to completely trust – their schoolbooks”.

ENDS

John Gibbons, An Taisce Climate Change Committee. Tel: +353 87 233 2689
Charles Stanley-Smith, Communications, An Taisce Tel: +353 87 241 1995
email: publicaffairs@antaisce.org
An Taisce The National Trust for Ireland
www.antaisce.org

Notes

RTE News report at: https://vimeo.com/medmedia/review/181012231/bf2a786076

About An Taisce

An Taisce is a charity that works to preserve and protect Ireland's natural and built heritage. We are an independent charitable voice for the environment and for heritage issues. We are not a government body, semi-state or agency. Founded in 1948, we are one of Ireland’s oldest and largest environmental organisations.