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Subverting Climate Science in the Classroom

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Subverting Climate Science in the Classroom

Oil and gas representatives influence the standards for courses and textbooks, from kindergarten to 12th grade.

Scientific American,

5 min read
7 take-aways
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What's inside?

Fossil fuel industry lobbyists influence educational standards about climate change in Texas schools.

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Scientific American contributor Katie Worth spent multiple hours watching hearings, scouring public records and interviewing educators to uncover efforts by oil and gas industry lobbyists to fundamentally change how climate issues are discussed and taught in Texas public schools. Their efforts to alter textbooks and lesson plans, largely successful, could affect how millions of American children understand and respond to climate change.


Oil and gas lobbyists actively manipulate educational standards for Texas school children.

A Shell Oil Company lawyer won a board of education debate, changing verbiage for eighth grade textbooks from “describe efforts to mitigate climate change” to simply “describe the carbon cycle.” Around the United States, similar meetings about reading lists, face masks and structural racism curricula have devolved into shouting matches over two years.

Texas state school boards are trying for the first time to set standards for what students learn at all grade levels about the science underlying climate change. Disputes have erupted between educators and industry representatives on the boards, who strive to create a positive spin on fossil fuels.

Standards adoptions boards are bureaucratic, but their decisions largely control classroom content.

Publishers consult these standards, and educators use them to design standardized lesson plans and tests.

In 2020, the National Center for Science Education and the Texas Freedom Network hired experts to rate science education standards across the United States, based on climate crisis coverage. Thirty states...

About the Author

Katie Worth is a freelance writer in Boston. She is the author of Miseducation: How Climate Change Is Taught in America.

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