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Climate Change: Disingenuous Contrarians or How the Debate Persists

When one looks at how the scientific community arrived at consensus about man-made climate change, the argument for it is very compelling. So that might lead one to ask, “Why is there even a debate about it at all?” Well, historically when emergent scientific truths are arrived at that threaten a big business, such as the Tobacco industry and their product’s link to cancer, those companies fight that belief amongst the American public.

For a generation, Bill Nye the Science Guy was a fixture on television, his eponymous show attempted to get children excited about science. However he remerged into the public sphere in a big way these last few years, arguing against Creationism and climate change denial.

While Nye has made a career in the show business world, he is a scientist at heart. He began his career as a mechanical engineer, but has since taught college-level classes on everything from astronomy to ecology. In an appearance on CNN’s resurrected shout-fest talk-show Crossfire in May, Nye faced off against conservative opinion machine S.E. Cupp and some economist.

The clip, posted below, is long but a perfect example of why the debate persists. Scientists often make predictions or educated guesses when reaching their conclusions, but those are only born from accepted (emergent) scientific truths. To someone like Nye, framing the conversation from a point-of-view that remains skeptical about climate change misses the point entirely.

“We have to agree on the facts,” Nye says a number of times in the clip, often being drowned out by another person talking (sometimes all three others). Climate change is never actually discussed, because scientists can’t let slide even the implication that it doesn’t exist.

In an appearance on Meet the Press in February, hapless anchor David Gregory also frames the questions in ways that give credence to the “debate” even though his is less egregious than on CNN.

On an episode of Real Time with Bill Maher, Neil Degrasse Tyson squared off (in a non-Crossfire kind of way) with GM executive Robert Lutz. After explaining his position on climate change, as eloquently as Tyson is known to do, Lutz simply dismisses his facts out-of-hand. When Maher quotes some facts from his notes, Lutz responds with, “That’s not so, Bill.”

The debate persists because there are no way to fact-check these statements in real time (no pun intended). If this were possible, the “that’s not so” defense would be eliminated. But in these areas, the people tasked with informing the public literally can’t get their facts straight.

About the author

Joshua M. Patton is a father, veteran, and writer living in Pittsburgh, PA. Along with news and current events, he writes about parenting, art, and personal stories. His serial fiction story "The Prophet Hustle" is available at JukePop.com and a forthcoming independent ebook about the cam-modeling industry "Dirty Little Windows" will be available later this summer.