tv Firing Line With Margaret Hoover PBS October 5, 2019 5:30am-6:01am PDT
>> he's the funny guy in a bow tie taking on a very serious subject, this week on "firing line. >> ♪ bill, bill, bil bill ♪ bill nye the science guy >> he introduced a generation of children to the wonders of science. >> some of thelectrons jump off. >> but now bill nye is changing his messagand his style. >> what i'm saying is, the planet's on [bleep] fire. >> he's taking on climate change.at and he's taking on the climate skeptics directly. >> i'm just saying you don't actually k because it's unknowable. >> this is how long it takes you to interrupt me.op >> with young demanding action... >> if you choose to fail us, i say we will nevergivyou. >> ...and politicians taking sides...en >> small, incrtal policyolutions are not enough. >> global warming and the --ho a lot of it's . it's a hoax. >> what does bill nyeha the science guy say now? >> "firing line
with margaret hoover" is made possible by... additional funding is proved by... derporate funding is pro by... >> bill nye, welcomto "firing line." >> thanks for having me. >> it's a pleasure to have you here. thousands of young people saw you for many, many years uyon "bill nye the science a program that you hosted on pbs that ran from 1993 to you yourself won seven emmys personally and your show won 18 emmys and it really informed a generation of youth to learn to love science. >> that was the goal, yes. g that was tl. >> so, you're trained as an engineer, and you discovered performanceco and dy very early in your life, and then you found, really,d th a calling as an educator. >> yes. but also, i was very concerned. i mean, understand, as a guy born in the u.s., an engineer, i was very concerned about
the future of thunited states. i justught the u.s. is going to heck, and the key to our future is the technology derived from science. and so, i was a ung guy, and i just realized that young people are the future. >> i want to play you a clip of you, your cameor appearance on jon oliver's ogram back in may. let's take a look. >> that was fun. >> do you have a fun experiment for us? >> here, i've got an experiment for you. safety glasses on. by the end of this century, if emissions keep rising, the average teerature on earth could go up another 4 to 8 degrees. is,t i'm sayin the planet's on [bleep] fire. there are a lot things c ld do to put it out. are any of them free? no, of course not!ee nothing's you idiots! grow the [bleep] up. you're not childn anymore. i didn't mind explaining photosynthesis to you when you were 12 but you're adults now, and this is an actual crisis!it go safety glasses off [bleep] [ laughter, cheers, applause ]hi
>> i we've all broken bill nye. >> so...au >> [ing ] i just want to say, that's objectively funny. even though i was the guy on the tv, it was pretty funny. >> but the point of it is serious. >> right.es. >> oh, man, i've been talking about climate change -- you know, my first kids book, published in 1993, is a reference to the greenhouse effect and how serious this could be. 1993 getting to be a while ago. >> so, i mean, the ideaof limate change is complex, but the science is actually pretty simple. so, for the sake of the audience, will y just explain, basically, why is climate change happening? >> climate change is happening because we, humankind, re has put in a deal more carbon dioxide and a great deal more methane and a few other gases than would normally be there withouus having invented the steam engine and burning coal for a couple
centuries -- and gas and oil. and the word "fossil" is an old latin word -- it means "buried." this is fuel that we dug up. so, it is ancient sunlight that has been captured chemically in ancient swamps and trees, buried, turned to coal, gas, and oil, dug up, and burned. so, we are burning it at a much, much faster rate than it was created. and so we've put a lot of these gases in the air that hold in heat. d this -- at this level, this is not rocket surgery. people have been talkingor about thisecades. james hansen testified in front of congre in 1988 -- u.s. congress -- in 1988 about this. >> jim hansen did testify in 1988. he was testifying in front of a senate panel, and the next day, it was on the cover of the new york times, which was the first time imate change was actuall reported on as a leading story. so, let's talk aboutlimate change is showing up now.l,
>> so, w couple things that have been predicted for a long time are happening. first of all, the world's getting warmer. 2016 was the warmest year, but it looksike 2019 will be the warmest year. the other thing that's happenine now thatrybody's has been to tie extreme weather even like hurricanes -- like hurricanes, like catasophic heat events, like extremely cold events, like a lot of extra snow events -- tie any of these things to climate change. >> is that correct? >> well, yeah. this has been predicted for years. but nohe model is getting sophisticated enough to show or predi that a hurricane like michael or dorian is gonna move slowly and stay there a long time and dump a lot of water. and so -- >> and because t ocean is warmer... >> the ocean is warmer,
so there's more energy. >> more energy, and they have more water. >> when the ocean's warmer, e molecules are moving faster, they push each other apartch o faster,th anair is more turbulent, and the storms are bigger. r d people have been predicting this cades, but now people are able to tie thisathematical model to what's actually happening. >> so, can we talk aut worst-case scenarios? the worst-case scenarios, in terms of what could happen to the earth in the worst models, are pretty "biblical proportions," right? you have migrations of people that could be shed out of their homelands 'cause of rising temperatures or rising seas, the disappearance of resources, the mass extinction of species. >> all true. all big dogge deals. >> how do you deal with this notion at, for young people, the scenarios can be so daunting that you can turn them off for fear of not knowingac how toe it? >> real young people. people that are in schoolt ar right no they're fed up.
they're not gonna put up with this stuff. vod when they come -- when get to be ong age, they're gonna make changes, people. look out. >> i want to show you a clip of a young person who actually made news is last week, a swedish activist nam greta thunberg, o said this at the u.n. let's take a look. >> this is all wrong. i shouldn't be up here.ld i she back in school on the other side of the ocean.s yet you all come to us young people for hope. how dare you! we will not let you get away with this. right here, right no is where we draw the line. the world is waking up, and change is coming whether you like it or not. >> so, what was your reaction when that video went viral? >> right on, greta. right on. >> and you -- do you believe that it ise as d she articulates? >> yeah, sure. yes. i don't an to be dismissive, but i've been --
people on the science sideee of this havetalking about this for decades. and now the public consensus is realizing the significance of it. >> i mean, you're a scientist. i'm certain you have knowled that the models, depending on how you model it, can have emely biblical results, or they can be sort of moderaty bad results, or the models can show they continue on the current trend line, which is bad. >> yeah. >> so there's varying degreesryn of what could happen. is there a risk at -- with the alarmism, that you could actually slowown the kind of progress you hope to achieve? >> so, in the case of greta thunberg and the united nations, e intergovernmental panel on climate change s been quite conservative. it's been scientists arguing about stuff actually underplaying the risks. >> so what does that mean? walk us through what that looks
like. >> what it's gonna be is,ti popus in the developing world in asia, south asia, sea-level rise comes up in their relatively lowland countries. and they're gonna go somewhere, and where are they gonna go? and in the case of what we nominally call the middle east, oughts that have become more frequent and more severe, have disenfranchised young people, and this leads to trouble.so anf you'resking us, on the science-education side, the situation's generally worse. than is presen >> so, by critics, you've been criticized for debating climate deniers by your supporters, you've been heralded for takinon people who are the deniers. so how useful is it --so i mean, you debated on "the o'reilly factor" with bill o'reilly. when you're debating the deniers, howoes it help? >> your audience is not that guy. >> how does it help spread your message? >> that when people watch it,th first time, i say to everybody, strongly that's inconsistent
with science, it takes a coue years. you're not gonna change your mind in a day. it takes hearing the message over and over again. >> what does it feel like u'en debating the deniers? does it make your blood pressure go up? >> oh, yeah.re you have tly focus. and what they want, i believe, is for you to say something you'll regret. >> like what? >> i don't know. calling that person names. p >> i'd like y a clip from a famous debate that you had with a creationist, ken ham, on evolution back in 2014. let's take a look. >> what, if anything, would ever change your m >> well, the answer to that question is, i'm a christian. and so, as far as the word of god is concerned, no, no one's ever gonna convince me that the word of god is not true. >> mr. nye? >> we would just need one piece of evidence.ee we wouldthe fossil that
swam from one layer to another. we would need evidence that rock layers can somehow form in just 4,000 yes instead of the extraordinary amount -- we would need evidence that somehow you can reset atomic clocks and keep neutrs from becoming protons. bring on any of those things an you would change me immediately. >> most ople agree that you won that debate, except the flip side of wt happened is that it generated an enormous amount of attention for mr. ham, who was then able to go raise crney to build a noah's ark in order to teactionism. >> so, this is... you're right. >> you do this often, though.eb you'reing people who are the naysayers who have their own sort of entrenchedstituency, and there's a real question about whether h you're gone the ability to change hearts and minds. >> my audience, for that debate, was not ken ham. >> no, of course not. >> my audience is the future.ce and so i get correspondence all the time, every month --
or, week -- from people who were enabled or empoweredth by watchin debate. >> should families be able whatever they want ifen it's inconsistent with science? >> well, i guess so. >> so, well, then, what about the states? should the states be able to regulate the sciencef curriculumligious schools? >> well, what we want in the science teachers association are national standards, based on improving the quality of life for everyone. and, this isn't my idea. if you go to article 1, section 8 of the u.s. constitution, clause 8, it refers to the progressci ofce and useful arts. it does not refer to -- in fact, they went to a lot of trouble to leave religion out of the constitution. and thwere compromises made,s and therference to god and stuff, but they went to a lot of trouble to get religion out of there becae they all, in some -- the founding fathers and the
women that supported them were from traditions where h religi caused trouble. >> so it sounds like you're making the argument that the founders' beli was consistent with this argument that there should be a national standard.pr >> oh, yeah --ress of science d useful art"! >> that would absolutely allow a ate to regulate the curriculum of religious schools. >> well... what we want dse national science stand so, if you go to a school and they teach you one thing about religion, about the age of the earth, but you have to pass a national test or the equivalent of a national test that features accepted scien, get the right answerat least when you take the test. >> so you're in favor of it. >> well, sure. >> but are you uncomfortable saying that the states should bt abmandate a certain set of standards for religious... >> well, it just ticks people off wh you tell them what to do. you want to sell them on the idea that science, vaccinations addressing climate change, electrifying all ground transportation, priding clean water, renewably produced electricity, access to the
inrnet, raising the standa of living of women and girls around the world, is in everybody's best interests. >> so, even if it ticks them off, it's worth doing? what if they don't buy the idea? >> okay, well, so, you want to show them the evidence... repeatedly. >> and hope that they voluntarily choose to incorporate it. >> ...make an argument that they will eventually embrace.ll e >> do you think that ken ham is gonna voluntarily embrace that idea? >> no, but his -- i think he will have fer and fewer recruits over the coming decades. >> ah. ah.il >>predicts that, in the next 20 years, science will win out -- not in the next two years, but in the next 20. >> all right, so i want to read mpu a tweet from president t "brutal and extended cold blast could shatter all records" -- all caps "whatever happened hateto global warming?" how would bill n debate president trump? >> i don't --ng chanis mind -- well, his mind changes quite frequently, apparently, whoever he spoke with last influences him.flue so, at i would say is,
"ask your daughter about climate change." that's how i would get to him. and this is what i say all the time about joe bastardi, marc morano, toe some names -- what will your kids g and yondkids say to you? and this is what greta thunberg's message is. "we're fed up, people. we're 16 years old. we're not gonna put up with this anymore, you" >> in 1990, willf. buckley jr., who hosted this program... >> william f. buckley. >> yeah. he actuly -- maybe was early to this debate for conservatives -- he invited a leading environmentalist and a leading major coal producer to the program to debatete the pros and cons of coal. i wa you to take a look. >> when you burn coal or oil or natural gas, although in smaller quantities, you put out carbon dioxide, which is n in the short term toxic, but which does expose us to a risk of basically destabilizing global climate. and that's a cost. you can argue about how big a cost it is, d i think that's a reasonable argument. we don't know exactly.
but hink the lesson of wt happened with acid rain is... >> "we" being the sierra club?cl >> the sierr. and i think environmentalists, in general. ...that when we see a problem like this, we ought to begin buying a small insurance policy early instead of waiting until we have a crisis. the problem we have with acid rain is, it's going to be much more expensive to clean it up now than it would have been if we had started in 1981ca when we first aware of the problem and put in place a mo program at low costs tt could have protected the environment over a longer period of time and at a much lower to cost to the economy. but that's not the way we do things. we.ike to wait for the cris and then we have a crisis solution. >> that's not the sira club, right? >> no, but that's the american way, that's the american way >> i mean, with respect to -- is that where we are with global warming? i mean, is thatth american way, in your view, that we have to wait till global warmina crisis -- is really a crisis, before we get serious about it? >> no. no. the really amazing thing about the currt administration, to
me, is the number of people that t president will be able to find who are like-minded and anti-cmate change and pro-fossil fuel industry d anti-environment. >> do you think that we're making progress,f in termsderstanding that climate change is a real issue facing the world?bs >>utely. the polls -- and i -- all i do is read them. don't conduct them. there's something like 80% of the u.s. population is concerned about climate change. soanere's a claim for you to evaluate -- in 2020, a conservative might be able to run for president whdoes not have a climate policy -- no climate policy, just ignore it -- 2020, could be. 2024 -- maybe. but in 2028, everybody's gonna have to have a climate policy -e conservand progressive. >> i actually -- i think it' gonna happen sooner than that. >> and wall hope so. >>l, no, it's -- look, it seems to me that attitudes are changing if 66% of americane
eve climate change is caused by human activity, certainly, i can understand why you would think the current leadership the republican party wouldn't be interested in a climate agenda or running on a clima platform, but even major oil corporations -- exxonmobil -- have come out in favor of a carbon tax.ha >>would be great. a carbon tax would be great. >> and, yeah -- they're in favor of a carbon tax. you have republican secretarsver of previous administrations, from james baker to george shultz to hank paulson -v are you in of a carbon tax as a conservative approach to addressing climate change? >> just carefuw the oil industry h couched the carbon tax...ideas. that would be great.th >> eve they're in favor of it, i'm sure you would -- i'm sure you would probably quble with some of the details. doesn't it demonstrate... >> oh, it'd be great. >> ...a chbege in attitude? >> the word "tax" is a fabulous word,ru but justinau, prime minster of canada, got in huge trouble for accidently saying... >> saying the word "taxes." r so how about the word "fee"?
it's a three-letrd. we'll have a carbon fee. so, when you produce carb-- en your business produces carbon, the cost oyour product goes up a little bit. this would discourage the production of -- p the reckleductio of carbon or methane -- carbon dioxider methane -- and it would encourage innovation and conservationen and effi. and this is the free market. this should be a wonderful, happy thing. >>o, i mean, it seems to me that the debate has shifted -- at least, amongst sort of thinking, engaged policymakers -- away from sort of the dynamic of the bill nye/ken ham --ot believe orelieve -- to a, "this is happening,"d e debate is really, how do you mitigate it and tackle it and the varying degrees to which one should spend money on doing it, hokly or expeditiously or over more of a long-term,as incremental -- it seems to me that that's
the dynamic of debate now,e rather than chotomy of the deniers. >> well, i hope you're right, but current administration has just found all two dozen deniers that stilk he earth, and so they all got them working for him. and as you point out, this can't -- this can't last. you can't deny science,de you know, for very long without it catching up with you and strongly believe we have to view the earth as our home or our house and that we are in charge -- humans are in charge. and this may not have been our choice. and i'm an rei member, and i love the outdoors. and we all talk about wanting to leave the outdoors alone and it's nat and this anthat, and that's a lot - there's a huge amount to that. but we are in control. and so we have -- in my opinion, we have to take a top-down or much more centralizedap oach to managing the earth's climate
and our place here on earth. and this requires international cooperation and everybody acknowledging that climate change is a serious problem >> we are a leader in the...t. >> well, we want to -- i want us to be. >> ...in the carbon-ion space. i mean, the united states has reduced its carbon emissions... >> yeamo >> . than any other country. i mean, china's responsible for 30% of the world's carbon emissions. with thitension of these other post-industrialized nations, who actually are worse offenders by a sigficant margin than the united states and convince >> okay, so, in the case>> os? of china, they have a situation nower people can't be outside in their capital city on certain days of the year 'cause the air is so bad. people aren't gonna put with that. and this whole -- this whatabout-- there's an expression, which i really like -- "whataboutism." >> yeah, but i'm not doing whataboutism. i'm actually asking,ac like, if we'reg -- if you're looking at
greta thunberg, and she's saying, "shame on yoall because i'm gonna have to inherit a world that has moreio carbon emi and more pollutants than you guys had," and we are working with these partners across the world, and we'rnot encouraging or helping -- what do we do about the ones who are even worse offenders than us that actually have no interest or aim to stop burning coal in the next 10 years >> what makes you say they have no interest? they're caught up in the same thing. well, this is the thing. there is -- india, for example, will connue to burn coal until 2030, at least. china is also continuing to burn coal for at least the next decade. so, how do you look at greta thunbergs of the world and say, "we're doing our part, but we can't -- we can't do ut them"?a >> so, while china's also the world's largest manufacturer -- china at large -- manufacturers in china are the largest manufacturers of solar panels. >> ty are, but does that mitigate the fact that they're still burning coal? >>l, so, you guys, let's address these problems, and so, by making -- >> "how do you do it?" is my
question. >> well... messing up decades-negotiated internl trading agreements is probably not the best wayto nfluence another government, for example. so, we got to convince or show everybody that t we're all s together and solve these problems.e th i want us to be leaders. >> mm-hmm, mm-hmm. >> and so, let's lead. and we can do this. >> do u think that addressing it will be solved through technological innovatiin that there's an argument that we're pretty clever animals. we've worked our way out of binds we've been the past previously, and we'll probably think through and create andnnovate our way out of this one, as well. and there are really interesting sort of technological ideas, hypotheses, that are really thing looked at -- sprayin atmosphere with particles that can -- >> that is madness.
if you spray --, of course, but >> why is it madness? >> okay, so, it's just -- there's a wordhich is -- you can understand it without much thinking -- "geoengineering."a we're gogineer the whole earth, okay? in the atmosphereles to reflect sunlight, what if there's some globalonflict? what if people start pulling out p treaties? what if people spplying? what if -- and then you stop putting thrticles in the atmosphere. then you stopol g the earth off, and all this carbon dioxide, methane you put ine in the meantw just sends this greenhouse effect into an overwhelming, very fast climate ---- much faster than it would havebe -- climate change. >> okay, so, bottom line -- do you think we can innovate our way out of this? >> yeah, but it's gonna take working the problem from both ends or everend. it's gonna take innovation. it's gonna take investment. it's gonna take educat and you can't -- when you -- we have to stop
burning fossil fuels, and that's not somethingon that's be accomp beed technically. it's gonna take political decisions. >> right. >> and the sacrifices arely reard for people of my age or your age to really grasp. you know, i try to understandtr it, i do my best, but we can solve enormous problems. and my three ideas -- you know, you can read lists of5 things we need to do or 54 things we need -- >> you have three. >> try three -- water, renewably produced,le reliablericity, access to the internet. gsif we had those three th for everybody on earth, we would change the world. but this is gonna take erybo working togeth accepting a that the earth is it. c l sagan said, this is where we make our standv there's nory coming over the hill. >> there's no planet b. >> there's no planet b. t is is it. so let's go, people. let's work together and change the world.