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John Oliver and Bill Nye Show the Only Real Way to Have a Climate Change Debate

“Reporting on a poll that says 1 in 4 Americans is skeptical of climate change is like reporting that 1 in 4 Americans are wrong about something.”

On Last Week Tonight — comedian and former Daily Show correspondent John Oliver’s new show — science is going viral. On the latest episode, Oliver points out that climate change is no longer a debate, and is happening right now (citing a new report out of the White House). Despite the weight of evidence behind man-made climate change, however, the public seems to think there is room for doubt. Oliver believes this is the media’s fault, showing that the “debates” we see on the news are usually just Bill Nye the Science Guy and “some dude.”

“That makes it seem like it’s 50/50,” says Oliver. It isn’t.

There is only one way to have a statistically representative climate change debate, and Oliver demonstrates it brilliantly. Take a look:

The data that Oliver cites to make his point come from a survey of climate science papers showing that over 97% of relevant papers assert that humans are the principal cause of the rapidly changing climate. That number builds on another survey which found that only 0.2% of relevant papers reject climate change entirely.

You are more likely to have a stroke than pull a negative study from a pile of these papers.


Climate change is happening, and it’s happening now. If Oliver’s viral video shows anything (over a million hits as of this article’s publication), it’s that a concerned public is clamoring for rational answers to a global danger. His statistically accurate debate is a clever way to imagine the unequal discourse happening in the media, and something to keep in mind when most discussions on the news are basically like asking if owls exist.

IMAGE: Screenshot/HBO DeSmogBlog

HT: Mother Jones

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  1. Ugh says:

    Man, people are idiots. If the “experts” tell me it’s true, it must be! Too much confusion of models vs reality. Reality is hard, much easier to smooth away the unfortunate data which isn’t a nice easy straight line. Then we can call the model reality and be all smug about our superiority in the face of what we call “ignorance”.

  2. I don’t deny that climate change exists.  But even with the science I just don’t believe that humans are SOLELY responsible.  Do we contribute?  Absolutely.  But the mere fact that the earth has gone through this in its past (ice ages anyone?) when humans were not on it to me is pretty overwhelming evidence that it is not our fault totally.  I believe that we need to do more to preserve the planet, but in the end, climate change and ultimately bad things are going to happen regardless.

  3. Coign says:

    “The data that Oliver cites to make his point come from a survey of climate science papers showing that over 97% of relevant papers assert that humans are the principal cause of the rapidly changing climate.”
    This is a lie.  Click though the links to find the source article and you get this.

    Endorse AGW (Human Influencing Global Warming), 32.6%, No AGW position 66.4%, Reject AGW 1%)

    No where except in the media is 97% of papers claiming that humans are causing global warming.  At best it is 32.6%.  I am not saying that the Earth is not warming, although it has not for the last 15 years, but that if you publish these articles as fact and you are using bad math to say humans are the cause of it, don’t be surprised when people reject your argument in its entirety.

    • Candace says:

      Coign, you obviously didn’t read the entire link because they explain specifically the criteria for “no position”.  To quote: “We found that about two-thirds of papers didn’t express a position on the subject in the abstract, which confirms that we were conservative in our initial abstract ratings. This result isn’t surprising for two reasons: 1) most journals have strict word limits for their abstracts, and 2) frankly, every scientist doing climate research knows humans are causing global warming. There’s no longer a need to state something so obvious. For example, would you expect every geological paper to note in its abstract that the Earth is a spherical body that orbits the sun?”In other words, they don’t state a position because it isn’t necessary.  It is a given.  A fact.

      And from the comments – “We were cautious here, tending towards ‘no position’ in our ratings. This is confirmed by the scientists’ responses compared with ours: more than half of our ‘no position’ abstracts were rated as ‘endorsement’ by the scientists who actually wrote the papers! A few ‘no positions’ were rated as ‘rejection’ by the authors too, but on average the scientists rated 0.6 classifications closer to endorsement than we did, on the 7-point classification scale.”

      • Coign says:

        It is the difference of, humans are causing global warming, and global warming is occurring and we don’t have a complete enough model to determine the cause.
        .You can’t fix a problem until you know the cause.  And when you get into the question, “How do we correct it?” Then you get into HUGE politics.   Let’s take the two thoughts of “fixing it”.  Cap and Trade.  We as a first world country get taxed billions (with a ‘B’) and send that money to third world countries to improve their infrastructure.  Why?  Because they are the ones that need to clean up their carbon footprint so they can “develop”. And this applies hugely to China, they and their need for concrete, are the biggest producers of carbon. So now we are being taxed to give money to China?  They already are our largest creditors and already have the largest claim to the value of the American dollar. .OK, let’s briefly discuss the other major solution.  Green subsidies.  Here is where the government throws billions of dollars into unproven technologies and in return gets inefficient energy, bankrupt companies, or it goes to big oil who are more then willing to open up a “green” division for free government money.  And a lot of that money goes to foreign owned companies..So, quit bitching and give you a solution you say?  Well for one, make the science speak for itself.  Quit throwing taxpayer money anything that says green.  It is only a way to make leeches crawl out of the woodwork.  Second to make renewable energies more attractive instead of giving them my money, give them protection from government interference.  I am talking tax breaks and de-regulation. Second a huge issue with many renewable resouces like wind power is infrastructure.  Wind power works in bursts.  The energy will either not power the grid and when it does it is too much and will overload it.  We don’t have huge batteries gathering it up.  And lastly, we have to wait.  The science is too new.  Both in renewable science and in climate change.  And honestly, if the Earth heats up and shakes off a couple of billion people off the coast, would anyone really miss them?

  4. Joshua says:

    Ironic that’s all they want to do is shout you down. Not debate.

  5. Po says:

    Not sure why this is on the Nerdist…