Watch: John Oliver and Bill Nye Show Why Cable News Climate “Debates” Are So Ridiculous

Instead of a one-on-one faceoff, “Last Week Tonight” hosts one that is 97 against 3.

Bill Nye debates climate change surrounded by 96 other bow-tied scientists on John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight."Screenshot/HBO

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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 3—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.”

Warning: If you watch this, you’ll never be able to watch a climate “debate” again without rolling your eyes:

More MotherJones reporting on Climate Desk

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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