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Neil deGrasse Tyson warns it may be “too late” to deal with climate change

American astrophysicist and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson has warned that climate change has become so advanced that it may be “too late” to properly deal with it.

Tyson was interviewed by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Sunday about Hurricanes Irma and Harvey and the state of the planet’s climate.

At one point, Zakaria asked Tyson what he thought about Homeland Security Adviser Tom Bossert’s refusal to acknowledge the fact that climate change may have been a factor in the power of Irma or Harvey.

“Fifty inches of rain in Houston!” Tyson told Zakaria. “This is a shot across our bow, a hurricane the width of Florida going up the centre of Florida!”

Tyson went on to ask what it would take for people to face that a community of scientists are learning “objective truths” about the natural world, adding that he had no tolerance for those who take a selective approach to epistemology.

“The press will sometimes find a single paper, and say, ‘Oh here’s a new truth, if this study holds it.’ But an emergent scientific truth, for it to become an objective truth, a truth that is true whether or not you believe in it, it requires more than one scientific paper,” Tyson said.

Tyson warned that while politicians argue over whether or not science is real, valuable time is being wasted.

“I worry that we might not be able to recover from this because all our greatest cities are on the oceans and water’s edges, historically for commerce and transportation,” he said. And as storms kick in, as water levels rise, they are the first to go. “And we don’t have a system — we don’t have a civilization with the capacity to pick up a city and move it inland 20 miles. That’s — this is happening faster than our ability to respond. That could have huge economic consequences.”

In a recent article published in The Conversation, Andrew King noted that although Irma and Harvey were very different storms, they were both affected by climate change.

King, who is a Climate Extremes and Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne, wrote that climate change may have contributed to Harvey stalling over Houston and is likely to have caused more intense rainfall.

“Climate change has likely worsened the effects of Irma,” King continued. “We know that climate change is intensifying extreme rain events. We also know that climate change is worsening storm surges by raising the background sea level on which these events occur.”

Importantly, King and Tyson aren’t the only scientists to think so. Science is not a gut feeling or a shot in the dark. It’s our most rigorous attempt to describe the world around us. And right now, all signs are pointing to the need for immediate action.

About the author

Stefan is an Adelaide-based freelance writer. In his spare time, he plays tennis badly, collects vinyl and brushes up on his Mandarin. Follow Stefan on Twitter

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