Mrs. Goodright teaches her fifth-grade students about global warming. Young Billy takes copious notes.
Goodright: Yes, it’s true, children. Some politicians and all the scientists say we will be burning up, as well as finding ourselves under water in five years unless fossil fuel and electricity production are stopped immediately.
Billy: But Mrs. Goodright: I was in the school library last week and I found a 1974 Time magazine story that said a new Ice Age was just around the corner. If my calculator is correct, that was 47 years ago. What happened to that?
Goodright: Well, Billy. That’s why we now call it “climate change.” This way, our scientists will be right whether things turn out hot or cold. Now, as I was saying children, the climate…What now, Billy?
Billy: I also found a Newsweek story from April 28, 1975, that said, “The longer planners delay the more difficult will they find it to cope with climate change (cooling) once the results become grim reality.”
Goodright: (Laughs) Well, I guess that’s why you don’t see Newsweek around much anymore. Now, as I was saying, the university professors know best about what is going to happen…Yes, Billy?
Billy: I found a Washington newspaper back in 1970, that quoted a Columbia University professor saying a catastrophic ice age would descend upon us in 50 to 60 years. That means we should be freezing our derrieres off right now — right?
Goodright: Billy! I will not tolerate that type of language in my classroom! Another outburst like that and you will be sent to the principal. Now, where was I? Oh, yes. The computer models are showing increasing levels of…What is it NOW, Billy?
Billy: I found a 1978 New York Times in our library. It reported that a team of international experts said there would be a never ending trend toward global cooling.
Goodright: Look, Billy. I’ll try to explain this so even you can understand it. Things change as we gain more knowledge about scientific discovery. You see…
Billy: But I thought Mr. Gore and others said this science was “settled,” and anybody who didn’t agree with the latest version was a “denier.” Even one of those Kennedys, who’s really into this stuff, said deniers should be put in jail.
Goodright: Well, that’s why we are going to watch Mr. Gore’s movie tomorrow. Now if that doesn’t explain it to you, then maybe you should be sent back to the fourth grade.
(Other students laugh)
Billy: Well, his movie won’t explain why back in 1989, an Associated Press story said that rising sea levels could wipe out various nations if global warming was not reversed by 2000. Here we are 20 years later, and I don’t see anything like that happening in Santa Cruz.
(Teacher ignores Billy’s comment)
Goodright: Now children, there’s a feature story on climate change, which will appear on a major network this week. I want you all to watch it. The documentary will explain the dangers of climate change and…
Billy: I went through my dad’s old DVDs and found a 2008 ABC video which said New York City would be under water in 2015. True? Is New York City now under water?
Goodright: All right, young man. I’ve had it with you! You’ve interrupted this class one too many times! Go see Principal Rimfire right now.
(Billy goes to the principal’s office and waits. Mr. Rimfire soon arrives.)
Rimfire: Billy! What are you doing here? Mrs. Goodright’s note says you were disrupting her class. I can’t believe it. You are such a conscientious student. What happened?
Billy: Well, sir: I really don’t know. I guess she’s just a denier about the history of global warming. Are they going to put her in jail for that?
Rimfire: No, Billy. But I think a day of suspension from class is warranted for you. Upon your return, I expect a whole different attitude on your part. Do I make myself clear?
Billy: Yes, sir.
Rimfire (Turns to his secretary): Ms. Liegeman, please make sure someone goes through our library and removes any newspaper or magazine that’s older than 2012. Thank you.
Steve Hansen is a Lodi writer and satirist.