Column: Palin (wrongly) takes on Bill Nye the Science Guy

Sarah Palin speaks during a panel discussion before a preview of the film "Climate Hustle" on Capitol Hill, on Thursday, April 14, 2016, in Washington. Palin says voters won’t stand for it if Republican power brokers try to take the presidential nomination away from Donald Trump or Ted Cruz at the GOP convention this summer. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

At a screening of “Climate Hustle” last week, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin attacked Bill Nye the Science Guy’s credentials, stating “Bill Nye is as much as a scientist as I am.” The film is a “documentary” produced by conservatives challenging the scientific consensus that greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change. Palin accused Nye of using his celebrity stature to spread an “alarmist agenda” on climate change. Or, as the scientific community calls it, giving people the facts. She also insisted that children should question climate change instead of blindly believing what the scientific community says.

Palin is correct that we should question the scientific community. But contrary to what Ms. Palin or the film’s producers might believe, climate change is real and man-made. This claim is supported by a consensus of about 97 percent of the scientific community, and is backed up by mountains of data. Storms have been more severe, many coastal areas around the world are seeing increased flooding and it seems that every year we are setting a new record for highest temperature.

Whether climate change is real or not is no longer up for debate. John Oliver, responding to a poll indicating one fourth of Americans don’t believe in climate change, has said, “You don’t need people’s opinions on a fact. You might as well have a poll asking: ‘Which number is bigger, 15 or 5?’ or ‘Are there hats?’” We shouldn’t waste our time questioning facts, especially those that have dire consequences for our planet.

Of course, it is acceptable to do your own research and extensive testing to verify whether climate change is real and man-made. Thousands of scientists already did that, so it may not be an effective way to spend one’s time. Question theories, question the origin of the universe or question whether alien life exists. But there is no point in questioning whether or not there are hats. The only debate we should be having on climate change is what we should do about it.

The claims about Bill Nye not being a scientist were rude and baseless. They served no substantive purpose, because you don’t actually need to be a scientist to point out something that’s true. If a person claims the earth is flat, a geologist is not required to tell them they’re wrong. Regardless, the fact remains that Bill Nye is a scientist who has done tremendous work with the scientific community.

Bill Nye has a B.S. in mechanical engineering from Cornell as well as six honorary doctorate degrees that include two PhDs in science. He was an engineer for over 30 years, working on everything from 747 planes at Boeing to equipment designed to clean up oil spills. Nye also worked with a team to create the MarsDial, which was a sundial attached to the Mars Exploration Rover. He also holds three patents, including one for an innovative ballet toe shoe, a digital abacus and a collapsible lens designed to be used as an educational device.

Not only has Nye had a remarkable career of personal scientific achievement; he has helped teach millions of kids about the wonders of science. Arguably, the work he has done for the promotion of science has been more important and noteworthy than any other task he has undertaken in his career. Nye has written two books, one on evolution and one on climate change. He has had a tremendous positive impact on a generation of students, and continues to inspire both young and old today. To resort to slander to discredit him is shameful.

Nye has a degree and years of experience in engineering, which is the application of science. He has also spent much of his career working with and for the scientific community. He is undoubtedly a scientist. On the other hand, Palin has no scientific credentials and holds views in disagreement with the scientific community. When it comes to an issue like climate change, an issue that directly affects the billions of people on the planet, to whom do you believe we should turn to for guidance?


Jacob Kowalski is a staff columnist for The Daily Campus opinion section. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.