On Monday, renowned astrophysicist and cosmologist Neil DeGrasse Tyson scoffed at the Florida government’s politicization of climate change. “I don’t know if our country has any precedent for emergent scientific truths to be debated on political grounds,” he said. “I’m astonished by that. Astonished and disappointed. I thought as a nation we were above this.”
Tyson was speaking at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall as part of Ringling College’s Town Hall series. His astonishment was in response to an unofficial government policy instituted by Florida Governor Rick Scott that the words “climate change” and “global warming” cannot be used by officials in the state’s Department of Environmental Protection.
Gov. Scott and others have denied the policy, but evidence of this terminological embargo can be witnessed in the video below. Last Thursday, Scott’s chief of emergency management, Bryan Koon, testified before the state legislature. In the video, Democratic state Senator Jeff Clemens asks Koon if he is aware of a new FEMA policy that will deny states certain funds unless their disaster plans include climate change adaptation.
Clemens repeatedly attempts to get Koon to use the words “climate change,” but Koon refuses to bend, eliciting laughter from the other senators on the bench.
It might be even funnier if Florida residents were not in imminent danger of seeing their homes swallowed by rising tides and battered by more extreme weather.
“When you say let’s debate whether or not humans are influencing the climate, you are losing time for debating what to do in the face of that fact,” Tyson said on Monday.
Tyson also had some choice words for Texas Senator (and now presidential candidate) Ted Cruz, who recently told NASA that it should stop pointing its satellites at the Earth and stop concerning itself with climate change. Cruz has adamantly and repeatedly declared that the Earth has not warmed for the last 17 years, despite the volume of evidence to the contrary and the fact that 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history.
“If you’re going to ignore Earth,” said Tyson, “and no one else is paying attention to Earth the way NASA is — you could be planting the seeds of your own destruction.”
But Tyson also said he didn’t blame politicians “for a damn thing” where bad science is concerned, because they are elected to their posts by American citizens. “I blame the electorate,” he said.