Marsha Blackburn Takes on 'Science Guy' on Climate Change

Sunday, 16 Feb 2014 01:15 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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The government can't make sustainable laws on climate change if the legislation is based on "unproven sciences," Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn insisted Sunday, saying "cost-benefit analysis" must take place when dealing with environmental issues.

But Bill Nye "The Science Guy," who appeared with Blackburn for a mini-debate on NBC's "Meet the Press," implored the Tennessee lawmaker to stop wasting time with denials that the climate is changing and to start doing something about the issue.

"What we have to do is look at the information we get from climate scientists, and as you said, there is not agreement around the fact of exactly what is causing this," said Blackburn, the vice chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, pointing out that Nye is not a climate scientist, but an "engineer and actor."

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Nye shot back that climate change legislation is not only necessary, but patriotic. He said he believes the United States should lead the charge and innovate, rather than follow other countries such as China or Great Britain. This could benefit the United States not only in terms of curbing climate change, but also benefit the country financially.

He also said that Blackburn and others who deny climate change are trying to introduce uncertainty rather than solutions.

“This is unscientific, this is not logical,” he said. “It is a way, apparently, that the fossil fuel industry had dealt with our politics. This is not good. You don’t need a PhD in climate science to understand what’s going on, that we have overwhelming evidence that the climate is changing. That you cannot tie any one event to that is not the same as doubt about the whole thing.”

Blackburn argued that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen only slightly.

“What you have to do is you have to look at what that warming is,” she said.“When you look at the fact that we have gone from 320 parts per million — 0.032 to 0.040 — 400 parts per million [carbon dioxide in the atmosphere], you realize it’s very slight.”

Nye, though, said the increase is indeed significant.

"That’s 30 percent. I mean, that’s an enormous change," Nye said. "And it’s changing the world. And that’s just over the last few decades.”

Blackburn, though, pointed out that even Environmental Protection Agency Director Gina McCarthy says that reaching all the United States' goals on climate change "will not have an impact globally. You don't make good, sustainable laws when you make them on unproven sciences."

But Nye said there is "no debate in the scientific community" over climate change and encouraged Blackburn to "look at the facts. We need you to change things, not deny what's happening."

Show host David Gregory insisted that "something is happening," pointing at extreme weather events such as Superstorm Sandy, and said such events cause concern with the nation's debts.

"It is expensive when you look at the clean up," Blackburn acknowledged, but noted that cost-benefit analysis comes into play when developing policy to determine if enacting regulations to protect against climate change are worth the costs to industry and the economy.

But Nye said that it's time to acknowledge there is a problem, and "it would be in everybody's best interest to get going."

He called for fewer "dirty" coal plants, better emissions standards, more-reliable electricity transmission methods.

"What we want to do is not just less, but do more for less," said Nye. "I want the United States to lead the world in this. The more we mess around with this denial, the more we lose."

Blackburn though, noted that even if the United States changes its policies, there are hundreds of carbon-burning power plants "coming up in other nations right now."

However, she said, in the United States, "carbon emissions are at the lowest they have been since 1994. The reason for that is efficiency."

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