Inquiring children want to know

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In case you’ve been living under a rock (or a giant asteroid), Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth has been tearing into theaters recently, leaving a heated global warming debate in its wake. But how “real” is this whole global warming thing, anyway? Well, to make sure that kids have the right facts, the Environmental Protection Agency is offering a cheerful website that helps concerned youngsters learn more about the science of global warming.
     As you might expect, cartoon dinosaurs and oversimplified sketches fill the site’s pages, but strewn among the child-friendly graphics are pages explaining everything a child could want to know about the environment, including definitions of commonly heard terms like “greenhouse gases” (with handy pronunciation guides so nerdy kids can impress their equally nerdy friends). Of course, this is coming from an arm of the warming- skeptical Bush Administration, so the site doesn’t exactly err on the realistic side (equating the problem of global warming to dental hygiene–“neglect now, regret later” –might not be the best way to spur kids into action), and the writers obviously aren’t buying into Gore’s alarmism. For example, after vaguely describing what could happen down the road, climate-wise, they append a cheerful reminder that if Earth’s temperature rises, cold places will be glad to have warmer weather. (Compare that with the claim on the official Inconvenient Truth website that, in 25 years, deaths from global warming will have doubled to 300,000 per year).
     But, to be fair, the EPA doesn’t totally pull its punches. While the language is a bit wishy-washy (it seems as if every other sentence begins “some scientists think…”) the site actually gives a surprisingly thorough, if sugar-coated, explanation of the science behind global warming. In fact, it’s so simple and clear, maybe President Bush (who still insists that “there is a debate over whether [global warming] is manmade or naturally caused”) should log on and check it out.— Ashley Sisti

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