There’s a profanity-laced line in the 2006 cult classic Snakes on a Plane in which Samuel L. Jackson expresses his frustration with still having to deal with said snakes on said plane (video). That’s probably how Bill Nye feels about still having to repeatedly explain the reality of climate change in 2016.
“The Science Guy,” the science educator best known for his beloved 1990s educational videos, appeared on CNN yesterday (Aug. 23) to discuss the recent flooding in Louisiana that killed 13 people, damaged 60,000 homes, and forced the evacuation of thousands of others. Nye was clear about what’s to blame for the disaster.
“This is the result of climate change,” he said. “It’s only going to get worse.”
Last week, a slow-moving, low-pressure storm hit parts of coastal Louisiana, creating torrential downpours that resulted in as much as 31 inches of rainfall over a two-day period. The Red Cross is calling the consequent flooding the worst natural disaster in the US since Hurricane Sandy, which killed over 200 people across the country’s eastern seaboard in 2012.
“As the ocean gets warmer, which it is getting, it expands,” Nye explained. “Molecules spread apart, and then as the sea surface is warmer, more water evaporates, and so it’s very reasonable that these storms are connected to these big effects.”
Scientists from around the world have concurred with Nye that this is exactly what the effects of climate change look like, and that disasters like the Louisiana floods are going to happen more and more. According to a National Academy of Sciences report published earlier this year, extreme flooding can be traced directly to human-induced global warming. As the atmosphere warms, it retains more moisture, leading to bouts of sustained, heavy precipitation that can cause floods.
Recent floods over the past year in Maryland, Texas, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Oklahoma have killed dozens and displaced thousands more. Low-lying places like Louisiana are particularly susceptible to extreme flooding, especially as sea levels rise across the globe.
After he was done explaining how climate change led to the flooding, Nye called out CNN for employing a “climate change denier” as one of their meteorologists. Nye was likely referring to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers, who has a history of climate change denial but has since renounced those views. “A scientist can be swayed by data and I was,” Myers tweeted yesterday.
For Nye, a Cornell-educated, former Boeing engineer and current head of the nonprofit research organization The Planetary Society, explaining climate change was another day at the office. But at this point, Nye would probably prefer to start advocating for specific, real-life fixes to the climate problem, and not just trying to convince everyone that solutions are needed.