A mixed result in Nebraska

Climate change is included in the new set of state social studies standards for Nebraska — but in a way that misrepresents the scientific consensus on global climate change. In particular, the adopted indicator 12.3.5.c reads (PDF), "Evaluate successful solutions and problems related to the physical environment from a geographical perspective (e.g., the role of irrigation, contour farming and hybrid seeds in expansion of agriculture in the Midwest; the role of air conditioning in the industrialization of the South; recent global climate change theories, and evidence that supports and refutes such theories)." The indicator is part of the new set of social science standards adopted by the Nebraska state board of education on December 7, 2012.

In a previous draft of the standards, the same indicator (then labeled 12.3.5.d) read, "Evaluate environmental geographical issues related to the natural environment (e.g., climate change, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, ozone layer, air pollution, water pollution, disposal of waste, flood plain management)." But as the Omaha World-Herald (November 16, 2012) observed, climate change (along with American exceptionalism) was a major point of contention during public testimony on the draft standards. In the end, the World-Herald (December 7, 2012) subsequently reported, "Eleventh-hour changes in an earlier draft appeared to have soothed board members' concerns over the treatment of 'American exceptionalism' and climate change."

The result is equivocal, explained NCSE's Minda Berbeco, who worked with concerned Nebraskans to support a scientifically accurate treatment of climate change in the standards. "On the one hand, climate change wasn't even mentioned in the previous set of social studies standards, and still isn't mentioned in the current set of science standards [adopted in 2010], so it's good for it to be acknowledged in the social studies standards now. On the other hand, the wording of the new indicator encourages social studies teachers to misrepresent global climate change as scientifically controversial. Whether in the social studies classroom or the science classroom, it's scientifically inappropriate and pedagogically irresponsible to preach climate change denial."