How Media Polarization Warped the Climate Change Debate

Television Host and Science Educator

On February 27, Fox News presenter Tucker Carlson invited Bill Nye onto his show to talk about climate change, only to yell over him, belittle his qualifications, and bafflingly interrupt answers to demand answers. Here, Bill Nye addresses the heated exchange and how the polarization of the media has skewed the climate change “debate”. He also wonders why climate deniers won’t put their money where their mouth is, because Nye is ready to make a wager, and has publicly been offering for years—with no takers. Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.

Bill Nye's most recent book is Unstoppable: Harnessing Science to Change the World.

  • Transcript


Tucker Carlson: So much of this you don’t know. You pretend to know but you don’t know, and you bully people who ask you questions.

Bill Nye: I really have to disagree with you. I’ve spent a lot of time with this topic.

Tucker Carlson: I’m open minded. You are not.

Bill Nye: Mr. Carlson.  What happened to you man?  You used to be affable.  You used to be friendly.  You used to wear a nice tie.  Now you wear one of those bibs and I don’t know.  So I don’t know what happened to you man but I want you to consider that from a scientific perspective pick the number you like, 97 percent of the world’s scientists, very close to 100 percent of the world’s scientists are very concerned about climate change.  And so why aren’t some people concerned about it?

When media outlets were allowed to be consolidated in the1980s.  Then it developed these two factions like I don’t remember it having.  And by that I think two factions are a normal course of events where you have males and females, you have boys and girls whether it’s fruit flies or dandelions or you and me.  And in the World Cup soccer you end up with two teams.  The World Series baseball you end up with two teams.  It’s really hard to have three teams.  And two political parties nominally.  So somebody who understands this better than I do may observe that the media have divided into two camps.  But from our point of view on the science and engineering side you’ve got to respect the facts at some level.  You’ve got to respect what is scientifically provable.  And then speaking of authorities and mistrust of authorities, the crowd at the inauguration.  It was an objectively smaller crowd than the crowd the next day at the women’s march.

If someone asserts that the crowd is bigger when it was clearly smaller then everything else he or she says is subject to question.  And this had led to a lot of trouble.  So I think though that built into the U.S. government which includes the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is freedom of the press.  Built in is change.  So I’m very hopeful, I’m optimistic that things will change.  That my understanding is subscriptions to so called mainstream media, Washington Post, New York Times and so on have gone up in response to this approach to objective truths.  So that will probably be to the good.  But how fast will it happen and what will go wrong in the meantime?  These are big questions. 

And then as far as my thing with Mr. Carlson, I don’t know.  He used to not interview that way.  He used to not just talk the whole time.

Tucker Carlson: At what point would it have changed? And I’m just saying you don’t actually know because it’s unknowable. 

Bill Nye: This is how long it takes you to interrupt me, OK. It takes you quite a bit less than six seconds. I’d go back again in a second Mr. Carlson.  If you had me on again I will come right back on.  Bring it on man.  And you know what else Mr. Carlson, I’ll bet you $10,000 that 2010-2020 will be the hottest decade on record.  I offered a bet of $10,000 to Joe Bastardi who is a Fox news contributor and Marc Morano who I’m not sure is a contributor but used to appear on your station routinely, your network routinely.  I bet them each $10,000 bucks 2010-2020 would be the hottest decade on record.  I bet them each another $10,000 bucks on the decade, $10,000 bucks on the year 2016.  2016 would have been among the top ten hottest years on record.  Wait, there’s more.  2016 was the hottest year on record.  And your guys, the people that Fox News heretofore supports in this would not take either bet - $40,000.  Wouldn’t take the bet.  Could have been theirs.  I’m good for it.