Monday, May 1, 2017

Global Warming: Bill Nye vs. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Let's talk about global warming. A couple of nights ago I watched the first episode of Bill Nye Saves the World on Netflix, and I got annoyed.

This is what I see. I do not doubt the existence of global warming. I also do not question the idea that we humans have been contributing to rising temperatures. But, wow, people can be so annoying about it!

There's one camp that chooses to believe that global warming doesn't exist at all. This tends to include conservatives who are really more concerned with the costs of cutting pollution than anything else. These people rely on obscure reports to support their beliefs (such as one or two years of increasing ice in the arctic), while at the same time ignoring tens if not hundreds of more reports to the contrary (such as decades of decreasing ice in the arctic). It's easy to get annoyed with this camp, especially now that they may have control of our government.

There's another camp that is just as annoying: the oh-my-gosh-we're-already-too-late-to-do-anything-about-it-and-we're-all-going-to-die-and-we-should-still-turn-off-all-our-lights-at-night camp. No matter the cost, we all need to switch over to renewable energy and make corporations pay. Really?

Where is the camp that prefers to take a more reasonable and realistic approach and come up with real solutions? Fortunately for us, this camp exists, and they're already hard at work. I have full confidence that we will find the solution with plenty of time to spare -- that is if we can keep those other two camps at bay.

Enter in Neil deGrasse Tyson's Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. I have already written a review here, but I'd like to revisit the global warming episode (#12. "The World Set Free"). Three years ago, I called it my favorite episode of the series. It's possibly the best presentation I've seen on global warming. Despite how much Tyson like to take little pot shots at religionists, this one episode was free of that, free of politics, and it simply presented the facts. It even demonstrated what's already being done, and what can be further done to effectively counter global warming at a relatively low price.

In other words, I strongly recommend that you catch it (still on Netflix right now).

And now I come to Bill Nye's version. Let me save you time, and recommend that you skip it -- that is unless you want to see what irritates me so much about the ultra-save-the-planet camp.

Bill did present a couple of ideas supporting global warming. Heating water in an experiment caused it to rise (barely). He presented one (count on my hand here -- one) example of water rising in Venice. He did explain on a really high level about how carbon gases (rhymes with glasses) traps heat, ... and that was about it. Nowhere near enough facts to convince anyone.

He spent the rest of the time whining and complaining about "deniers." He even spent a full minute (in the "Bill Takes a Minute" segment) giving a really heated rant about how stupid people are for ignoring all this stuff, and then when the minute was up, he caught his breath and said, "I feel better now." At the very end of the episode, he had everyone in the audience chanting, "I'm tired of talking about global warming, and I'm not going to stop until everyone listens!" Bill is tired that no one is doing anything about it!

Now, let me tell you how unproductive this episode was. Getting angry never convinces anyone except for those who already believe what you're trying to say. Bill's cute rants is nothing more than a variation on "preaching to the choir."

If anything, this presentation is likely to do more harm than good. Think about it. If you were to present something with very little facts, and then rant like a lunatic and call everyone "deniers" if they don't listen, how would you expect to be received? Yeah, people would tend to believe anything other than what's coming out of your mouth.

Most of all, I take offense at Bill Nye's claim that nobody is doing anything about it. That's just a bunch of crock. What planet is he not living on? How can he deny evidence to the contrary? Come on, Bill! Open your eyes and see what's going on in the good old USA.

On my last road trip out west last August, I passed by many wind farms that weren't there a couple of decades ago. More and more people are turning to power their homes with solar energy, and are choosing to buy fuel-efficient cars. People are experimenting with solar-cell roads and sidewalks that can gather energy over a large area while providing electricity, warmth, and even light.

Conservatives that we would expect to be greedy fuel consumers turn out to be green powerhouses, such as George W. Bush's Texas nearly-self-sustaining ranch compared with Al Gore's 20-room power-sucking mansion.

If no one is doing anything, then why are carbon emissions from the USA decreasing over the past decade?

A lot of people may choose not to believe in global warming, but you know what? I think our scientists will find an answer, and there will be enough of us to implement solutions, and everything will turn out okay, and ultimately, "deniers" will wonder what all the fuss was about.

That would be a great outcome! Bill Nye may get so angry at "deniers" for being so stupid that he collapses under a tree, but Neil deGrasse Tyson would clap his hands and praise humans for prevailing in the end.