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The Progressive Economics Forum

Tales from the Mouth of the Fraser: Climate Change Denial Edition

Some colleagues at the US NGO Global Exchange tipped me off to some sneaky data doctoring done by the Fraser Institute on climate change. The source is Understanding Climate Change: Lesson Plans for the Classroom, a resource for high school teachers. The particular graph is on page 69 (first page if you click on Lesson 5), attributed to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies:

The text comments only that “The graph illustrates that temperatures have risen over time, except during a cooling period between 1940 and 1970 (a period during which CO2 levels rose rapidly).” Later, the lesson plans prompts teachers to “ask students to draw conclusions from the data using positive analysis” and provides a full page version can be printed and handed out to a class. Several other graphs are presented with varying time horizons, each carefully presented to sow doubt about climate change while appearing to be objective and scientific.

But here is the exercise students should be asked: compare the Fraser’s version of the graph with the original from the NASA Goddard Institute. In the original version, five-year means are emphasized as a way of smoothing out the larger fluctuations in annual data. In the Fraser version it is the reverse: by emphasizing annual data and downplaying the five-year means it looks more random, as if there has been little warming at all. Ironically, the into to the Fraser lesson states: “Students will learn that data can be misused, whether by a selective use of data subsets or by graphing and charting tricks.”

But the Fraser Institute is also guilty of omission. It’s global warming we are talking about not American warming (although 2012 did top the charts as hottest year on record, highlighted by Hurricane Sandy and massive drought). Here is global data from the same source, which was passed over by the Fraser’s lesson plan:

 

The Fraser’s lesson plan show a few other graphs over longer time horizons that infer warming is normal and probably not caused by humans. In fact, there is scientific consensus on precisely the opposite. Why any teacher would use these materials in their classroom is beyond me, when there are many other lesson plans from credible institutions. But it also shows some of the secrets of the Fraser Institute’s success: they publish materials that sound scientific and well-reasoned when they are actually fronting for corporate interests who profit from sowing confusion among the public.

 

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Comments

Comment from Purple Library Guy
Time: February 25, 2013, 2:05 pm

Continental US, huh? Typical Fraser Institute. I mean, I’m sure they used that because it had more convenient-looking numbers, but even aside from that they’re certainly the folks I’d expect to be doing lesson plans for Canada that ignored Canadian temperatures in favour of American ones.

Comment from Paul Tulloch
Time: February 26, 2013, 11:18 pm

I finished an online course last year at Berkley’s Energy and Resource’s group put on by professor John Harte. He is an amazing man and the course he put on called Quantitative Aspects of Global Environmental Problems- I think these Frazer Institutes deniers should take this course and then write a lesson plan. https://itunes.apple.com/us/itunes-u/energy-resources-group-102/id461123544

Here is an interview with him as he gives an overview of his work and understanding of climate change. He was very hands on with the Acid Rain research which led him to the climate change.

They should make such courses mandatory for politicians, business leaders and especially deniers.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rW90zJfb9y0

These are the beautiful people I love to work with, at least in terms of learning- unrelenting, uncompromising and hands on to the end.

Comment from crf
Time: March 8, 2013, 3:12 pm

To correctly price stocks when deciding whether to invest, you need to separate the signal from the noise. Nearly every successful businessman who donates to the Fraser Institute likely knows that these guys are liars.

Comment from John Bradley
Time: April 5, 2013, 3:34 pm

Marc Lee,

You wrote in this article that ”there are many other lesson plans from credible institutions”. Do you have a list of such resources or know of peole or groups that do?

I work as a community organizer in Montreal and am
interested in developing a popular education workshop on climate change and otherr ecological crises.

Thanks. (much appreciate PEF)

John Bradley

Comment from Bergen Moore
Time: May 2, 2013, 6:54 pm

John – You can find some resources here.. http://climate.nasa.gov/education

Also, just perusing the Goddard data – during that same 1940-1970 period, the southern hemisphere actually got hotter… and CO2 actually had LEAST RAPID RISE during that same period, so their statement “a period during which CO2 levels rose rapidly” is actually blatantly misleading. Check it here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?n=504 (I verified the sources)

Anyway Marc, thanks for your analysis on this.

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