We want children to learn about climate change in a developmentally appropriate and scientifically-sound way, right? Of course we do. It is the responsibility of adults to prepare the next generation for the challenges they will face. However, “The Kids Guide to the Truth About Climate Change,” a children’s book from former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, is a dangerous post-truth treatise. It argues that, yes, variations in the climate are a pesky nuisance, but they’re not something that children should worry about. Ignore the mainstream media lies, children, and now let’s teach you about Fun with Internal Combustion Engines.
The children’s book is part of a series from The Kids Guide from Ever Bright Media, the children’s publishing company Huckabee founded. The company launched its children’s guide to climate change in spring, 2023. No experts in the field of climate science are listed as sources for the children’s book themes.
Science educators and climate researchers have found the guide to be full of factual inaccuracies, so that “truth” in the title is little more than a bunch of alternative facts and feelings that carry more weight than evidence.
Renee Hobbs, professor of communication studies and director of the Media Education Lab at the University of Rhode Island, told CleanTechnica that “children’s books have long been used as a means of teaching children values, so it’s no surprise that Mike Huckabee would be hawking” this series of children’s books. “The book on climate change looks fascinating,” Hobbs continues. “And I would also like to read books about free speech and cancel culture, fighting indoctrination, and fake news. I can only imagine the storytelling I would find there…. but there is certain to be an ‘us vs them’ framework that can make for great reading.”
An “us vs them” framework has permeated climate conversations for decades.
- We read Rachel Carson’s warnings about the oceans yet continue to dump sewage in the ocean — ocean disposal has always been considered the cheapest and the easiest way of removing 250 million tons of waste annually.
- By the turn of the 21st century, Exxon researchers had created models indicating that burning fossil fuels would lead to 0.20 degrees Celsius of global warming per decade, with a margin of error of 0.04 degrees. In 2012, the IPCC issued a report calling for “a death knell for coal and fossil fuels, before they destroy our planet.” Yet over 40% of energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are due to the burning of fossil fuels for electricity generation.
- We’ve been taught to look at our individual carbon footprints and to feel good about recycling plastics. Meanwhile, the world is feeling the effects of climate-driven storms. A hotter Earth makes storms bigger and more dangerous than ever. Hurricane damage is astronomical — overwhelming emergency agencies, insurance companies and household budgets, displacing entire neighborhoods, and killing people. The US alone experienced 15 disasters in the first 9 months of 2022 that each caused at least $1 billion in damage.
Even in light of the overwhelming evidence, climate debates continue to be contradictory and convoluted, as shown by Mike Huckabee’s climate children’s book. It’s reflective of a larger GOP plan for a 2024 Republican administration that would dismantle President Biden’s efforts to slow global warming — part of a sweeping strategy called Project 2025 for the first 180 days of a future Republican presidency. The plan, as reported by the New York Times, calls for shredding regulations to curb greenhouse gas pollution from cars, oil and gas wells, and power plants; dismantling almost every clean energy program in the federal government; and, boosting the production of fossil fuels — the burning of which is the chief cause of planetary warming.
Other children’s books in the Huckabee series have titles like “The Kids Guide to Socialism” and “The Kids Guide to Our One Nation Under God.” Bright colors and cheerful cartoons are designed to appeal to little ones. The Kids Guide series is being marketed to families as an alternative to mainstream education and may serve to limit homeschooled children’s understanding of the existential crisis that faces the planet.
This perspective is part of a trend of right wing climate misinformation and science disputes that draws upon discourses of climate delay and climate solutions questioning. Such attempts to interrogate accepted climate science long have had roots in the fossil fuel industry. Once outright climate crisis denial, now narratives like this children’s book minimize the effect of a warming planet on everyday life and praise the gift of fossil fuel power for homes and businesses.
Here are some examples of the misinformation that is rife in Huckabee’s text.
- Page 1: Focusing on China’s greenhouse gas emissions at levels 2.5 times higher than that of the US, it fails to explain that per capita emissions in the US are actually close to twice those in China and that the US holds the unenviable place of the largest historic emitter ever of climate warming gases.
- Page 4: Acknowledging that we need to protect our home, the guide promotes recycling and energy conservation. However, it refers to the climate crisis as part of a long trend of shifting patterns. “The climate has always changed — long before humans walked the earth — and it continues to change.”
- The “Thousands of Years of Carbon Dioxide Levels” graph spans 400,000 years ago until “present day,” diminishing the severity of today’s emissions levels. It characterized a warming atmosphere as one of a series of similar events. “Looking back in time, carbon dioxide levels have always gone up and down.Glenn Branch, deputy director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting fact-based science education, including about evolution and climate change, told Inside Climate News that ”the data the graph labels as ‘present day’—peaking at a little over 280 parts per million—actually represents levels from 2,300 years ago, around 391 BC.” No reference is made to the atmospheric CO2 concentrations currently over 420 parts per million, higher than any data point included on the graph, which has a scale that only goes up to 300 parts per million.
“Learning to spot values messages embedded in children’s literature is an important skill, and parents can play a role in developing children’s media literacy competencies by noting how ideologies and values are presented in stories of all kinds,” Hobbs explains. Huckabee’s climate ideology is clear in the children’s book series. In 2015, Huckabee laughed and suggested climate change is a lot like “a sunburn.” Last year, in a video on his TBN talk show’s YouTube channel, he derisively belittled a doctor for citing climate change as a factor in a heat related illness, despite scientific consensus that increased frequency and severity of heat-related illnesses and death are tied to climate pollution.
“You may have heard from your kids that the earth is soon going to be an uninhabitable hellscape,” says Huckabee in one of The Kids Guide’s ads, standing in front of what looks like a green screen of a blazing forest fire. “That’s because some of their teachers and the media have an agenda.” He insists that “spotlighting the failed doomsday predictions throughout history” is an anecdote to climate fear and panic.
A driving media literacy principle is to look at who benefits from a text. “I would also like to note that the economics of the subscription model seems incredibly overpriced and sneaky,” Hobbs mentioned. “Check out the fine print, which says that if you subscribe, they’ll charge you $30+ per month!”
Want another option to teach children about the changing climate? How to Talk to Your Kids About Climate Change, by Harriet Shugarman, founder and executive director of the US campaign group ClimateMama. “Our children are watching us; their present and future is truly in our hands,” she writes in the book’s introduction. “Let’s begin by telling our children the truth.”
Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
EV Obsession Daily!
Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030
CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.