A live conversation was streamed on Facebook on Monday morning which involved Science educator Bill Nye and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders discussing climate change. During the two hours that followed the interview, 2 million people had viewed it, bringing in about 100,000 “reactions” and 52,000 “shares.” The chat was announced in advance on Sunday on the senator’s Facebook page, which prompted a huge number of fans to eagerly anticipate the live stream sit-down. One person on Facebook called Dave Phillips said, “Bernie Sanders and Bill Nye. Two men who expertly terrify conservatives with facts. This will be epic!”
The former presidential candidate has one of the strongest records on climate change in the Senate, and therefore has been highly critical in the past about President Trump‘s cabinet appointees, including US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt. Sanders began the live chat by saying, “We have a president of the United States who thinks that climate change is a ‘hoax’ emanating from China. We have a new administrator of the EPA—somebody who I strongly opposed—who is in the process of dismembering environmental protection regulations in this country. What are the short and long term implications of a president who has that view?”
Nye responded by claiming that the long term implications of global warming are “potentially catastrophic”, and that “the problem is the speed the world is warming and the rate climate is changing.” He then described how coastal cities, including New York, will have to spend billions of dollars to build more seawalls to avoid future extreme weather events such as Hurricane Sandy, which he listed as one of the short term effects of climate change. He also went on to explain that the effects will be “much more difficult” for people in the developing world, who will be forced to migrate, which could then cause conflict due to a lack of resources.
Nye, the former host of the children’s science program Bill Nye the Science Guy, has become a frequent and prominent commentator on scientific topics, with particular focus on climate change. During the interview, they discussed climate change deniers, to which Nye claimed that they suffer from cognitive dissonance, and described how these people have a psychological disorder preventing them from facing reality.
The online interview went on for half an hour, and also discussed the fossil fuel industry’s tremendous influence in politics, transforming the transportation industry and getting more people interested in science by promoting space exploration. Nye criticised President Trump’s recent 2-for-1 executive order that requires federal agencies to repeal two old regulations for every new one. He said, “Who came up with that number? Regulations are like a machine. You don’t just take parts away from the machine just because.”
Referencing the Trump administration’s notorious crackdown on the EPA and climate scientists, Sanders asked, “What is the role of scientists today? [The] people who are searching for truth are under pressure.” To which Nye responded, “I have close friends who work in climate science and they are very concerned about their data being reviewed or erased. They are also concerned about their jobs.”
The talk then concluded that the best way to change the minds of those who do not believe in climate change is to convince them of the economic potential of renewable energy. He used The Solutions Project as an example, which is a state-by-state roadmap to convert the country to 100% renewables by 2050. He claimed, “We can power the entire U.S. renewably right now if we just decided to do it”, and also explained that investing in renewable energy would create domestic jobs “that can’t be exported.” Nye stated, “From an optimistic point of view, I think if we can get these people to look at the world a little differently, they will be on the side of domestic reproduced renewable electricity in a very quick short order.”