MP Scott Simpson blasts James Shaw's 'shocker of an interview' on teaching climate change

National MP Scott Simpson has blasted James Shaw over what he's described as a "shocker of an interview" the minister gave about teaching climate change in schools.  

Simpson, the National Party's climate change spokesperson, said he had listened to Shaw's interview with Magic Talk's Sean Plunket about a new resource for teaching year 7-10 students about climate change. 

"Somebody sent me a link to it several days ago and I've subsequently had an opportunity to hear that shocker of an interview that James Shaw did with you," Simpson, MP for Coromandel, told Plunket on Wednesday. 

"Of course people are going to be concerned and worried about this and I can understand completely why the phone lines to your show and other media have been running hot.

"Climate change should be an issue that is talked about and taught in our schools, but it's a question of how it's done and I think listening to the interview you did with James Shaw, the minister is usually over his brief, but sadly he wasn't that day.

"I just think what's happened here is that it's a kneejerk reaction [from Shaw], trying to - in an election year - have some kind of delivery for his Green Party base."

Shaw, co-leader of the Green Party, clashed with Plunket during the interview earlier this week, when the minister was invited to discuss the new teacher resource announced on Sunday. 

Plunket said he was concerned the syllabus would leave no room for students to question or debate the human impact of climate change, but Shaw said it's all based on science so "you can dispute that all you like". 

National's Scott Simpson is MP for Coromandel.
National's Scott Simpson is MP for Coromandel. Photo credit: Facebook

Shaw said there had been high demand from teachers wanting resources to teach climate change in schools, so once it was piloted and some changes were made, it "seemed appropriate to be rolling out". 

The pilot was picked up by the Ministry of Education and is supported by organisations including NASA, NIWA, and National Geographic for Kids, among others. 

The resource cites sources including the Ministry for the Environment, Stats NZ, the Department of Conservation, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations Environment Program's climate body. 

Simpson isn't the first to speak out against the new resource. ACT leader David Seymour said he fears it's designed to suppress opposing views on humankind's influence on the climate. 

Simpson had a similar view, telling Plunket: "The ability for various views to be expressed around climate change issues seems to be lacking from this resource."

Seymour, MP for Epsom, has criticised aspects of the resource such as an activity called "myth buster role-play" where one student will play the role of an 'activist' for climate change and the other a 'sceptic'. 

Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw.
Climate Change Minister and Green Party co-leader James Shaw. Photo credit: Facebook

"I just think that sort of exercise, given that it doesn't provide any sort of resource or credence to why people might be sceptical, amounts to state-organised bullying of kids," Seymour said. 

Simpson said after reading the resource, it seemed like "pieces of information that are picked randomly from a whole range of sources and then put together in a cross-match sort of way". 

The resource includes a lesson on Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg, dealing with "scepticism", understanding feelings about climate change, and advice to eat less meat. 

"There are some issues around dietary dogma, for instance, and the call to activism, and issues around how to handle people who have a different point of view - so-called deniers," Simpson said. 

He said National's education spokesperson Nikki Kaye has "been doing some extensive work in this area" and will be issuing an official response "soon".

The resource also includes lessons on understanding the difference between climate and weather, how climate change could affect New Zealand, and New Zealand's current commitments to tackling the issue. 

Shaw told Newshub a warming planet "is the reality kids today are facing" and it's "only right that they have the opportunity to discuss what this means, talk about solutions, ask questions and find their own answers". 

He said leaving behind a world that is "safe for our kids and grandkids" will require "efforts from every one of us to improve the way we farm, design our cities, and produce energy for things like transport and heating our homes".

"The new climate change resource simply reflects this reality."