Regent Nancy Boettger, a former GOP state legislator, listens during the Iowa Board of Regents meeting at the University of Iowa’s Levitt Center for University Advancement in Iowa City on June 2. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
After Regent Nancy Boettger warned Iowa State University last month to keep free speech in mind while teaching the “politically charged topic” of climate science, she gave ISU a pair of books from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change — which denies the notion of human-induced climate change.
“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,” according to a summary of one of the two books Boettger provided ISU, both of which are in the “Climate Change Reconsidered II” series out of the panel.
The two books Boettger provided ISU after regents approved the university’s new Bachelor of Science in climate science — with her free-speech warning attached — are:
- “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science,” summarized as an “independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science.”
- “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts,” published in April 2014.
In response to The Gazette’s questions about how or if ISU plans to use the materials in its new program, spokesman Rob Schweers said, “The books will be shared with the Department of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, which offers the climate science program. Faculty will be free to use these resources for their courses as they see fit.”
NIPCC vs. IPCC
The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change is a global group of nongovernment scientists and scholars who say they present a “realistic assessment of the science and economics of global warming.” It says its members “are not predisposed to believe climate change is caused by human greenhouse gas emissions” and offer a “second opinion” to work done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The IPCC is the United Nations’ body for assessing science related to climate change, created in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme. It aims to “provide governments at all levels with scientific information that they can use to develop climate policies.”
The IPCC currently has 195 member governments. Its assessment reports undergo expert reviews, and the final product of its sixth report is due later this year or in early 2023.
“Human-induced climate change, including more frequent and intense extreme events, has caused widespread adverse impacts and related losses and damages to nature and people, beyond natural climate variability,” it reported in February.
In one of the books Boettger provided ISU, authors criticized the IPCC and its findings. “Many scientists, policymakers, and engaged citizens have become concerned over the possibility that man-made greenhouse gas emissions, in particular carbon dioxide, may be causing dangerous climate change,” according to the book’s summary. “A primary reason for this public alarm is a series of reports issued by the United Nations’ (IPCC).”
The book’s summary promises to interpret a “major scientific report that refutes this claim.”
Among the entities backing the books Boettger provided ISU is the Science and Environmental Policy Project, established by S. Fred Singer “to challenge government environmental policies based on poor science.”
Singer — who died in 2020 at 95, according to an obituary in the New York Times — was a physicist who earned a “Merchant of Doubt” label for his arguments against the threat of climate change.
His project “examines questionable governmental policies, no matter how popular, to determine if policies are based on the rigorous application of the scientific method and not just a passing fad,” according to the organization Singer founded.
Another backer of the books is The Heartland Institute, which calls itself an “action tank” as well as a “think tank” focused on personal liberty and limited government.
In its most recent annual report, the institute aired progress by its “Center on Climate and Environmental Policy,” which produces a “comprehensive research and education program aimed at increasing energy freedom in the United States and the world.”
“Our efforts have earned us the title of ‘the world’s most prominent think tank supporting skepticism about man-made climate change,’” according to the center, which reported making hundreds of thousands of legislator contacts in 2017.
The Heartland Institute has drawn vocal criticism, including from the National Center for Science Education — which several years ago issued a statement debunking a mass mailing the institute sent to K-12 and college educators promoting its new “Climate Change Reconsidered” report.
“With its mailing, Heartland is encouraging teachers to use NIPCC in the classroom, as if it were a scientifically credible rival of the IPCC,” according to the center. “That wouldn’t be a good idea … At least three studies have shown that upward of 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human activity is warming the world’s climate system.”
ISU reports its new bachelor’s in climate science major grew out of an urgent need for a “well-trained, adaptable workforce” to address worsening impacts of climate change — like the financial cost of “extreme events such as flooding, droughts and heat waves or widespread crop failures.”
“All students who complete the Bachelor of Science in climate science will have a solid foundation on how the climate system works, will be knowledgeable about climate impacts on society and relevant sustainability and mitigation options, and will be competent with data analysis and science communication,” according to the program description.
The university expects demand to grow, with 25 enrolling this fall and up to 120 enrolling by year five.
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