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Talking Climate With Bill Nye

Posted by Mat Kaplan

03-07-2012 16:04 CDT

Topics: Venus, Planetary Society Events, Earth, explaining science, Mars, weather and climate, Bill Nye

The temperature in Denver hovered around 100°F. as Bill Nye and I left our plane. It didn't cool much as we headed toward Boulder in our rental car. That's when we saw the massive smoke plume. It was even easier to see—and smell—from our downtown hotel. 

Add the similarly unseasonable weather in the eastern US, and you had quite the context for a conversation about climate change. The June 26 public event was titled "Climate Change on Earth and Other Planets." It was sponsored by the Planetary Society as part of "Comparative Climatology of Terrestrial Planets," a conference that attracted top researchers from around our homeworld. We thank NASA and the Southwest Research Institute (SWRI) for their vital support.

Bill would be the leadoff speaker and moderator. Four outstanding scientists and science communicators were lined up for the panel discussion: David Grinspoon, Jim Hansen, Karen Rice and Brian Toon. We nevertheless wondered how many people would turn up on a hot Tuesday evening with a wildfire threatening the town. We needn't have worried. Almost 600 paying attendees crowded into the beautiful old Boulder Theater.  They cheered for Bill and listened attentively to the two hours of presentations.

David Grinspoon Makes a Point

Mat Kaplan

David Grinspoon Makes a Point
David Grinspoon of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and the University of Colorado classifies the causes of global climate change at the Boulder Theater. He was one of four scientists who joined Bill Nye on stage.

The house was still full when Bill began the Q&A. Questions were thoughtful and passionate. A school kid asked why we aren't using possibly safer thorium to fuel nuclear reactors. He was told that India is doing exactly this. A young woman expressed concern about the threat to our food supply. Another audience member wondered about cap and trade as a way to reduce greenhouse gases, while someone else asked about the lost water of Mars. Bill and the panel kept it up for over an hour. Nearly half the audience remained at 11pm on a work night.

Perhaps it's true that many Americans believe climate change is exaggerated, even a hoax. Many more doubt the already substantial and growing evidence that its cause can be laid at human feet. But this warm evening of frank, deep and enthusiastic discussion gave me reason for optimism. It's a powerful thing, scientific evidence. Data have no political agenda or profit motive. They speak for themselves. Of course, a little help from the Science Guy in getting the facts out there doesn't hurt.

Listen for excerpts from "Climate Change on Earth and Other Planets" on an upcoming episode of Planetary Radio. We also hope to post our video of the event soon.

See other posts from July 2012


Or read more blog entries about: Venus, Planetary Society Events, Earth, explaining science, Mars, weather and climate, Bill Nye


bware: 07/06/2012 03:30 CDT

Nice article. Can this event be carried to other towns on a road trip of sorts? The personal 'touch' carries a lot of weight. I also look forward to (hopefully) hearing the link if you all make it available. Thanks.

Zorbonian: 07/27/2012 03:29 CDT

Let's consider a few things: 1) What is probably the largest fire in Colorado's (American) history had just occurred (was still going on, I think). 2) The attendees at the global warming discussion were DIRECTLY THREATENED by this fire. I hate to be the one to burst a bubble of hope, but the way most humans operate is in a way that this will soon be forgotten, and we will all go back to our old ways of doing things - even in Boulder. When there is still so much money to be made from shale oil (ruining the water table where they create the mini-earthquakes to extract the oil), oil from the Canada (oil sands), etc., unfortunately, I don't see a light on the horizon anytime soon.

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