The Birth of Climate Denial

The Birth of Climate Denial

By WNYC Studios

Notes from America

Thursday, 11 May

Starting with the 1925 Scopes Trial — also known as the "trial of the century" — we look at one of the most controversial topics in our time: the debate over evolution versus a Fundamentalist understanding of the Bible.

It started with a substitute teacher in Tennessee who believed that evolution should be taught in the classroom. What followed was a fiery debate that rocketed around the world.

The Scopes Trial reminds us that science has often upset the establishment. Kai Wright explores how the powerful have tried to convince us that science gets it wrong.

Attorney William Jennings Bryan sits behind the microphone, in white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, during a radio broadcast of the landmark "Monkey Trial" of John Thomas Scopes in Dayton, Tenn., July 15, 1925. The controversial trial between religion and state determined how evolution would be taught in schools. Scopes, a high school biology teacher, was found guilty of teaching evolution and fined.
(Associated Press)

Then Amanda Aronczyk looks at just when we began to doubt the whole idea of climate change. She’ll take us back to that day in 1988 when NASA scientist James Hansen warned the United States Congress that climate change was real. And she reminds us that Republican President George H.W. Bush touted himself as being pro-environment.

“I’m an environmentalist... And I always will be," he said. "And that is not inconsistent with being a businessman. Nor is it with being a conservative.” She then brings us to to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, when action on climate change led to a political divide within the Republican party.

Today, President Trump considers climate change a "hoax" and is considering withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. It's a radical change in 25 years. We'll tell you how we got there.

While reporting this story, we also asked listeners and science teachers across the country to tell us about the challenges of teaching climate change. Read what they had to say. 

Episode Contributors:

Kai Wright

Amanda Aronczyk

Elaine Chen

Karen Frillmann

Jillian Weinberger

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