Utah Middle-Schoolers to Learn Greenhouse Effect Is Keeping Earth Just Right, in Latest Science Standards Tweak

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The latest draft of Utah's new science standards claims that the greenhouse effect “maintains Earth’s energy balance." Danny Nicholson/Flickr/Creative Commons

Did you know that the greenhouse effect "maintains Earth's energy balance and a relatively constant temperature?"

Well, it used to, sometime before humanity began putting more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere than the system could handle. The point being, it doesn't anymore. The spike in greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, has significantly strengthened the greenhouse effect, causing the world to warm at a rate scientists consider "unprecedented within the past 10,000 years or more," according to NASA.

But that's not what sixth-graders in Utah will be taught, if the latest tweak to the state science standards are adopted in December.

Utah hasn't done a major overhaul of its science standards in 20 years, and this year's attempt has been plagued by delays. The state put the process on hold in February, in part because the public took issue with the standards' treatment of global warming.

Now the new standards will be up for a public review period before going before the state education board this winter. The standards for sixth grade include the line that the greenhouse effect "maintains Earth's energy balance and a relatively constant temperature," according to The Salt Lake Tribune. And actual discussion of climate change has been pushed from the sixth grade to the eighth.

The state won't "make any irrational moves just based on political opinions one way or the other," David Crandall, chairman of the board, told the Tribune. But April Mitchell, a science specialist in the Ogden School District, told the newspaper that she was unhappy with the changes to the sixth-grade curriculum.

"My concern was that it would create a misconception that our temperature currently is constant," she told the Tribune. "I think taking that out is withholding evidence from students."

If adopted, the new standards will go into effect in the 2017-18 school year.