Ever since modern society began to form, we've treated Earth ... not well. And in recent years, we've started to realize — and in even more recent years, started to accept — that things are going to get pretty bad for us in the next several decades.
Here Neil deGrasse Tyson explains the good news (Earth will survive!) and the bad news (sorry, humans!) and lays out the facts that should guide us toward fixing things before it's too late. Because there's still time. So let's make things better, OK?
Neil deGrasse Tyson: Hi, I'm Neil deGrasse Tyson. I'm an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History, and I'm host of Star Talk Radio.
Welcome back to Star Talk Radio.
...and fighting all these air molecules.
Like, what's up with that?
We win. Astrophysicists win.
Yeah I said it.
Ba da bing.
Wa wa waaa, wa wa wa, I'm getting it.
Yeah, as I've said before, the good thing about science, when a consensus of an experiment emerges, the good thing about science is that it's true, whether or not you believe in it, and climate change has taken on political dimensions, has taken on cultural, social dimensions, and it's odd, because I don't see people choosing sides over E equals MC squared, or other fundamental facts of science, but the experimental consensus is there, that human beings, by virtue of our conduct, burning sources of carbon, fossil fuels among them that have been buried for millions of years, we burn them, carbon previously underground is now in the atmosphere, and that source of carbon makes carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, is warming the earth. We are warming, and that comes with consequences.
By the way, earth will survive this. People say, "Save the earth." No, don't worry about earth. Earth will be here long after we render ourselves extinct. What happens is we're changing the climate faster than our culture may be able to respond. One of the consequences is, you melt ice caps, than water levels rise. Not inches, not feet, but tens of feet, and that will begin to flood coastlines. Some of the most important cities of the world were built on coastlines for the very reason that that's how you accomplish trade. It's what made those ports successful.
So, the very foundation of our civilization requires coastlines that existed at a time when there was not global climate change, the kind that would be warming the earth. So, get ready for that. It's going to redraw the maps of the world, unless we do something about it. Venus suffers from a runaway greenhouse effect. It's 900 degrees on Venus, not simply because it's closer to the sun than us, it's not that much closer. It's a little bit closer. It's got nearly 100 percent CO2 in its atmosphere, and that atmosphere is a hundred times as dense as ours, so heat comes in, it does not come out, and the temperature rises. I don't want earth to look like Venus.