Culture

Scientist Brian Cox Tried In Futility To Explain Climate Change To A One Nation Senator On Q&A

It was a valiant effort.

This week is National Science Week, an annual event that celebrates the achievements of the scientific community while encouraging reasoned, informed discussion about the world in which we live.  So naturally, the ABC thought it would be the perfect occasion to have newly elected One Nation Senator and vocal climate change denier Malcolm Roberts make an appearance on Q&A.

Joining Roberts on the panel were Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt, Shadow Minister for Human Services Linda Burney, Mathematician and Letters and Numbers presenter Lily Serna, and renowned English physicist and broadcaster Brian Cox, a man whose fondness for things like scientific data and empirical evidence made him a natural foil to Roberts, whose relationship with those concepts is a little bit more complicated.

Topics on the agenda included the racial discrimination act and abuse on Nauru, but obviously the big one was climate change. It was here that Cox and Roberts went head to head, with the physicist laying out in no uncertain terms the overwhelming consensus in the scientific community “that human action is leading to an increase in average temperatures.” He even brought along a graph to make things easier for Roberts to understand.

But fancy graphs aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on if the data has been “corrupted” and “manipulated,” as the One Nation Senator believes that it has been. And the group responsible for this corruption? Why it’s NASA, of course.

Yes, that NASA. Checkmate, science boy.

Cox, to his credit, recovered from that bombshell pretty quickly, rattling off a bunch of additional evidence and later describing the idea of a global climate conspiracy as “nonsensical.” But then again, that’s exactly what a conspirator would say, now isn’t it?

Of course while someone like Roberts can make for damn entertaining television, including him in what could otherwise be a legitimate debate about a vitally important issue may not be the best idea. For starters, you’re giving him a platform that he frankly don’t deserve. More importantly, you’re taking the heat off the people whose attitudes towards climate change, while not outwardly as ludicrous, arguably cause far more harm.

Case in point: sitting next to Roberts, you could practically mistake Greg Hunt for a member of the Greens. So it was that the government minister in charge of making sure that the planet is actually habitable for future generations was able to more or less go under the radar, dodging questions (albeit unconvincingly) about the number of CSIRO scientists fired since the Coalition came into power, before letting the conversation drift back to the guy who once sent a letter to Julia Gillard demanding he be exempted from the carbon tax.

Either way, I think we can all agree that Cox has earned himself a drink.