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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Bill Nye really is a science guy

Earlier this month, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made a speech contesting the effects of human activities on Earth’s climate. She made the claim that Bill Nye, who has been adamantly trying to convince the public that global warming is a very real threat, is “as much of a scientist” as she is. She went on to say, “He’s a kids’ show actor; he’s not a scientist.”

This could not be further from the truth. While Nye is best known for his children’s educational television show, “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” what most people don’t realize is that he earned a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Cornell University and worked as an engineer at Boeing for several years before creating his TV show. He developed hydraulic pressure resonance suppressors that are still used in Boeing 747 airplanes today.

Even during his entertainment career, Nye continued working and teaching as an engineer. He received honorary doctorate degrees from schools such as Johns Hopkins and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and helped develop sundials for the Mars exploration rovers.

Palin, on the other hand, earned a bachelor’s degree in communication-journalism from the University of Idaho and her entire career has revolved around politics. She is absolutely not “as much of a scientist” as Nye.

While he is not a climate scientist, and has never claimed to be, Nye bases his statements the research of other scientists. Ninety-seven percent of peer-reviewed climate research supports the idea that human activities such as greenhouse gas emissions, are in fact causing climate change. This evidence has existed for years, and has been proven time and time again, yet there are still conservatives like Palin who choose to completely disregard the facts.

Much of this controversy over whether global warming is occurring seems to stem not from scientific evidence, but from economic factors. As Nye said, “I think it’s a partisan issue, if I understand it, because the conservatives have decided to embrace money from the fossil fuel industry.”

Most of the arguments made by anti-global warming theorists can be refuted by scientific studies. For example, they claim that we do not know for sure if climate change is even caused by humans. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, however, has stated with 95 percent confidence that humans have been the major contributors to global warming since the 1950s. The IPCC is not just one study, but a summary of the major research in the field from all over the world.

These are not opinions. They are facts.

One meteorologist, Joe Bastardi, an outspoken contrarian of global warming, challenged Nye to prove the connection between carbon dioxide emissions and climate change and to predict a trend for future years. Nye took the challenge and raised the stakes by betting Bastardi $20,000 that 2016 would be in the top-10 hottest years recorded and the decade 2010-2020 would be the hottest decade ever recorded. Does Bastardi trust his beliefs more than the entire scientific community enough to bet that kind of money?

Politicians can call global warming a conspiracy theory all they want, but that does not change the fact that this threat is backed by solid scientific evidence. Palin seems to be putting a lot of weight on her opinion that Nye is not a real scientist, but what about the hundreds of real scientists who have done research to prove that climate change exists?

Nitpicking at one person’s credentials will not strengthen your argument, and will not lessen the gravity of the situation. 

Follow Apoorva Bhaskara on Twitter.

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