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Climate Hustle

Kids ask US presidential candidates to debate science

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Guest Author

Shawn Otto is a science writer and chair of ScienceDebate.org

Susanlyn Singroy thinks the candidates for US president should be debating science. The eighth-grader argues that the candidates are talking about money, religion and immigration, but rarely mentioning the science challenges impacting her future. Singroy says,

If they talk about the big science issues, maybe they’ll actually do something about them.

Her point is well taken. The Republican and Democratic candidates for president both held debates just days after the Paris climate summit, yet the debate moderators didn’t ask a single question about climate science—remarkable considering that climate change has emerged as a major global science, economic, environmental, tech, civil infrastructure, and foreign policy challenge. US journalists have similarly avoided asking the candidates about other major science, health, tech, and environmental issues.

So Susan, who wants to be a scientist, decided to volunteer with other kids to create what may be the most memorable political ad you’ll see all year:

I’m chair of sciencedebate.org, the volunteer-run nonprofit that produced the ad. We’re working with Susanlyn and other kids elevate these issues in the US political dialogue, because they disproportionately affect the next generation. 

Candidates for president attend debates dedicated to economics and foreign policy, but science issues now have an equal or greater impact. Voters—and their kids—deserve a nationally televised discussion dedicated to science, health, tech and the environment.

The public seems to agree. ScienceDebate.org and Research!America, a nonprofit that advocates for medical research, recently commissioned a national poll. We found that 87% of likely voters think the candidates for president ought to be well versed on science issues. 91% of Democrats, 88% of Republicans and 78% of Independents also said the presidential candidates should participate in a debate to discuss key science-based challenges facing the US.

What would such a debate look like? The possibilities for questions are fascinating, and could fill hours of discussion. Here’s a small sample:

Click here to read the rest

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Comments

Comments 1 to 3:

  1. I recently tried talking about science and energy with my (UK) Minister of Parliament who is Conservative.

    What I found is this:

    1. A backbench MP who is interested in higher positions and sees politics as a career is unlikely to say anything to members of the public/voters that would contradict their political parties official policy.

    2. A mainstream MP will acknowledge climate change is real and we have to do something about it. However the party ideology and the MPs economic and social beliefs will always have a higher priority. It's because their brains have had years of self indoctorination that continually influences the path they take.

    3. The bottom line is always winning the next election which will result in short term policies overriding any long term issues. A quick fix appeases party activists and opinion polls.

    4. An MP will stop talking if you clearly have a completely different take on the subject. Put yourself in the place of a customer who wants a special version of a mass produced product, you ask the Apple sales person for an Android iPhone, they will tell you to go and shop somewhere else. MPs are products or product sales people, if you don't want their product and they can get plenty of business without changing, then they will get bored with you.

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  2. This is a really interesting study and reminds me of the 1960's and 1970's student protests.  As a teacher I can assure anyone that quality time spent with 13 - 17 year olds, in an environment where they are stimulated, valued and listened to will show you that they:

    1) do care about the future

    2) do have an understanding of the issues of today and how they may affect the future

    3) are concerned about extinctions and environmantal damage

    4) do have an understanding of what climate change is and means.

    Unfortunately Pollies look to the next 4 years, not the next 40 (or more) that our children will be exposed to.  So the eyes, ears and hearts of the future are often ignored.

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  3. Sample of questions (in original article) is impressively exhaustive. Some of that questions clearly have nothing to do with science and cannot come from young kids, e.g.:

    How should we manage immigration of skilled workers?

    That's a socio-economic problem that kids honestly don't care about. Myself, I didn't even know about such problem until I started my uni education, i.e. I was well into the voting edge.

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