Bill Nye: Hurricane Irene evidence of climate change

Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" Getty Images

We tend to avoid outright politics here on SmartPlanet, but Bill Nye -- known as "The Science Guy" after his popular television show on PBS -- recently visited the Fox Business channel's Freedom Watch to explain to host Charles Payne and his viewers the intricacies of drawing a line between Irene's destruction and climate change as a whole.

The conversation, while expectedly argumentative at times, was interesting if only because Nye took great pains to simplify the science in a way that's understandable to the layman.

For example, his first response to Payne's question of whether Irene was proof of global warming:

I don't think the word "proof" is what you're looking for. "Evidence," or "a result of"? Yeah. Yeah. Now here's what the people will tell you who run these climate models. Now everybody, the word "model" in this usage is a computer program, a very sophisticated computer program. So you take data from satellites about the thickness of clouds and the extent of cloud cover over the sea. You take data about the temperature of the sea surface. You take data about the existing weather in let's say, North America or the Gulf of Mexico, as the storm moves into it, then you compute how much rain fell out of it, how much energy must have been put into it to create that much rain and it takes many months to analyze an event like Irene. Now, climate colleagues that I have will tell you that they cannot tell you today that Irene is evidence or a result of climate change, but check in with them in about March, next year, after they have a few months to collect all these millions and millions of data from weather services and satellites and compile them and run a climate model and show that Irene was a result of the world having more energy in its atmosphere.

The conversation of course continues, with Payne asking whether it was fair for Newsweek to run the coverline, "The New Normal" in reference to Irene. And it gets a bit contentious when Nye asserts that the Earth is getting warmer ("You can't disagree with that") and the two banter back and forth about whether the phenomenon is man-made, impossibly, through the lens of racism as a cultural, not scientific, construct.

Heady stuff, but Nye receives my respect for retaining his patience in outlining a life's worth of work in a six-minute segment.

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