Last week on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, our intrepid host did a piece about global warming. It’s funny and all, so I’ve embedded it below. But it acts as a very insightful bit of media criticism that I don’t recall seeing before or, even worse, thinking about before. Well, I did have my problems with Bill Nye debating Ken Ham, because it legitimizes the idea of young earth creationism. But the truth is, as Oliver points out in the video, that even having two people discuss global warming gives a ridiculously skewed impression of what is going on.
And now, more and more, what you see on Fox News and the like is Bill Nye debating a conservative who claims not to be a global warming denier. We are now far enough along in this nonsense that the denier community is going with the old Intelligent Design tactic of “teach the controversy.” So the denier will say, “Sure, global warming is happening, but we can’t say it is humans causing it!” It’s all part of my Three Stages of Global Warming Denial:
- There is no global warming!
- There is global warming, but humans aren’t the cause!
- Humans are causing global warming, but there is nothing we can do about it!
Increasingly, we are at stage three, because the first two stages just sound crazy. But when you have someone like Bill Nye (who really isn’t the best person to make the case) arguing the science, he sounds rigid. But the denier side sounds open-minded, “I agree with you Bill, but we’ve got to look at all the options!” In other words: let’s continue to do nothing because Exxon is making a pile of money right now.
But even if you had two people who really believed what they were saying, the viewer would get a totally skewed view of the facts. No reputable news agency would bring on a NASA astronomer to talk to a member of the Flat Earth Society. It would provide a ridiculous equivalence: the mainstream view of the shape of the world and the belief of a couple of thousand loons who believe the earth is flat because the Bible talks about the “four corners” of the earth. Yet these same pseudo-journalists are more than willing to imply an actual disagreement—50-50 split—on global warming.
So John Oliver does what someone should have done long ago. Since 97% of climate science papers with an opinion believe that global warming is happening, he brought on 3 deniers and 97 scientists who accept global warming. It’s brilliant: