Neil deGrasse Tyson destroys more climate myths: Yes, we're the problem

The "Cosmos" host explains why we can't blame global warming on "those damn volcanoes"

By Lindsay Abrams
Published June 2, 2014 1:14PM (EDT)
Neil DeGrasse Tyson                                           (AP/Richard Shotwell)
Neil DeGrasse Tyson (AP/Richard Shotwell)

Last night's episode of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson's hit series, "Cosmos," finally addressed the issue of climate change head-on, taking down a number of the most insidious myths propagated by climate deniers in the process.

Like, for example, those "damn volcanoes" -- maybe it's them, and not the coal and oil we burn, that's causing the rise in atmospheric CO2.

Every big eruption of Italy's Mount Etna, Tyson concedes, sends millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. But even the largest estimate of carbon contributed by volcanic activity puts it at about 500 million tons per year, he explains: "That's not even 2 percent of the 30 billion tons of CO2 that our civilization is cranking out every year."

"And funny thing," Tyson adds, "the measured increase in CO2 in the atmosphere tallies with the known amount we're dumping there by burning coal, oil and gas."

The timing is fortunate, as today President Obama is slated to release his administration's plan to reduce carbon emissions from the nation's existing power plants. The specifics -- whether they'll go far enough to mitigate warming, whether they'll stand up to legal challenges, etc. -- are sure to be much discussed in the ensuing weeks and months. What we're past discussing, as Tyson makes clear, is whether or not this is a problem caused by human activity: The segment below, "Are We the Problem?" answers its own question with a definitive "yes":

Lindsay Abrams

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Carbon Dioxide Emissions Climate Change Climate Skeptics Cosmos Global Warming Neil Degrasse Tyson Video