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New science standards hope to appease Idaho lawmakers

Jessica Taylor, center, a junior at Lake City High School listens to instruction during AP Environmental Science class at the school in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017. New revisions to Idaho’s K-12 science standards downplay the negative impacts of human activity on climate change as part of the latest attempt to appease Idaho’s Republican-controlled Legislature. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
Jessica Taylor, center, a junior at Lake City High School listens to instruction during AP Environmental Science class at the school in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday, Mar. 2, 2017. New revisions to Idaho’s K-12 science standards downplay the negative impacts of human activity on climate change as part of the latest attempt to appease Idaho’s Republican-controlled Legislature. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
By Kimberlee Kruesi Associated Press

BOISE – New revisions to Idaho’s K-12 science standards downplay the negative impacts of human activity on climate change as part of the latest attempt to appease Idaho’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

Earlier this year, lawmakers approved updating the state’s outdated science standards after striking key references to human behavior and climate change.

However, that approval wasn’t permanent. Instead, lawmakers put a one-year expiration date on the standards and instructed the Department of Education to come back in 2018 with new versions of the removed language

Education officials unveiled those updated standards Friday after a state committee spent the past several months vetting a compromise while also collecting more than 1,000 public comments.

According to the new sections provided by the Department of Education, the tweaks suggest that humans can mitigate the effects of climate change, as well as that humans can also be a benefit to the environment.

“Human activities can have consequences (positive and negative) on the biosphere, sometimes altering natural habitats and causing the extinction of other species,” the standards now read.

The language is now strikingly similar to what Rep. Scott Syme, R-Caldwell, used while leading the effort to delete parts of the standards in a House committee because he argued that they didn’t address both sides of the issue and wanted to highlight the good humans have had on the earth.

“I think it’s unfortunate that the Idaho Legislature is more comfortable with watered down science,” said Rep. Ilana Rubel, D-Boise. “I’m a little baffled at the positive (effects) we need to teach our students.”

The minority assistant leader was denied a chance to introduce legislation this session that would have created a legislative committee to study the effects of climate change in Idaho.

The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies, science organizations and climate scientists agree the world is warming, mainly due to rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Most of the increase in temperature comes from man-made sources, including the burning of coal, oil and natural gas, deforestation and livestock raising.

The standards must now be approved by the Idaho State Board of Education and the Legislature in 2018.

“I appreciate all the Idahoans who took time to participate in the process,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Sherri Ybarra in a prepared statement, who has previously said she supports presenting both sides.

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