So the slightly hyped Big Climate Change “Debate” between science education advocate and teevee guy Bill Nye and Tennessee congresspillock Marsha Blackburn on Sunday’s Meet The Press actually turned out to be a whopping 13-minute segment, which was short enough that no real details could be explained, yet long enough to make a viewer yearn for the sweet release of death. The only good thing to be said for it was that host David Gregory framed it as a debate on climate change policy, although of course Blackburn predictably insisted the very question of human-caused climate change is still open. We suspect that in 2114 people boating through the canals of Nuevo Miami will still be arguing about whether the evidence is sufficient yet.
We’ll give Gregory a couple of points for at least having the backbone to frame most of his questions with some variation on “climate scientists agree this is real,” for what good that did. And then Blackburn inevitably reached into the deniers’ bag of tricks, tossing out names of “dissenting” researchers that no one watching would have time to fact-check — Richard Lindzen of MIT… and the Cato Institute; and Judith Curry of Georgia Tech, both of whom regularly repeat discredited climate change denial claims. In her very first answer, she tried to claim that she and Nye were both equally unqualified to talk about climate change since neither is a climate scientist — “He is an engineer and actor, I am a member of Congress.” And of course, there’s all that disagreement in the scientific community — where only 97% of climate scientists agree, so maybe we should listen to the 3% since they’re not affected by groupthink, right? Heck, those eggheads can’t even say with any certainty whether any particular weather event is related to global warming!
For his part, Nye kept pointing out that there really are not “two sides” to the reality of climate change (as he appeared on the left side of the screen and Blackburn on the right, with Gregory’s lobotomized sock-puppet face between them) — there’s science, and there’s politically motivated denial that attempts to sow doubt about science:
“This is unscientific, this is not logical,” he said. “It is a way, apparently, that the fossil fuel industry had dealt with our politics. This is not good. You don’t need a PhD in climate science to understand what’s going on, that we have overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. That you cannot tie any one event to that is not the same as doubt about the whole thing.”
Nye’s strongest moment might have come when Blackburn attempted to trivialize the degree of change in atmospheric carbon:
“When you look at the fact that we have gone from 320 parts per million — 0.032 to 0.040 — 400 parts per million [carbon dioxide in the atmosphere], you realize it’s very slight.”
Well those are just teensy little tiny numbers, now aren’t they? Besides, I hear tell that trees breathe CO2, so what’s the big whoop?
Nye jumped on that pretty quickly:
“Once again, the congresswoman is trying to introduce doubt … What I would encourage everybody to do is back up and agree on the facts. Would you say that the Antarctic has less ice than it used to? When you asserted, Congresswoman, that a change from 320 to 400 parts per million is insignificant, my goodness … That’s 30 percent! I mean, that’s an enormous change. And it’s changing the world. And that’s just over the last few decades. [If] you go back to 1750 with the invention of the steam engine…it’s gone from 250 to 400.”
And this is where Nye reminded the congresspillock that he is indeed not a member of Congress — but she is, and should act like it:
“I encourage the congresswoman to really look at the facts. You are a leader. We need you to change things, not deny what’s happening.”
Chris Mooney at Mother Jones notes that it’s really more like 25%, but the point stands — those aren’t such tiny changes. (Imagine if a Democrat proposed a tax increase of “only” 25% on the rich…) Nye also played the patriotism card, for what it’s worth, saying that America has the chance to be a leader in the technologies and policies that could mitigate the effects of climate change: “The more we mess around with this denial, the less we’re going to get done.”
And Marsha Blackburn smiled and smiled like your friendly neighborhood snake-oil distributor and kept saying “cost-benefit analysis,” so maybe we should just not rush into anything. That analysis is going to take some time, probably. In the meantime, here’s an ad for the new pickups from MegaMotors…
Follow Doktor Zoom on Twitter. He occasionally wishes for a time machine to see how this all works out…and then is glad he won’t know.