TV PERSONALITY AND science expert Bill Nye has been sounding the alarm about climate change for decades, but those warnings are taking on new urgency in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“It’s very difficult to tie any one event to global warming and climate change in real time,” Nye says in Episode 273 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “But as analysis goes on over the next couple years, I’m pretty sure those storm events will be tied to global warming directly by computer models.”
A huge impediment to solving the climate crisis is Fox News, which Nye accuses of feeding its audience a steady diet of vitriol and paranoia.
“I will challenge Fox News right now,” he says. “What else do you guys talk about except how bad the other side is? What else do you have going on without straw men and women to knock down? What else is your deal? How much do you report on what’s really going on?”
But as the dangers of climate change grow ever more apparent, Nye says the political winds are shifting, and that conservative politicians may finally be on the verge of taking action. “If you talk to the people at the Union of Concerned Scientists, who spend a lot of time in Congress, apparently there is a large cohort of conservatives who are ready to do something about climate change,” Nye says. “They’re ready to—the expression is—’hold hands and jump together.’”
The question is whether or not the political momentum is building fast enough to avert the worst of the damage.
“Climate change denial is almost always older people,” Nye says. “And it’s going to be a near-run thing for humankind—are those older people going to age out and stop voting before or after it’s too late to do a lot about climate change in the medium and short term?”
Listen to the complete interview with Bill Nye in Episode 273 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Bill Nye on working in television:
“I wanted to get the two balloons to stick together, and then pull one balloon with the other one, which is an old science demonstration—a classic, time-honored, a wonderful thing. I rubbed the balloon on my hair and [then] I stood there holding the balloon while they moved the lights around, as they’re wont to do, and the [static] charge dissipated and the effect didn’t work. So then immediately, two-and-a-half seconds later, they come in with glue—spray adhesive—and spray it on the balloon, and now they stick together but it just doesn’t look right. It was frustrating. And so I decided that someday, when I have an opportunity to do this, we’re not going to fake it. So on the Science Guy show we didn’t fake it.”
Bill Nye on asteroid mining:
“People have discussed going to an asteroid that’s made of platinum, and dragging the asteroid close enough to the Earth that it’s accessible for conventional spacecraft, and we’d have this giant rock full of platinum. Well, it turns out to be not so easy. The asteroids are pretty far away, and moving an asteroid around is quite difficult. So instead, the resource guys and gals have this other closely-related idea. Many asteroids are made of water ice, or have a lot of water ice in them. … So the idea is you drive up to an asteroid and use sunlight to make electricity, then convert the water ice into hydrogen and oxygen, which in turn can be used as rocket fuel to take you to the next destination in the solar system that you want to go to. It’s a cool idea.”
Bill Nye on teaching science:
“If our society here in the US were just a little more scientifically literate overall, we would be making better decisions. … What we say at the National Science Teachers Association is we want science every day in every grade, pre-school through 12. If you’re an elementary teacher and you do science, kids love it! You’re entertaining kids and engaging them and educating them and teaching them to think. It’s win-win-win-win-win. So we want to promote the investment in science education at all levels. And this, I think, will eventually lead to a scientifically literate voting populace, which will lead to scientifically literate congressional members, senators, and executives, who will change the world.”
Bill Nye on climate deniers:
“The guy I think about often in this regard is Chad Myers, who was the meteorologist at CNN—I think he’s chief meteorologist. He changed his mind. He used to say climate change wasn’t a big problem, now he says it is. His daughter is 11 or 12 now, and it’s on his mind. And I confronted Marc Morano, another climate denier, and I said, ‘What about your kids?’ And he was at a loss for words—it’s on camera—he was at a loss for words. Because kids are the reason you live, as a parent, to pass your genes on, and if you pass your genes on to an environment that you ruined, you’re just not doing a very good job as a parent. So we’ll see what happens as the kids and grandkids of deniers come of age.”