For over a decade, people like me have been explaining why so-called “balanced” coverage — in which journalists devote “equal time” to both sides of a “controversy” — is totally inappropriate when it comes to climate change. But many in the mass media, especially cable shows, have continued to regularly host climate “debates” in which one skeptic debates one climate science defender … or, lately, in which one skeptic debates Bill Nye the Science Guy.
That’s what made John Oliver’s climate segment last night, on his new HBO show Last Week Tonight, so perfect. Not only did Oliver explain why there’s no debate at all over global warming; he then demonstrated what an actually appropriate televised debate might look like. Bill Nye appeared on set, as did a climate “skeptic,” but then 96 other scientists appeared at Nye’s side (hilariously crowding onto the set) while their opponent got two additional supporters. These numbers — 97 and three — were based on a now-world famous study of published climate science papers, showing that 97 percent of studies that took a stand on whether humans are warming the planet said the answer is “yes.”