Seth Meyers Hosts Climate Scientist To Rebut The “Ignorance” Of Donald Trump And Ted Cruz

Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s Ben Santer Explains He’s Speaking Out As A Private Citizen Because It’s “Important To Talk About The Science That We Do, But I'm Not Sure How The Folks Who Fund My Research Will Feel About That”

From the February 22 edition of NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers:

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SETH MEYERS (HOST): Very exciting. Our first climate scientist on the show. 


MEYERS: Good. I'm honored to have you. I want to start by saying this though, you work at a national lab, but you want to make -- you want to stress that you are here tonight as an individual, as a private citizen. Why is that important for you to make that distinction? 

SANTER:  These are strange and unusual times, and it seems kind of important to talk about the science that we do, but I'm not sure how the folks who fund my research will feel about that so it just seems kind of safer to do it this way. 

MEYERS: Right. For tonight you're just a rogue scientist. Yeah. You mentioned -- you mention interesting times. Obviously you're going from President Obama, who believed this was a serious issue and now we have a president who has called climate change a hoax. You have a new head of the EPA who has sued the EPA multiple times in the past. How does it feel right now to have what you do for a living challenged in this way? 

SANTER: It feels tough. Imagine, if you will, that you spend your entire life trying to understand one thing and that thing is the cause of change in the climate system. Best of your ability you do that, and then someone comes and dismisses everything you've understood, all of that scientific understanding as a hoax, as a conspiracy, as worthless, as a contrived phony mess. You have a choice. What do you do with that? You can either retreat to your office, close the door, and be silent. Or you can choose to push back against ignorance and say, “Hey, this is not our understanding. We know something about the causes of climate change.” 


MEYERS: I want to talk about this because I had Senator Ted Cruz on the show and we were talking about climate change. And he said something, and again, he's a very smart guy, and of course I did not have any research to debate what he said. I'm going to play what he said on this show. And then I'm going to let you answer to it. Let's take a look. 


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Many of the alarmists on global warming, they got a problem because the science doesn't back them up. And in particular, satellite data demonstrates for the last 17 years, there's been zero warming. None whatsoever. 


MEYERS: Okay, so the best I could have done then was, “Nuh-uh!” But, I'm going to turn it over to you. Satellite data, no change, 17 years. What do you have to say for yourself, you alarmist? 

SANTER: Or warmist is the word en vogue. 

MEYERS: Is that a climate change scientist joke? 

SANTER: Yeah. So he made a testable claim on your show. 


SANTER: Listen to what he said. Satellite data. So satellite measurements of atmospheric temperature show no significant warming over the last 17 years, and we tested it. We looked at all of the satellite data in the world, from all groups, and wanted to see, was he right or not? And he was wrong. Even if you focus on a small segment of the now 38-year satellite temperature record -- the last 17 years -- he was demonstrably wrong. More importantly, if you look at the entire record it shows strong evidence of a human effect on climate. Warming of the lower atmosphere. Cooling of the upper atmosphere. And that's the fingerprint of human-caused changes in heat trapping greenhouse gases. So the bizarre thing is, Senator Cruz is a lawyer. He's got to look at all of the evidence when he's trying a case, when he's involved in a case, not just one tiny segment of the evidence. 

MEYERS: I think you have a different estimation of lawyers than I do. As far as what they are trying to accomplish. But I want to finish with this. Obviously this is a scary time. It's an interesting time as you've called it, yet you remain optimistic. And I'm happy to hear that, but where are you finding optimism right now, considering this sort of deck that's stacked against you? 

SANTER: Well, it seems like a real teachable moment. Climate science has been elevated in public discourse. Look at that. Look at Senator Cruz appearing on your program making testable claims. The President of the United States saying nobody really knows the causes of climate change. And we do. So this is a moment when people -- when people are willing to listen, when I can come on your show and say, “Nobody really knows” is wrong, it's fake news. 

MEYERS: Yeah. I'm really -- 

SANTER: So, what I want, I want those teachable moments. I want to tell people, this is our understanding. These are the likely outcomes if we do nothing about the problem of human-caused climate change. And let's have a respectful, honest debate on what to do about it. But let's not dismiss this incorrectly as a hoax or a conspiracy. We all lose if we embrace ignorance with open arms. 

MEYERS: Well, I couldn't agree with you more. And thank you so much for making the time. It's fantastic to have you here. 


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