The debate over global warming has heated up again—not that it ever got cold—and Bill Nye “the Science Guy” is stoking the fire. Nye sat in on NBC’s Sunday morning news show Meet the Press to debate the issue, with Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) providing the opposition. Besides being a science educator as “The Science Guy,” Nye is CEO of The Planetary Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to involving people of the world in space exploration. Blackburn is Vice-Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
To be accurate, the term “global warming” has gone out of the mainstream lexicon in recent years in favor of a more widely-understandable and less-deniable term: “climate change.” The catalyst for the showdown on the network news program was a headline in a newspaper above a story on flooding in the UK which read “Climate change is here now. It could lead to global conflict. Yet the politicians squabble.” This prompted Meet the Press moderator David Gregory to wonder if this natural disaster, along with other recent events surrounding weather patterns, was creating a new “urgency to react” to climate change.
Nye was given the floor first, and opened by saying that this was an opportunity for innovation in the United States—to lead the world in new technologies. Blackburn countered by trying to discount the moderator’s assumption that there was a consensus that the world’s latest natural disasters actually are a result of climate change, explaining that neither she nor Nye were “climate scientists” and both were only able to look at the information they received from experts in climate science. And she added: “Even the president’s own Science and Technology head Mr. (Dr. John P.) Holdren says no one single weather event is due specifically to climate change.” Nye was quick to respond by pointing out that uncertainty about a specific event, e.g. the cold weather events in the eastern U.S., is not the same as uncertainty about the idea of climate change.
Gregory struck at the heart of the problem, though, when he brought economics into the equation and, pointing out cleanup projects after events like Hurricane Sandy, remarked “…you have state and local governments, congresswoman, who have to deal with the realities of climate change, and it’s expensive.” To which Blackburn replied: “You’re right,” and reminded the audience of an executive order from the Clinton Administration that requires a cost/benefit analysis for each natural disaster cleanup project, adding: “…and it is unfortunate that some of the federal agencies are not conducting that cost/benefit analysis.”
So the argument finally boiled down to what appears to be one of the basic tenets of political division in America today: conservatives wanting to do something about climate change but not wanting to go broke in the process and Liberals ready to solve the problem but throwing fiscal responsibility out the window.
Perhaps the solution was touched upon in Nye’s opening statement, as he expanded on what he called the “opportunity for the United States to innovate,” and went on to posit “…that if you could build a better battery, a better way to store electricity, you would change the world. And if you were to do that in a way that you could manufacture and export it, you would also do very well financially.”
By Chuck Podhaisky