Facts aren't always convenient. But that doesn't make them any less factual. And ignoring them doesn't make them go away.
That's a special message for Wyoming legislators, who last week helped this state block a new set of national education standards for teaching students science.
The problem? The Next Generation Science Standards, which were developed by national science education groups and representatives from 26 states, say that human-caused climate change is real.
Some legislators attached a footnote to the state budget that blocks the state from adopting the standards. One of the footnote's authors, Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle, said the "social implications" of the standards on global warming wouldn't be good for Wyoming, with its long history of mineral extraction.
That's misguided and irresponsible. It's not the standards that aren't good for Wyoming. It's lawmakers' decision to shortchange our students.
Ignoring the facts will do nothing to change them. Lawmakers' shortsighted strategy will do nothing but ensure Wyoming children have to pursue higher education to learn about the effects of climate change.
Legislators are in a fine position to support Wyoming's energy industry while taking steps to curb its effects on our natural resources. The partnership between Wyoming and the energy industry is one to be proud of.
As they proved this month, however, what legislators are not equipped to do is determine science standards for Wyoming students.
In fact, given the legal confusion surrounding the exact meaning of the budget footnote that blocks the science standards, they aren't even capable of writing a clear directive on what path the state should take. Education advocates still don't know: Has the state ruled out considering the standards entirely? Or does Wyoming have the option to adopt an amended version, whitewashing the truth about climate change?
You don't have to have scientific knowledge to become a legislator. So a 30-member panel of science specialists vetted the standards and unanimously recommended that the state board of education adopt them. Our lawmakers, deciding they knew better, ignored that endorsement.
What you do need to have scientific knowledge to do, however, is find a lucrative job in the burgeoning high-tech sector, such as at data centers. Our state is actively trying to encourage this sort of business. The University of Wyoming is planning a $30 million energy research facility and taking donations from energy companies. The university's focus on research is heartening, but students shouldn't have to pursue higher education to learn evidence-supported science.
In fact, the university's plans for research aren't limited to how companies can extract energy more efficiently. The focus also includes how we can do this sustainably, in a way that will ensure our top industry can survive for generations to come.
It's the prudent, proactive approach. And lawmakers have done exactly the opposite.
It's irresponsible for state legislators to let their own unwillingness to face reality shape the minds and career prospects of Wyoming's students. It's also unfair to our environment, which won't get the attention it needs if legislators continue to pretend our world isn't changing and humans aren't contributing to it.
Legislators owe it to our children to do better. Students need a solid grasp of data-supported science, especially if they are going to be part of Wyoming’s energy future, no matter what that looks like.