Most proposed solutions to human-caused climate change—emissions regulation; carbon taxes; incentives for clean energy—are dependent on government intervention. Bill Nye the Science Guy knows that. But in a wide-ranging conversation with Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, Nye made the case that you don’t have to love government to love climate action.
Asked by Sanders how America needs to transform its energy system to effectively slow global warming, Nye described a country in which “virtually every big building” and every home “has solar panels on the roof oriented a little bit south.” When that happens, Nye said, most people will be generating the majority of their own electricity, paying only for stored solar energy delivered to their homes when the sun isn’t shining as bright as it needs to be.
“You can hate Senator Sanders, you can hate me, you can hate everything, you can just be a miserable hater person,” Nye said. “But when you get an electric bill in California—which doesn’t have especially cheap electricity—for 10 bucks every 60 days, that’s just fun. That’s just fun.”
This description of a “solar panel on every roof” is a bit more complicated that it sounds. For it to work, communities across the country would need extremely large energy storage capacity for when the sun is not shining. Nye acknowledged this. “If you’re a young person in engineering school If you want to get crazy rich, make a battery that’s even a little better than what we have now,” he said. He also acknowledged that America would need to transform its electrical grid to be able to accept and distribute energy produced from a massive amount of solar panels. That type of infrastructure overhaul would be insanely expensive.
The idea’s practicality aside, Nye was trying to win conservative hearts. “Who is the strongest environmentalist? The guy who just built his log cabin,” he said. “From an optimistic point of view, I think if we can get these people to look at the world a little differently, they will be on the side of domestically produced renewable electricity in very short order.”