On the heels of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s impassioned warning that climate change is pushing our planet towards it’s tipping point, Bill Nye and Tennessee congresswoman Marsha Blackburn went head-to-head on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to discuss the issue.
Nye, the 58-year-old actor who recently made headlines for squaring off with creationist Ken Ham during a televised debate over evolution, maintained the stance that climate change is undeniable and that the vast majority of scientists agree that it’s caused by human activity. He accused politicians who, like Blackburn, argue that changes in weather are not signs of global climate change of casting doubt on the public during an age when the question of whether or not climate change is occurring has already been answered.
"We have overwhelming evidence that climate is changing," Nye said. "That you cannot tie any one event to that is not the same as doubt about the whole thing."
Blackburn, a republican and Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee whose previous remarks about the “business” of climate change drew the ire of former Vice President Al Gore, denied that there is a consensus among scientists. Blackburn, whose position in congress gives her influence over domestic environmental policy, said that responding to climate change will involve weighing the cost of regulating carbon emissions in the U.S. – something she has previously voted against – with the cost of keeping the status quo.
“One of the things that we have to remember is cost-benefit analysis has to take place,” Blackburn said. “And it is unfortunate that some of the federal agencies are not conducting that cost-benefit analysis.”
At one point during the debate, Blackburn called into question Nye’s credentials, saying Nye’s career as an actor and engineer does not make him an authority on climate change.
“Neither [Bill Nye] nor I are a climate scientist,” she said. “He is an engineer and actor, I am a member of Congress. And what we have to do is look at the information that we get from climate scientists. There is not agreement around the fact of exactly what is causing this.”
Nye retorted that as an elected official, it’s Blackburn’s duty to “change things, not deny what’s happening.”
”It would be everybody’s interests to just get going,” he said. “The more we mess around with this denial, the less we’re going to get done.”
In 2009, Blackburn challenged Vice President Al Gore about his stake in the green energy business during a congressional hearing on climate change.
“The legislation that we are discussing here today, is that something that you are going to personally benefit from?” the congresswoman asked.
Al Gore replied: “If you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don’t know me.”
That same year, Blackburn voted against a bill that would have established a cap and trade system under which the U.S. government would set a limit on the total amount of greenhouse gases that can be emitted nationally. The bill, known as the American Clean Energy Security Act of 2009, ultimately passed through the House but was defeated in the Senate.
On Sunday, Kerry spoke before college students in Jakarta, Indonesia about the urgency of addressing climate change. He even criticized deniers of climate change for misdirecting the conversation.
"We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts," Kerry told the audience at a U.S. Embassy-run American Center in a shopping mall. "Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits."