Parents want their teenagers engaged in positive extracurricular activities. If your kids are playing sports, acting in the school play, writing for a newspaper, or participating in student government, they are less likely to be drinking, smoking, and otherwise getting in trouble. Good parents cultivate their children's interests.
Most parents whose child has signed up for Al Gore's new initiative, Inconvenient Youth, are likely pleased that junior has taken an interest in an important policy issue. Far better to ruminate about ways to improve the environment than to waste time playing video games or watching Jersey Shore reruns on MTV.
Yet parents might want to pay a bit of extra attention to their child's new hobby: blogging about environmentalism may be harmless, but your child deserves to know that a lot of what they are being told about climate change has no more basis in reality than The Hills.
The Inconvenient Youth website describes the initiative as “a community of teenagers taking action to address the climate crisis.” It’s a new twist on Al Gore's other nonprofit, Climate Project, which has trained thousands of volunteers to present the infamous slideshow featured in An Inconvenient Truth. And in fact, five lucky teens from Inconvenient Youth will be selected to take part in the Climate Project's training program and become certified presenters.
All Inconvenient Youth members (ages 13-18) are encouraged to share ideas about actions they can take to improve the environment. Teens have posted suggestions such as: “Help create gardens which use recycled materials and composters,” and “Picking [sic] up trash along the road. It is disgusting how many bottles and cans there are.” There’s also a big focus on educating others about environmentalism: teens discuss how to use the internet and social networking tools and approach teachers and other school officials about including global warming in their studies.
It’s harmless stuff, except that these teens are getting a very one-sided version of a complicated issue. After all, An Inconvenient Truth is hardly an unbiased documentary. A judge in the United Kingdom found numerous, significant scientific errors in the film, including that it exaggerates even the most dire predictions about global warming’s potential harm. Yet most students have accepted Al Gore’s perspective as undisputed fact: one study reported that three in four kids think global warming is a “a threat to all life on the planet,” and about two in three feel that global warming is “a threat to my future well-being and safety” and “feel afraid of what might happen.”
Kids need to hear the other side of the story so that they can better target their energies, including their environmental passions. Teenagers should know that skeptics aren’t just an evil fringe in the pocket of the oil industry. Many legitimate questions remain about climate change, its causes, and potential solutions.
Inconvenient Youth members should be aware that many scientists believe that the climate was warmer during medieval times than it is today. They should ask themselves, if this is true, doesn’t it suggest that the modern warming trend may be natural, not caused by man?
There are also questions about the data used for global warming models. Much of the original temperature data used to justify claims of unprecedented warming has been destroyed or lost. Additionally, some scientists believe that changes in the environment surrounding weather stations may have contributed to perceived warming.
Some scientists argue that changes in the sun’s activity are primarily responsible for changing temperatures. Others note significant information that’s left out of UN global warming models, such as cloud cover.
Finally, while it’s nice to ride your bike to school, plant gardens, buy local produce, and use environmentally friendly light bulbs and batteries, Inconvenient Youth members should know that the policies being advanced by Al Gore's Climate Project go far beyond such measures. Proposals to curb carbon emissions would raise the cost of just about every good and service. Families would have to spend more to heat the house, get to work, and purchase food and clothing. The higher costs would ripple through the economy, reducing the number of jobs and driving youth unemployment (already about 20 percent) even higher.
Even proponents of cap-and-trade systems acknowledge that current proposals would do little to slow temperature changes, if global warming models are correct. So there would be a lot of sacrifice for little result. Teens might consider if there are more pressing causes—environmental and other—where they can have more of an impact.
It’s great that teens want to make the world a better place. But they should do their homework so they are fully informed about this issue before jumping on the Al Gore environmental bandwagon.