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HB 1635: Climate Education for Pre-K thru 12 students in NH

TESTIMONY: House Education Committee

House Bill 1635, Climate Education for New Hampshire Students

Thursday, February 13, 2020


Dear Honorable Education Committee Members and Chairman Myler,


Thank you for hearing HB 1635 today, that would require climate education for all pre-K through 12 students in New Hampshire public schools.


The bill is a collaboration between retired science teacher Representative Chris Balch (testimony below), and myself, a current middle-high school science teacher. It would help prepare Granite State students for the future they will be facing in a world already compromised by a changed climate.


I am increasingly alarmed by the lack of understanding of the scientific evidence that students and adult citizens have in order to make informed decisions. To toss aside the drastic impacts we are already experiencing, suggesting that it is a political issue, not a scientific one, would be reckless.


Extreme drought, flooding, wildfires raging across states and continents out of control, the loss of crops and the terrifying rate at which species are going extinct, should have us collaborating in a frenzy, working to do all we can to mitigate the consequences of the changes humanity have caused and to ensure that the youth of our state and country are being prepared for the jobs that are developing in response to the need right here at home and across America.


Energy conservation, home and business weatherization and increased renewable energy usage creates jobs and benefits New Hampshire's economy. These jobs, and many that have not yet been imagined, are what young people must be preparing for now, before they step into the job market. Training students for the technology, medical, research, communications, manufacturing and green construction fields will provide them with the marketable skills they need to succeed.


Nationally, schools are embracing renewable energy, conservation, rooftop and water gardens, organic and aquaponic farming, cooking, composting, electric vehicles and student problem-solving inventions. They will need the engineering skills to build the seawalls and water diversion technology that will protect or help embrace the water that will flood more and more coastal cities. We will need more social workers, healthcare workers to address the rise in disease, and well-trained fire and emergency technicians. Wildlife biologists, animal care and new ways to grow food in an unpredictable climate will be critical to the survival of humanity. Talented and tech-savvy New Hampshire students must tap their creativity and ingenuity to compete with their peers as new careers emerge, but they must also be prepared to be informed and engaged citizens in their communities. It is our job to prepare them now.


As climate action advocates, we work to protect the health and safety of NH's youth and families. Representative Balch and I were opposed to the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct (NED) pipeline that threatened our hometowns. We have been actively engaged in opposing the Liberty Utilities Granite Bridge Pipeline, and are now also working with the No Coal No Gas coalition of multi-state organizations to shut down the Bow NH Merrimack Station coal plant.


We value the clean air, water, food and farms that sustain rural life and the tourism industry that brings $5 billion into NH annually. Good water and air quality, along with our dramatically forested mountainsides, is what keeps our state physically and economically healthy. Snow, pristine rivers, lakes, beaches, aquifers, farms, forested mountains and healthy wildlife and places to enjoy recreation are what sustains New Hampshire’s economy.


Students need to learn about anthropogenic climate change from pre-K through college to understand, embrace and respond to the impacts on every aspect of their lives, from family life to health, career choices and economics. Teachers must step up and demand that young people become adequately educated so they will be as well prepared as they possibly can be.


You may hear these words and feel your own deep sense of concern or you may wonder what all the fuss is about. The fact is that decades ago, political parties understood what we would be facing and were ready to face that together. I ask you, for the sake of your children and grandchildren, for every child in Granite State schools, to choose their future over the politics that seek to separate us and to leave them without the skills to deal with the problems they are already facing.


Diseased moose are being overcome by ticks whose populations have exploded in recent years due to warmer winters. Moose become infested with ticks, that no longer die during warming winters. They suck the blood of the reclusive, but much-admired megafauna, drastically reducing their numbers in deepest woods of New England. Maple trees, the quality of maple syrup, decreasing populations of shrimp, cod, whales, birds, bears, other wildlife and the snow that supports winter tourism, are all decreasing in numbers.


Educators know that children are the ones who educate adults. Their courage, energy and wisdom is needed to guide their elders in moving forward, a task that has historically been undertaken by students.


As educator-advocates Representative Balch and I will continue collaborating, educating and raising awareness of the threats to health, safety, economy and future that is already impacting life in the Granite State. I'm so appreciative of Representative Balch’s commitment to education and scientific initiatives at the State House and honored to support him in this important work.


The bill is an effort to increase science education in New Hampshire schools, with real-life application so important to student study, guided by the Next Generation science curriculum standards.


Today, I ask you to support this bill, in unity, for the sake of the youth of New Hampshire. As is the case in our response to anthropogenic climate change itself, we cannot wait. We cannot put this off, forgetting the needs of our young people.


As a teacher, I hear the fears of children daily. They care, they are concerned, and they want to help. The way to alleviate their fears is not to tell them that their fears are not real, but to gift them ways in which to respond to them.


As someone who understands the ecological disaster our planet is already facing and the hopeful hearts of our youth who want to heal and help, I ask you to put their needs first and to support this bill.


Yours in climate action for their future,

Stephanie A. Scherr

Fitzwilliam NH


HB 1635

Testimony of Representative Chris Balch

February 13. 2020


Good morning Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. Thank you for your time and consideration.


For the record I’m Chris Balch Representing Hillsborough District 38 composed of Antrim, Benninngton, Francestown, Greenfield, Greenville, Hancock, Hillsborough, Lyndeborough, Wilton, and Windsor.


In terms of my background, I was a high school science teacher for 40 years in both public and private schools in the northeast. I taught Chemistry, Physics, Biology, Ecology, Environmental Science, and Genetics.


I am pleased to introduce HB 1635, a bill requiring climate change to be taught in NH schools.


In 2018 the United Nations Intergovernmental Agency on Climate Change issued a report that contained important information – and warnings – about the impacts that steadily increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere will have on our climate.


Included in these are temperature increases of 1-3°C, resulting in more energy in our atmosphere that leads to increasingly frequent and more violent storms, ocean levels rising, species diversity loss, and longer-term shifts in weather patterns.


That same year the Trump administration released the 2018 National Climate Assessment which considered the impacts of climate change on regions of the United States. Summaries by state were prepared and published.


Three key messages were developed for NH:

• Average annual temperature has increased approximately 1.7°C in New Hampshire since the early 20th century. Winter warming has been larger than any other season. Under a higher emissions pathway, historically unprecedented warming is projected by the end of the 21st century. Future winter warming will have large effects on snowfall and snow cover. • Precipitation has increased during the last century, with the highest numbers of extreme precipitation events occurring over the last decade. Mean precipitation and precipitation extremes are projected to increase in the future, with associated increases in flooding. • Global sea level has risen about 8 inches since reliable record keeping began in 1880. Sea level is projected to increase another 1 to 4 feet by 2100. Rising sea levels pose significant risks to coastal communities and structures, such as inundation, land loss due to erosion, and greater flood vulnerability due to higher storm surge.


On November 3rd, 2016 the NH State Board of Education adopted new academic standards for science. The NH Career & College-Ready Science Standards are now in place for most of our school districts and provide guidance for advancing student learning. These standards do include guidelines and proficiencies for classroom instruction in climate change.


While many NH schools are making an effort to effectively implement these standards, instruction in climate change as it directly impacts New Hampshire is not currently part of the curriculum and is not required to be taught.


Examples of this are: • NH species affected by climate change, including impacts on habitat. • Coastal impacts of climate change on the New Hampshire seacoast. • Changes in New Hampshire weather patterns. • Other New Hampshire climate change impacts.

Other topics that are important to student learning regarding climate change are not clearly specified: • Maximizing energy efficiency as a means to reducing carbon emissions • Northeast careers in the field of alternative and renewable energy


It also bears mentioning that like the topic of evolution nearly 100 years ago, climate change is politically charged. A national poll reports that while 86% of teachers across the United States indicate climate change should be taught in schools, only 43% actually teach it. I also note that 80% of parents polled indicate the topic should be taught.


HB 1635 not only mandates the teaching of climate change curriculum in New Hampshire schools, but also outlines a viable plan for doing so. All of the previously mentioned New Hampshire related topics are included, making student learning more relevant.


As a former educator I understand that along with crisis comes opportunity. We have the opportunity to educate our young people regarding a serious issue they face and thus allow them to make informed decisions in their lives.


I ask for your support for HB 1635, and thank you for your time. I will answer questions.


Chris Balch Representing Hillsborough 38


https://statesummaries.ncics.org/chapter/nh/ NOAA NH Summary and Report

https://nca2018.globalchange.gov/ 2018 National Climate Assessment

https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/ UNIPCC 1.5° Report 2018

https://www.npr.org/…/most-teachers-dont-teach-climate-chan… Climate Change Education in the US.

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