Bill Nye talks climate change, space exploration at KPU event
The science guy warned that climate change will be the greatest problem facing this generation
Bill Nye urged a sold out crowd of AU students, faculty and community members in Bender Arena on Tuesday night to use the power of science and discovery to change the world.
Nye, particularly known amongst students for his 1990s television series “Bill Nye the Science Guy,” spoke about the dangers of climate change and the government policy barriers that stand in the way of developing sustainable infrastructure. Throughout his speech, Nye infused jokes with stories of his experience working on projects like the Mars Rovers and his ideas for a more sustainable future, as well as his family’s background in science.
“My dad knew all the constellations, and he became fascinated by sundials because they had no clocks or watches. The Japanese military confiscated them all,” Nye said, describing his father’s experience as a prisoner of war during World War II. “He developed the sand dial which you take to the beach so you don’t get sand in your watch. Oh dad, that’s brilliant! Dad, we’re going to make dozens of dollars!”
More seriously, Nye explained that research obtained by the Rovers showed the composition of Mars’s atmosphere, revealing that the planet has much higher levels than carbon dioxide than Earth. However, in 2015 the level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere increased by approximately 0.01 percent due to the burden humans place on the planet, a notable change according to Nye. This change was made possible by the thinness of Earth’s atmosphere, the exponential growth of the human population and the strain people place on the planet through carbon emissions, Nye said.
“This tiny change in the Earth’s atmosphere is changing everything for you and future generations,” Nye said.
Despite the fact that some public figures, including Ken Ham, a believer in creationism, refute the existence of climate change, Nye has been involved with the Solutions Project, which has developed a model for how Kentucky and the rest of the country could convert entirely to sustainable energy sources. Nye also said that the plan would create 140,000 new jobs related to the production of this energy.
“The United States could export [wind energy],” Nye said of the untapped potential of wind energy off the East coast of the country. “We could make the best wind turbines in the world, the best energy source systems in the world, and then everyone would win.”
Nye noted that yesterday, the Supreme Court voted to prevent the Obama administration from limiting the reach of coal-fueled power plants. He claimed that such a decision is the worst thing imaginable for the future of the environment.
Climate change is also about more than the physical impact it has on the planet, according to Nye. He said it has a direct impact on humans, especially with regard to agriculture.
“We have the human population growing at an extraordinary, literally exponential rate,” Nye said in an interview with The Eagle. “There are 7.3 billion people today, and there will be 9 billion people by 2050, there may be 10 billion by 2060. And all those people are going to want to eat something. We have to grow enough food for them somehow. So if the climate changes dramatically we won’t be able to farm in conventional ways. Parasites and diseases will be on crops, it will be a huge problem.”
This discussion on climate change and sustainable energy is especially relevant with the next presidential election coming later this year, according to Nye.
“If young people who are concerned about the environment vote, we will change the world,” Nye said in the interview. “If we don’t do something about [climate change], the quality of life of people like you will be very low. It’s lower than mine was when I was your age. Your kids and their kids will have tremendous trouble if we don’t address climate change as soon as possible.”
Looking at his career as a whole, Nye said he is deeply moved by the many people who tell him that he sparked their interest in science.
“It’s amazing. It’s so gratifying, and as I say all the time, I don’t think I get it,” Nye said in the interview. “The scope of it, the scale of it is overwhelming. So many people come up to me and express that [Nye is] the reason I’m an engineer, the reason I’m a physician, you were my childhood. Really? I put my heart and soul into the thing. I worked as hard as I possibly could at the time, and I’m very gratified.”
At the end of his speech to the crowd in Bender, Nye concluded that much of the knowledge people have of Earth has come from the exploration of space, and he pressed that this pursuit should continue.
“Space exploration brings out the best in us. It’s inherently optimistic,” Nye said as he finished his speech. “Humankind solves problems that have never been solved before when they explore space.”