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NASA Targets Children with 'Climate Kids' Website

19 Jan

The climate is changing as it always has. Most climate scientists are unable to conceive of any natural cause for this change, and they claim that human emissions of CO2 are the cause. The evidence of increasing temperature is abundant, the evidence that human emissions are causing this increase is weak. Climate scientists rely on modeling to support their claims. These models are incomplete and inaccurate, but they claim that if you take the average of these incomplete and inaccurate models you will get the correct climate sensitivity. Even then, when you apply this sensitivity to the past it does not work. Unless of course, you factor in aerosols, which is essentially guesswork. Bottom line is this: the reasons behind the changing climate are not well understood (by anyone).

You don’t get that impression from NASA’s ‘Climate Kids‘ website. I told myself I wouldn’t use the word propaganda in this post, but the website is so one-sided and it is so obviously designed to appeal to emotion I don’t know what else to call it. Go ahead and visit before I describe it and see if you agree. I’ll wait.

Alright. In this post I will give you a tour of their site, hitting all the main sections. This is quite a long post with lots of pictures and one video, so take your time reading this one. Let’s first take a look at their ‘Big Questions‘ section. The first big question is What does “global climate change” mean? In the answer, the following two points appear:

These are obviously two very contentious points with only one side presented. First, they claim that:

The planet is warming up fast–faster than at any time scientists know about from their studies of Earth’s entire history.

This is flatly untrue. Remember this graphic from the BBC Phil Jones interview?

The trend of recent warming is practically identical to two previous trends. Their second claim, “Humans are causing this warming” is made without bothering to allude to any uncertainty. Even the IPCC only gives a 90% and says ‘very likely’. Saying “It is very likely that humans are causing this warming” at least lets the little tykes know it isn’t an absolute scientific fact (because it isn’t).

The rest of the big questions section is similar. They address issues like sea level rise, the greenhouse effect, the effects on wildlife (including a picture of a polar bear on a lone iceberg), ocean acidification, and of course a section entitled “What can we do to help?”. In this section, children are urged to plant trees (showing a picture of Michelle Obama doing just that), get new CFL lightbulbs, unplug electronics, turn down the thermostat, ride bikes, shop thrift stores, save water, and more. They also recommend children ask their parents to buy a reusable shopping bag, accompanied by this picture:

Way to go NASA, you’re creating little eco-snobs. That section ends with the question, “How can I make a real difference?”, as if they realize even children know that replacing lightbulbs won’t help the planet. Their answer?

You can choose a “green career.” You can help to solve climate change problems and challenges. These are the exciting careers of the future. They range from designing satellites for NASA to fixing wind-energy generators to planning drought-tolerant landscapes for homes and parks. Many of the possible careers haven’t even been thought of yet. You could invent your own career! Check out our Green Careers section.

I’ll talk about their Green Careers section later. Just remember, in NASA’s eyes if a child wants to make a real difference, they will choose a green career.

Enough with the question and answers. Children are visual, so let’s look at some of the things children will see in their visit to NASA’s Climate Kids site. One program is called the Climate Time Machine. In this program you are invited to use a sliding tool to view different images on different subjects. The first option is viewing Arctic sea ice. The first picture is of sea ice in 1979:

If you slide the bar all the way, the last picture it displays is – not surprisingly – 2007:

Of course Arctic sea ice was at its lowest in 2007, and made significant gains in the following years. But that isn’t mentioned anywhere on the website. It also isn’t mentioned that Arctic sea ice has been sparse in the past. This site was launched early in 2010, so the designers of this ‘time machine’ would certainly have had the 2008 and probably 2009 pictures available yet they are not included. I’ve e-mailed NASA for the answer to this question.

Also, there is no mention of Antarctic sea ice, which has grow above average for quite some time. The sea ice isn’t the only visual meant to impact children. They also have a section on sea level rise. Take a look what happens when you slide the bar all the way on this section:

This is the height of mis-information and scare tactics combined. Look at their text below this picture (bold is theirs):

Greenland’s ice sheet is melting. Even partial melting of this ice sheet could cause sea level to rise 3 feet (about 1 meter). If it melted completely, sea level would rise by 16 to 23 feet (5 to 7 meters).

There is absolutely no indication of how likely this is to happen, there is no time scale given as to when this might happen, there is simply a scary graphic with scary numbers. No credible scientist is expecting Greenland’s ice sheet to melt completely, at least not for several centuries, and even those predictions are dependent on significant warming and very positive feedback. In all likelihood, this ice sheet will remain for millennia. There is no justification for scaring children like this. What about the poor kid who lives in Miami or New Orleans? You can bet he or she is looking for a green career right now.

So far this site isn’t much fun for kids. Let’s get to the entertainment! The following video did not have an embed function, so you will need to follow the link and watch it. It’s called “Climate Tales” and is the story of a poor polar bear floating on a lone iceberg trying to figure out his way home. He then meets a monkey in the rain forest, who cheerfully informs him that the humans have cut down the forest and burned it (leaving lots of plastic bottles in their wake). I’m not kidding, click on the picture to watch it. It’s about 4:00 long.

A polar bear explaining how his habitat is being destroyed

Honestly the whole thing doesn’t make sense. It just seems to be a way to throw in some environmentalist concerns into a kids video.

The same is true of the games section. There are a series of boring flash games which simply incorporate environmental themes. For example, there is a “Go Green!” game in which you try to get from one place to another without creating too much pollution. There is also a “Power up!” game where you need to use wind and solar energy to supply a town with electricity. These appear to be token games for a kid’s site, as I can’t imagine any kids playing these games more than once.

Another section of the site is called “Earth Now“. It’s their news section. They have articles such as this:

Does harsh winter mean end of global warming?

Brrrrr! This has been a very cold winter in many parts of the U.S. So, what’s up with that? Is global warming slowing down? Or going backwards? We wish that were true! But no…

Or this:

Who is helping? People who live in tiny houses

Why do people want to live in such a small space? There are many reasons:

* They are inexpensive to build.
* They are inexpensive to maintain.
* Utility bills (electricity, water, heating gas or oil) are tiny.
* They are quick and easy to clean.
* They are very efficient—everything is within reach.
* They make a tiny carbon footprint compared to regular-sized houses.

Or this:

Climate change makes sheep shrink and marmots get fat

…So not only are the marmots getting fatter, but there are lots more of them. However, as their environment continues to warm, summer drought will dry up the food before the marmots are ready to hibernate again. Then, the earlier spring and longer summer will not help them at all.

The news section is predictably one sided, just like the rest of the site. The last section directed at children (perhaps teenagers in this case) is the Green Careers section. This section takes a look at five ‘green careers’ and conducts short interviews with those five people. The five careers are Recycling Program Educator, Water-wise Landscaper, Renewable Energy Scientist, Home Energy Auditor, and “Green” General Contractor. Let’s take a look at some excerpts. First, the water-wise landscaper:

CK:

We have had a drought in Southern California for several years. But that’s just temporary, right?

Michelle:

Not in the long run. Earth’s climate is getting warmer, so drought will probably become much more common and severe! For many regions, global warming means less snowfall in the winter, so less water in lakes and reservoirs.

I’m sure if they interviewed Michelle now, she would be touting how flooding will become a more common problem and more severe. And the whole ‘less snowfall in the winter’, well, let’s forget about that. Now the Home Energy Auditor:

CK:

Can we really help slow down climate change just by reducing our use of electricity?

Mauricio:

Yes. Most of the electricity in the U.S. is generated by burning fossil fuels such as coal and gas, which are the main causes of climate change. By reducing electricity use, you are helping to slow down climate change and saving money.

CK:

Thanks, Mauricio. Good tips for us. We need more people doing what you are doing to make us all more aware of how we can help slow down climate change.

Thanks, Mauricio, for giving us no context whatsoever. Reducing energy use is not going to have any noticeable impact on the climate. Not even the most ardent alarmist would claim that making a home more energy efficient will actually have a noticeable impact on the earth’s temperature (unless coupled with other massive changes).

There is one more section on the site. This isn’t geared towards children, but educators. It is called Educator Resources. It’s just a series of links for teachers to find more information on climate change. For example, you can link to the EPA site where you would find their educational program geared towards children:

Oh dear. The EPA has a similar program to NASA’s.

There is an obvious question to be asked here. Why do we need federal agencies to create programs which educate children about climate change? Even if we ignore that question and accept the role of federal agencies as educators, we still are left with a completely one-sided presentation. There is no mention in the NASA site of uncertainties. There is practically no timescale presented to give context. The site urges children to pick certain ‘green’ careers over others. The positives of renewable energy are praised, with no mention of the drawbacks. Whether or not you believe this site should even exist (with taxpayer funding), certainly we can all agree the issues presented need to be balanced. There is no balance on the NASA Climate Kids website. I’d wager that if all references to NASA were removed, the site would be indistinguishable from an environmentalist site.

NASA, can’t you find something better to do with our money?

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64 Comments

Posted by on January 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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64 responses to “NASA Targets Children with 'Climate Kids' Website

  1. Nancy Long

    February 3, 2011 at 11:43 am

    All of these organizations disagree with you, with the exception of one tied to the petroleum industry. You’re also incorrect in your calculations, but it’s not worth my time to argue with you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change#Statements_by_dissenting_organizations

     
  2. Sam

    February 3, 2011 at 2:03 pm

    All of these organizations disagree with you, with the exception of one tied to the petroleum industry. You’re also incorrect in your calculations, but it’s not worth my time to argue with you.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_opinion_on_climate_change#Statements_by_dissenting_organizations

    Once again, Nancy, you are making assumptions about both my position and the position of the cited organizations. Let me give you a few examples.

    The 2001 statement from the American Association of State Climatologists noted the difficulties with predicting impacts due to climate change, while acknowledging that human activities are having an effect on climate:

    Climate prediction is difficult because it involves complex, nonlinear interactions among all components of the earth’s environmental system…. The AASC recognizes that human activities have an influence on the climate system. Such activities, however, are not limited to greenhouse gas forcing and include changing land use and sulfate emissions, which further complicates the issue of climate prediction. Furthermore, climate predictions have not demonstrated skill in projecting future variability and changes in such important climate conditions as growing season, drought, flood-producing rainfall, heat waves, tropical cyclones and winter storms. These are the type of events that have a more significant impact on society than annual average global temperature trends. Policy responses to climate variability and change should be flexible and sensible – The difficulty of prediction and the impossibility of verification of predictions decades into the future are important factors that allow for competing views of the long-term climate future. Therefore, the AASC recommends that policies related to long-term climate not be based on particular predictions, but instead should focus on policy alternatives that make sense for a wide range of plausible climatic conditions regardless of future climate… Finally, ongoing political debate about global energy policy should not stand in the way of common sense action to reduce societal and environmental vulnerabilities to climate variability and change. Considerable potential exists to improve policies related to climate.

    I think this is a very reasonable statement, and it is not from an organization “tied to the petroleum industry”. Let’s look at another:

    In 1999, the American Geological Institute (AGI) issued the position statement ‘’Global Climate Change’’:

    The American Geological Institute (AGI) strongly supports education concerning the scientific evidence of past climate change, the potential for future climate change due to the current building of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and the policy options available.

    Understanding the interactions between the solid Earth, the oceans, the biosphere, and the atmosphere both in the present and over time is critical for accurately analyzing and predicting global climate change due to natural processes and possible human influences.[

    Possible human influences. That doesn’t sound like they disagree with me at all.

    You clearly believe strongly in your position. So strongly that you give me many links which you apparently haven’t read yourself. There is a middle ground in this issue, and I believe it is correct.

     
  3. Beetle Juice

    February 5, 2011 at 5:24 pm

    Well the beetles are mention on Nasas kid website, which was also apart of Al gore speech, happen to be dying out in extreme numbers.

    http://hauntingthelibrary.wordpress.com/2011/01/16/gore-effect-strikes-yet-again-global-warming-gods-strike-down-beetle-population/

    I guess now they the can the beetles might go extinct because of global warming.

     
  4. Nancy Long

    February 8, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Frankly, Sam, I don’t think you’ve read the web pages that you refer to very carefully. First of all, you refer to a position statement in 1999 — 12 years ago. There is a tremendous amount of scientific knowledge with respect to anthropogenic climate change since 1999. Climate science no longer supports the position of “possible human influences,” which us why organizations like NOAA, NASA, and the EPA are trying to educate the public. Secondly, take a look at the member organizations of the AGI. Most of these organizations have nothing to do with climate science. You also have members that include the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. Once again, Sam, you’re cherry picking.

    http://www.agiweb.org/members/index.html

     
  5. Sam

    February 8, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    You’re the one that gave me the link and then stated that:

    “All of these organizations disagree with you, with the exception of one tied to the petroleum industry.”

    I was simply proving that claim wrong. You are the one who has placed such high importance on the opinions of these organizations, and then you claim you have problems with some of the organization’s statements. That’s fine, I don’t place much stock in them anyways.

    I’m not cherry picking. You provided the source and then refuted your own source (outdated, ties to petroleum, etc.).

     
  6. Nancy Long

    February 8, 2011 at 1:38 pm

    Sam,

    Yes, I have a problem with a statement from 1999, since a great deal of research has come to bear since that time. You are grasping at straws to find any little thing that might prove your point, but it is not in line with current scientific theory. It’s that simple.

     
  7. Sam

    February 8, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Once again, all I am pointing out is that your source didn’t match your claim. You claim I’m grasping at straws, but I’m the first to admit that I don’t care about being “in line with current scientific theory”. You seem to value that very highly, but it isn’t nearly so important to me. Why?

    I’m fully capable of looking at the data for myself. Either the conclusions reached from the data support serious concern over earth’s future temperature, or they don’t support such concern. The ‘current scientific theory’, or at least a majority, seems to think they do support that concern. You accept their findings. I look at the data, and I don’t see reason for concern. It’s really that simple.

    You accept the findings of others, based on their credentials, and I look at the data and decide for myself, based on my ability to reason. Those scientists are no smarter than you or me. Look at the data for yourself. Don’t be intellectually lazy.

     
  8. Nancy Long

    February 8, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    Sam,

    That’s where you’re wrong. The scientists may or may not be smarter (they probably are), but they are better educated. I have looked at the data and work with many of them who produce the data. I am hardly intellectually lazy. You can’t look at the data (which is incredibly complicated) and “reason” an answer. You clearly don’t understand the scientific process, nor do you care to. Yes, I value scientific theory. I know how science works, and these conclusions are based on repeated testing, questioning, and peer review. Yes, I do look at scientist’s credentials, but I also look at the data — which is abundant and far more complicated than you realize. It’s not a matter of a few popular graphs.

    I’m just wasting my time. Your mind is made up, and the scientific evidence could be piled up 30 stories high, and you wouldn’t believe it.

     
  9. Sam

    February 8, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    “It’s not a matter of a few popular graphs.”

    That is true, but why do you assume that I have only studied these superficial graphs? You admit that you trust the scientists, and you aren’t interested in picking apart the data, you simply believe the majority.

    I am fully capable of looking at the details and determining if the results are valid or not. I don’t claim to know every single detail, but that isn’t necessary. Also, there are climatologists who do know every detail, and they don’t accept the consensus either.

    It comes down to why you trust the majority of scientists. If you believe based on sheer weight of evidence (the scientific evidence could be piled up 30 stories high), which you appear to do, then please understand I don’t accept that position. Hundreds of scientific papers could reach one particular position, and that position could be blown out of the water by one single CORRECT paper.

    Science is not done on scales. You claim that I don’t understand the scientific method, but your ‘weight of evidence’ approach clearly is the faulty method.

    You continually claim that you are wasting your time being here. I’m not keeping you here. I’m confident in my scientific literacy – are you?

     
  10. Nancy Long

    February 9, 2011 at 11:35 am

    Sam,

    You clearly don’t understand how science works, because no theory is blown out of the water by one single paper. A change in theory develops through repeated experimental tests — through systematic experimentation. Yes, it is necessary to know all of the details, since the picture is incredibly complicated.

    Here is the reality. If you had an accurate scale model of the Earth, the size of a common globe the biosphere would be microscopically thin (less than the thickness of the ink) You could not feel or find the Himalayas or the Mariana Trench.

    The fact is that the biosphere is all we have…there are no second chances. People of our techno-culture are less aware of reality than our ancient ancestors who would see the starry sky regularly and would fully expected to die at the hand of nature’s wrath. We (in the developed world) live in a dream world now — the “Bubble Age”. We block ourselves off from the unwanted effects of our actions so well that we can’t see “it”… the most obvious thing in the world…coming.

    So, Sam, keep spewing that CO2 into the atmosphere and chopping down and burning rainforests that absorb it. Good luck.

     
  11. Sam

    February 9, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    You clearly don’t understand how science works, because no theory is blown out of the water by one single paper.

    Wrong. It may be true that the changes don’t happen overnight and these kinds of shifts aren’t common, there are examples of a single paper completely changing everyone’s perceptions about a certain theory or even field.

    For example, look at this study done at UC Irvine:

    http://today.uci.edu/news/2010/04/nr_soilcarbon_100426.php

    They found that at higher temperatures, soil microbes actually release less CO2, not more as was assumed before. All assumptions about positive feedbacks from soil must now change because of this study.

    Or take Lindzen’s work. If his Iris theory is correct, hundreds if not thousands of other papers are absolutely wrong, because they assume a positive feedback from clouds and Lindzen expects a negative.

    Here is the reality. If you had an accurate scale model of the Earth, the size of a common globe the biosphere would be microscopically thin (less than the thickness of the ink) You could not feel or find the Himalayas or the Mariana Trench.

    The fact is that the biosphere is all we have…there are no second chances. People of our techno-culture are less aware of reality than our ancient ancestors who would see the starry sky regularly and would fully expected to die at the hand of nature’s wrath. We (in the developed world) live in a dream world now — the “Bubble Age”. We block ourselves off from the unwanted effects of our actions so well that we can’t see “it”… the most obvious thing in the world…coming.

    Up until this point you’ve been pretty rational, but now we delve into green religion. This is nonsense. You can’t say “we” when talking about the human race not seeing our coming doom IF you claim to see our coming doom. Unless you don’t consider yourself a part of the human race. Lots of people are worried about climate change, we’ve had regulations put in place to avert it, so what are you talking about?

    So, Sam, keep spewing that CO2 into the atmosphere and chopping down and burning rainforests that absorb it. Good luck.

    Nancy, really? I’m guessing you are fully aware of the fact that I’ve never burned down any of the rainforest, and I would guess that I create far less CO2 than you do (it’s just a guess). Even if I produce more CO2 than you by an order of magnitude, it’s absolutely negligible compared to any useful standard. Your attempt to blame me for the deforestation of the rainforests and for increasing CO2 emissions is very revealing. It is an attempt to de-personalize the debate, to create sides. You are trying to make me an eco-enemy, and pretend that you are an eco-friend. It’s childish and transparent.

     

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