Cable news stations will often pit individuals with vastly different perspectives — most frequently a liberal and a conservative — against each other on a contentious issue in pursuit of journalistic objectivity.
On Saturday, CNN did just this, bringing Bill Nye, who hosts a television show about science, and William Happer, a Princeton professor and climate change denier, into conversation.
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This tactic backfired when Nye slammed the station for setting up the debate in a way that failed to reflect the scientific consensus on climate change.
“Much as I love the CNN, you’re doing a disservice by having one climate change skeptic and not 97 or 98 scientists or engineers concerned about climate change,” Nye told the anchors of CNN’s “New Day.”
A well-documented 2013 study done in collaboration with researchers from the United States, Australia, the UK, and Canada found that “97.1% [of scientists] endorsed the consensus position that humans are causing global warming.”
In the interview, Nye also made the argument that the March for Science in Washington D.C., as well as other cities across the country and around the world, had to do not only with science, but the economy.
“If you suppress science, if you pretend that climate change isn’t a real problem, you will fall behind other countries that do invest in science, that do invest in basic research,” Nye said.
Studies have shown that the cost of renewable energies like solar and wind have decreased significantly in the past decade in the United States. Worldwide, countries invested more money in “clean” energy than “dirty” energy for the first time ever in 2015, according to a study by the International Energy Agency.
But many Americans are still skeptical about climate change. In 2016, only 48% of US adults believed the earth was warming because of human activity.
Nye’s opponent in the debate, William Happer is a science advisor to President Donald Trump and a known climate change denier.
“There’s this myth that’s been developed around carbon dioxide that it’s a pollutant, but you and I both exhale carbon dioxide with every breath,” Happer said in the interview. “Carbon dioxide’s a perfectly natural gas — it’s just like water vapor. It’s something that plants love. They grow better with carbon dioxide and you can see the greening of the earth already from the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”
In the interview, Happer also referred to the Paris climate agreement “a silly thing” that “should be canceled,” and compared it to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler during the lead-up to World War II.
These comments led CNN anchor Victor Blackwell to question the appropriateness of Happer’s comparison.
“How is this comparable to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler?” he asked. “How is that an appropriate comparison?”
At the end of the interview, Nye admonished Happer for denying climate change with a memorable zinger.
“With some respect,” Nye said. “I encourage you to cut this out, so we can all move forward and make the United States a world leader in technology.”