A group of top House Democrats banded together Monday to condemn a political group for disseminating books skeptical of climate change to public high schools.
"Lying to children about the world we live in to further corporate polluter profits is cruel," said Rep. Raul Grijalva, ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee. "If climate deniers think our public schools are the right place for their propaganda, they need to be exposed in no uncertain terms."
The group in question, the Heartland Institute, is a long-time climate change skeptic, and in recent weeks it has been emboldened by President Trump's proposed cuts in funding for climate change programs within the federal government. The group recently held its annual climate change gathering in Washington, with speakers who included former members of Trump's transition team.
But the Democrats are adamant that the group crossed a line by sending hundreds of thousands of DVDs and booklets to high schools throughout the country, which describe why scientists aren't in agreement that climate change is occurring. The Democrats are responding to a PBS "Frontline" report that showed how Heartland has engaged in a campaign to place materials skeptical of climate change in the hands of educators.
"Public school classrooms are no place for anti-science propaganda, and I encourage every teacher to toss these materials in the recycling bin," said Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., ranking member on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. "If the Heartland Institute and other climate deniers want to push a false agenda on global warming, our nation's schools are an inappropriate place to drive that agenda."
The president of the Heartland Institute, Joseph Bast, said he found the Democrats' statements "hilarious."
"Is this a belated April Fools' Day joke? If not, it should be."
He said his group is a 33-year-old educational group. "Distributing research and commentary on matters of public policy – such as environmental protection, in this case – is what we do. And no, we're not going to stop because you happen to disagree with us," Bast said.
Bast said this isn't the first time Grijalva "has condemned" the institute and other organizations for questioning "the so-called 'scientific consensus' on global warming." Bast said he "crossed the line" in 2015 when the Arizona Democrat sent "threatening letters" to employers of a half-dozen scientists skeptical of global warming.
Grijalva, who led the effort among House Democrats on Monday, suggested that he would be pushing for lawmakers to expose the Heartland Institute to force it to shut down its campaign.
"Let's see how much Heartland believes in this project when schools, teachers, parents, students and our fellow members of Congress tell the group and its corporate funders to end this ridiculous campaign," Grijalva said.
Grijalva, Scott and Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, the top Democrat on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, joined together to call on Heartland to end its campaign and for educators across the country to dismiss the materials.
"The scientific consensus that manmade emissions are worsening the process of climate change has been widely accepted, including by the Department of Defense, for many years," a joint press release issued by Grijalva's office read.
"Climate change has emerged as a defining scientific and policy challenge facing humanity. Scientists, corporations and governments around the world are all working to understand it and devise effective responses to it," Johnson said.