Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bill Nye Should Be Able to Wallop Marsha Blackburn in Climate Science Debate

Image source: HBO via YouTube raw clip
Bill Nye on Real Time Friday Night, discussing climate change

This morning, incredibly (to many of us), Bill Nye squares off on 'Meet the Press' against Marsha Blackburn in a debate ('discussion') to do with climate change. While this encounter is fraught with peril (given likely 'sound bite' limits and that the moderator David Gregory is a Neolib tool) there is really no reason why Nye - if he commands the most basic facts - can't send Blackburn scurrying out the door - vanquished and yelping 'Vamanos!'  This is, of course, assuming the moderator sticks to the science!

For those who may not know,  Blackburn is a vocal skeptic and vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. which basically means she's a nobody. At least in the realm of genuine climate science. She has zero qualifications, likely not even a physics first degree, and merely being on some HOUSE energy committee means nada - given the House was taken over by the Tea Party in 2010. 

As a piece (by Alex Pareene) pointed out ,  Bill Nye in some ways also lacks creds in that his actual qualifications (before becoming the 'Science Guy') were in mechanical engineering. But let's bear in mind that the courses taken by a mechanical engineer are heavy in advanced math (differential equations, complex variables, etc.) as well as advanced physics (thermodynamics, mechanics, etc.) at least place him in league with climate scientists in being exposed to the scientific method, and being familiar with climate change.

Sadly, too many under-informed Americans (like Marsha Blackburn) aren't. One of the glaring deficiencies was revealed in a  2012 Washington Post-Stanford University poll, wherein Americans' average estimate of the share of scientists who believe global warming is happening due to human behavior was a measly "64 percent". (At least this was better than a  2009 Post-ABC poll  where only 36 percent said "most scientists agree with on another" that global warming is happening; and a majority sensed "a lot of disagreement."

Of course, this is nonsense. It also shows the stupidity of most polls on scientific issues, where the media source is basically asking the opinion of uninformed people - who likely have little or no scientific exposure. In the case of climate science consensus, for example, the uninformed public is way, way off.  An extensive review of nearly 12,000 published papers from 1991 to 2011 led by John Cook and Dana Nuccitelli found 97 percent of those taking a position on the issue endorsed the idea of human-caused global warming.

Meanwhile, in their analysis of the extent of scientific consensus on global warming (Eos Transactions, Vol. 90, No. 3, p. 22) , P. T. Doran and M. Kendall-Zimmerman found that (p. 24)

the debate on the authenticity of global warming and the role played by human activity is largely non-existent among those who understand the nuances and scientific basis of long-term climate processes.”

In their analytic survey for which 3146 climate and Earth scientists responded, a full 96.2% of specialists concurred temperatures have steadily risen and there is no evidence for cooling. Meanwhile, 97.4% concur there is a definite role of humans in global climate change.

In other words, the dissenters are mainly outliers, and often cranks. In many cases too, they have no formal climate science background.  This also feeds into a nonchalance to take serious action because of a cognitive disconnect. For example,  while Americans consistently support government regulation of greenhouse gases, Gallup polls since the late 1990s have found a clear majority of Americans doubting global warming will seriously threaten them during their lifetime, even as most perceive some effects today.

Of course, this is bollocks. Anyone who isn't at least 95 years old today, WILL see definite and severe effects of climate change, and it will turn over their lives and definitely threaten them.  These effects will also ramp up as more and more carbon is pumped into the atmosphere until we exceed the 551 gT limit noted by Bill McKibben, which will engender a 2C increase and catastrophic climate events. The existing polar vortex is only one of  those, which instability has given rise to the Arctic weather conditions recently and the immense amounts of snow. See e.g.

But this elicits the question of why have such an "exchange" at all if the conditions don't contribute to greater understanding or a clear winner.   First, the time allotment isn't sufficient. The 'Meet the Press' meet up is only now beginning at 9.20 a.m. so not even a full hour is allotted. This means there won't be ample time for Nye to knock down effluent such as recently spouted by a CATO drone, i.e. that "it's just that there's so many more people living in so many more you hear about more disasters."

Really? Then how account for the scores of receding, melting glaciers where NO people live? Images and videos not long ago made available in a PBS program, see:

Even five minutes into this 'debate' Blackburn has tried to invoke the non sequitur that neither she nor Nye are "science experts" and there is still "disagreement" even amongst those in Obama's own WH.  Seconds later she resorted to the "only tiny difference" shtick, saying we "have only gone from 0.032% to 0.040% CO2 concentration"-  not realizing that even a 0.001 % increase in CO2 is critical, as Gunther Weller showed in his Arctic melting studies from the 1980s.

She's  also again introduced the  recycled idiocy that "there's no consensus" - mentioning losers and outliers like Richard Lindzen and Judith Curry - though here David Gregory did interrupt to correct her- pointing out that naming a couple skeptics doesn't equate to there being no consensus.  For my takedowns of Lindzen and his rubbish, see:


Realizing she was busted there, Blackburn plied the usual ploy of: " Well, let's assume everything Bill says is right. Even director McCarthy from the EPA, in answering questions before our committee, said reaching all of the 26 U.S. goals is not going to have an impact globally"

Which is likely correct, given the U.S. is now outsourcing, exporting high polluting, cut-rate, climate damaging fuels to other nations! In other words, while we portray ourselves as the cleaner and cleaner nice guys, we are happy to foul up the rest of the planet as we embrace the error that "there's no fossil fuel we will leave in the ground" (See 'How the U.S. Exports Global Warming' in Rolling Stone, Feb. 13, p.32.)

As Nye's eyes rolled, she then added to that by averring "You don't make good policy based on unproven hypotheses". 

Nye did present a solid comeback, holding up a photo image of the melting Arctic (though I'd have preferred to see short video clips from the PBS documentary - as shown at the link above). He also noted that Blackburn's mention of a "slight change" is ludicrous, since it's actually a 30 percent increase and in the last few decades.

At this point, the discussion again veers to policy, and how costly implementing climate change responses will be.

The turf is mainly beneficial to Blackburn - harping endlessly on "cost benefit analysis" - but on the science Nye enjoys the edge.

However, David Gregory has brought up the sad polling stat (again) that global warming - climate change is only 19th on the list of Americans' concerns. (It ought to be first, or roughly equivalent to the Earth facing a planet killer asteroid.)

Nye's response is fair enough but not as hard hitting as it could be. In the end, this 'debate' wasn't nearly a patch on the one with Ken Ham -  because it wasn't a formal one with adequate time allotted and proper rules. However, it terms of the science and what needs to be done, Nye clearly got the better of Marsha Blackburn.

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