Politicians address issues, and journalists feel compelled to present both sides of an argument. Neil deGrasse Tyson is fine with all that.
But, when it comes to the battle over global warming and climate change, Tyson feels the debate should be over. In fact, among most scientists, he says, it is.
“Politicians can argue about it, but the debate has been over for years,” said Tyson, who will be at Proctors 7:30 p.m. Monday to present a talk entitled, “The Cosmic Perspective.” “Some journalists report that there is a debate going on, but that’s not the case. I fully understand that journalistic ethos. Understandably, they want to give both sides of an argument and they feel they should give the other side half of their column space. But the debate is over, and if journalists do a little research they’ll see that. They don’t have to give equal time to the deniers.”
An astrophysicist, cosmologist and Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, Tyson has, over the last two decades, made astronomy interesting again for thousands of Americans. Along with authoring books and writing magazine articles, he has his own television show, “StarTalk,” on the National Geographic Channel. He also hosted PBS’s “Nova” from 2006-2011, and has been awarded the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal (2004) and the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal (2015) for his ‘extraordinary role in exciting the public about the wonders of science.”
Tyson said his address Monday at Proctors will mostly be about the value of cosmic perspective, but he’s also likely to bring up a number of related topics, including global warming, or if you prefer, climate change. However you want to say it, both are happening he says.
“I try to stay current with my terms, and climate change might be a more useful term,” he said. “Climate change is broader and a bit more accurate in the sense that when you speak of global warming, you’re only talking about rising temperatures,” he said. “Climate change lets you think about the other consequences, such as sea level, storm intensity, the displacement of communities and consequently, the stability of regions.”
And what about the dissenters?
“In any emergent science, there will always be outliers,” Tyson said, “but we do have a consensus on climate change. Someone’s opinion is irrelevant. When a new scientific truth emerges there will be politicians and outliers cherry picking a single research paper. It is the sum of all the research papers that need to be reckoned.”
While Tyson looks like a perfect fit as today’s “science communicator,” he says he doesn’t necessarily need all the attention.
“I’d rather stay home in the morning, or I’d rather stay in the lab,” he said. “That would be my preference. But I am pulled to the TV, and 80 to 85 percent of the time you see me on TV it’s because something flinched in the universe, and the gate keepers want to hear more about it. I’m in New York so I’m an easy target. The remaining 15 percent or so is because I’ve written a book. If I’m going to do that, why not be as good as I can.”
His popularity and his role as director of the Hayden Planetarium make it impossible for Tyson to say no to interview requests.
“I feel like I am a servant of the public appetite for the universe,” he said. “I’m a servant of their curiosity. I would like to remain in the lab and never come out, but as a servant, in that capacity, it would be irresponsible of me if I didn’t come out and discuss things.”
Tyson was born in New York City and fell in love with astronomy after a visit to the Hayden Planetarium. He was something of a prodigy in the scientific community, giving lectures on astronomy at the age of 15. Carl Sagan encouraged him to attend Cornell and invited him for a visit when he was 17, but Tyson chose Harvard where he got a bachelor’s degree in physics. He earned a master’s in astronomy at the University of Texas and then his doctorate at Columbia University.
“After my first visit to the Hayden Planetarium I was like, ‘wow, this is amazing,’” remembered Tyson. “Then you go back a second time and see the next layer of information. Then you keep going back and listen to the programs that go beyond the exhibits. I was well in tune with the place from middle school on.”
‘The Cosmic Perspective’
WHAT: A lecture by Neil deGrasse Tyson
WHEN: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
HOW MUCH: $250-$50
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org