Do you think climate change is an existential threat?


As part of our summer fundraiser special series, Paul Jay answers viewer questions during a live Q&A

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Story Transcript

PAUL JAY: 97 percent of the scientists say so. And in this world one can’t directly investigate everything oneself. You know, I take medicine. I don’t go and do my own pharmacology. If I fly on an airplane I don’t, I can’t tell you anything about the fundamentals of aeronautics. We live in a world where you kind of learn to judge information. And over a period of time, when almost every climate scientist on earth says the science is definitive or definitive within 5 percent of error, that’s enough for me. And you know, if they turn out to be wrong, great. I’d be more than happy. We’re not heading towards the apocalypse.

But that’s not how we operate in this world. None of us do. We live in a world where we rely on scientific knowledge, whether we’re scientists or not. And when you’ve got every climate scientist saying the situation is urgent and dire, you’ve got to believe it. And especially when you look at the economic interest behind the scientists. Sometimes scientists say such and such medicine’s good for you, and you find out the study was financed by the pharmaceutical company. Makes the information less persuasive.

For decades, climate scientists were operating in an environment where they were being completely bombarded with counter climate scientists funded by fossil fuel companies. There may be some money for climate science now, but that wasn’t the case for most of the time that the science was being developed. And quite the contrary, scientists were sometimes personally vilified by the Koch brothers. They tried to get scientists fired from universities. They abused them personally.

A lot of the climate science was developed in a very courageous way against very difficult conditions. That, to me, makes that science more persuasive. And even now, you know, it may be the majority of politicians in D.C. don’t believe in climate science. Although, frankly, I think they do believe it. They just don’t want to say it. They all have their own escape plans ready, just in case. But it’s in their interest politically to promote ignorance.

So I’m not a scientist. I can’t answer the scientific question. I mean, I have a basic knowledge, but it’s not up to me to answer the basic question about the urgency. But I know how to judge information. And the way I judge it, you know, it’s persuasive enough to say we better get urgent about this.