Neil deGrasse Tyson Infuriates Climate Change Deniers

Astrophysicist and host of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Neil deGrasse Tyson infuriated climate change deniers on Sunday when a climate change-focused episode of Cosmos was aired on Fox and the National Geographic channel on Monday. Cosmos is no stranger to stirring up controversy among certain sectors of the population who disbelieve climate change, the Big Bang, and evolution, all subjects that the show, originally created and hosted by Carl Sagan, has now touched upon.

The 13-episode series will conclude this coming Sunday by airing Unafraid of the Dark, and has seen remarkably high viewership. The climate change episode tied ABC’s The Bachelorette in ratings among advertisers’ “key demographic,” young adult viewers. Tyson notes that the most important fact is that although “the ratings are exceeding our expectations,” the show demonstrates that science is “trending in our culture.”

Tyson made an important distinction in Sunday’s episode between weather and climate change. Certain infuriated deniers have attempted to refute climate change pointing to weather patterns, corrected by the host in Sunday’s Cosmos episode. One of the more infamous examples of this sort of denial was Donald Trump’s tweet earlier in the year which included the statements “Our planet is freezing … our GW scientists are stuck in ice.”

Tyson used a visual analogy to distinguish between short-term weather patterns and long-term trends in climate change by walking his dog on a beach. In the analogy the leashed dog is weather and Tyson is climate, comparing the meandering pooch as weather making short-term erratic changes with Tyson’s consistent path being the long-term trend of a changing climate. This clip in the episode highlights the fact that although winters may continue to be inconveniently cold, at least for now, climate change is predicted by major scientific research conducted by institutions such as NASA and the World Meteorological Organization to have very serious ramifications in the not-so-distant future.

The dog on the beach analogy was a simple reminder of the distinction of weather and climate. The episode beyond that visual was more characteristically expansive in its explanation of climate change, looking at the oxygenation of the atmosphere through burgeoning plant life in the Carboniferous period 300 million years ago, and other ancient periods of dramatic climate change including ice ages, continental drift, and asteroid impacts.

“We just can’t seem to stop burning … coal … oil and gas,” Tyson stated in the episode. “If we could, we’d be home free.” The episode began with a trip in the “Ship of the Imagination” to Venus, our sister planet, to review what its runaway greenhouse effect did to the inner solar system planet. The planet is depicted with boiling oceans and “sickening yellow” skies. Tyson’s predecessor Carl Sagan extensively studied the greenhouse effect of Venus, and planetary fates as determined by megaforces.

Tyson appeared on MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes the day following Fox’s broadcasting of Cosmos. In the interview, while Tyson affirmed that in the United States people are free to “believe what you want,” the problem is when governance is not “based on objective and verifiable truths.” While last Sunday’s Cosmos episode was predictably infuriating to some climate change deniers, Tyson points to a surefire way to get more people to come around to its acceptance: “People beginning to lose their wealth.”

By Jesse Eells-Adams

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27 Responses to "Neil deGrasse Tyson Infuriates Climate Change Deniers"

  1. Ivan Kirkpatrick   June 9, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Climate change is not really the issue. The climate is always changing. The theory that manmade CO2 is causing global warming is based on unproved and arguably weak data. How much do you want to spend on CO2 reduction only to find out that was not the problem?

    • Bart   June 9, 2014 at 1:10 pm

      It takes 2 studies to get a drug approved by the FDA, requiring at least 30 subjects each.

      There are over 10,000 studies proving the link of CO2 and global warming, based on decades of direct measurements up to millions of years of paleoclimate data from what the World Meteorological Organization calls its 50 Essential Climate Variables.

      You can call this unproved or arguably weak.. how?

      British Columbia has a full-ranging CO2 reduction plan including a carbon tax that returns 100% of all its revenues to the taxpayers directly, economically outperformed every state in the USA while dropping emissions per person since 2007, and shows that you can get CO2 reduction while strengthening the economy.

      There are more studies proving action on ending pollution from burning coal and oil helps the economy than prove looking the other way is somehow good for anyone.

    • David   June 17, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      This is all very profound. Now I’ll lay out the facts for you:

      Fact: The earth’s climate is warming at a rate and into a temperature range never before experienced by homo sapiens.

      Fact: This is primarily due to increasing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

      Fact: The greenhouse gas qualities of carbon dioxide have been known for over a century and its role in the current warming of the planet has been confirmed through multiple lines of research. The greenhouse gas qualities of carbon dioxide have been known for over a century. In 1861, John Tyndal published laboratory results identifyin­­­­­­­­­g carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas that absorbed heat rays (longwave radiation)­­­­­­­­­. Since then, the absorptive qualities of carbon dioxide have been more precisely quantified by decades of laboratory measuremen­­­­­­­­­ts (Herzberg 1953, Burch 1962, Burch 1970).

      Human CO2 emissions upset the natural balance of the carbon cycle. Man-made CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by a third since the pre-indust­­­­­­­­­ri­a­l era, creating an artificial forcing of global temperatur­­­­­­­­­es which is warming the planet. While fossil-fue­­­­­­­­­l derived CO2 is a very small component of the global carbon cycle, the extra CO2 is cumulative because the natural carbon exchange cannot absorb all the additional CO2.

      Fact: There isn’t a single credible scientific body that has studied the issue that disputes the fact that human industrial activity is primarily responsible for the current warming trend throughout the world and is not warning us that it presents dire consequences for all of us if the concentrations of atmospheric CO2 are not reduced.

      Fact: The growing problem of ocean acidification is caused by increasing concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and this poses dire consequences for the health of our oceans.

      • Ruth Bodeman   July 29, 2014 at 12:30 pm

        David: Thank you very much for pointing out the REAL facts to ‘deniers’.

      • Billy   August 16, 2014 at 12:41 pm

        Fact: In the 1970s they claimed that the emissions were going to cause a new ice age.

        Fact: A decade or so later things started getting warmer and they claimed the emissions were causing global warming. The icecaps are going to melt and flood large areas of land.

        Fact: Another decade or two later things start getting cooler again and wouldn’t you know it, we are now causing “climate change”.

        Question: Have you ever heard the story of the boy that cried wolf?

        Fact: In the beginning, the Earth was a molten ball of rock. It was also once nearly, if not completely, covered with ice. Humans were not burning fossil fuels for either of these, yet they still happened.

        Fact: Man made ice age, global warming, or climate change is theory based on their study and belief not fact.

        You can’t prove it as fact either way, because the future hasn’t happened yet.

  2. Rob   June 9, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Never heard of this Tyson guy.

  3. Bart   June 9, 2014 at 9:22 am

    I can see that some comments come from the infuriated, the disappointed, the surprised, the people who are full of suppositions, or not.

    They mention the common fallacies many have pushed for years on their own uncritical followers, questions long ago addressed by scientists, such as the role of water vapor or clouds, the feedback mechanism that makes CO2 come out of the oceans when the tilt of the Earth heats them, perhaps they will get around eventually to other misleadingly worded trivia about albedo, convection, ocean currents, solar flares or those other short term influences that by themselves are little more than the wagging of the tail of a dog on a leash.

    Watch the man, not the dog.

    The man, the self-made man, is trending hotter.

    Scientists don’t say this to get bigger grants or television shows or because they support a particular politics: they say this because simple arithmetic, simple observations, and simple reasoning that they have in great numbers dedicated their lives to improving point this way.

    So yes, some regions and some times of year in some regions get colder or wetter in the short term as the dog’s nose explores the extreme low side of the leash, attracted by volcanoes or little ocean wiggle lines or sunspots, for a time.

    The man continues on a path paved in coal and oil, burning up the air.

    You’d think that would infuriate people more.

  4. Daniel   June 9, 2014 at 6:42 am

    To anyone out there who still denies that climate change is real, and that mankind has no effect on the climate: THE KING HAS NO CLOTHES……

  5. Amanda   June 9, 2014 at 6:40 am

    One of my best friends studied meteorology, and I have extensive conversations with him regarding this topic. Firstly, if you do not have a degree in this topic, I feel you do not reserve the right to even speak of it. That being said, anyone that denies this is man made, denies that we are on the wrong path is a fool. Your children, and your childrens children will likely see the beginning of the end of this world as we know it. And we can blame no one but ourselves….but as selfish as modren day humans are, what do they care for those they don’t even know yet…

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