Why Bill Nye Called His Efforts To Teach Climate Change A "Total Failure"

by Chris Tognotti
Kena Betancur/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Longtime television science personality Bill Nye got pretty real in an interview with Salon's Jeremy Binckes this week, admitting that he'd fallen short on one of his life's most important endeavors. In fact, a little more than falling short ― Nye declared his climate change educational efforts a "failure," acknowledging that all the work he's done to enlighten the public on the matter has been largely in vain.

The interview was part of a promotional tour for Nye's new documentary film, Bill Nye: Science Guy, which is slated for release this month. Also featuring Nye's fellow science celebrity Neil deGrasse Tyson, the film is reportedly about Nye's ongoing quest to restore science to a position of widespread acceptance and credibility in a political climate that's so often hostile to it. But speaking to Salon, Nye acknowledged that he hasn't managed to do that with regards to perhaps the most urgent and existential science matter that humanity currently faces: climate change.

"I am a total failure," Nye said, blaming the intractability of the climate change debate, in part, on years-long lobbying efforts by powerful fossil fuel interests. In the face of those interests, and the deep state of politicization and polarization surrounding global warming in the United States, Nye admitted that his efforts have been "ineffective." If you're curious to see the full interview with Nye, which runs nearly 20 minutes, you can check it out on Salon's Facebook page. He said:

What I tell everybody is, vote. We don't want everybody to be a scientist, that would be unwieldy ― we need accountants, and artists, filmmakers, journalists ― but we want everyone to appreciate science.

Nye, 61, has been a fixture in the American science media for years, and is perhaps one of the faces most synonymous with scientific education and programming. He hosted Bill Nye the Science Guy throughout the 1990s, a well-liked and memorable show aimed at teaching basic science information to children and adults alike, as well as instilling a faith in reason and the scientific method. The show ran for a whopping 100 episodes over the course of five years, covering a wide variety of subjects, climate change among them.

The show ended in 1998, having won 19 Emmys throughout its run, and Nye receded from the public spotlight for several years before making a comeback bid with a second TV show, The Eyes of Nye, which was reportedly plagued with budgetary issues and failed the achieve the same prominence and acclaim as its predecessor.

Then, this year, he launched a revival of his old Science Guy series on Netflix, titled Bill Nye Saves the World. Far closer to the mold of his original show, its first season ran 13 episodes, and it's already been picked up by Netflix for a second season.

Neilson Barnard/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

It's not surprising that Nye has spent so much of his time and his energy on the issue of climate change; the very first episode of his Netflix series tackles it, in fact. As it stands now, despite a staggeringly overwhelming scientific consensus about the basic facts of climate change, only 42 percent believe climate change will pose a serious threat in their lifetime, and only 68 percent of Americans believe human activity contributes to it.

Those numbers are far more optimistic for addressing the problem than they have been in the past, at least ― just two years ago, according to Gallup's polling, a mere 55 percent of Americans believes human activities contributed to climate change. But with the GOP in control of both chambers of Congress and the White House, and a president who once claimed climate change is an economic hoax schemed up by the Chinese, the political landscape looks as unfavorable as ever.