Science & Tech

Foster a Science-minded Society

Bill Nye

Lesson time 10:57 min

Explore some of Bill’s big ideas (like carbon fees) for fighting climate change and creating a fairer, more science-minded society. Bill also talks about fighting inequality, and offers his idea of a mandatory national service requirement.

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Topics include: Consider Carbon Fees · Fight for Equality · Serve the Common Good


[MUSIC PLAYING] - We're just trying to change the world. How hard could that be? Welcome to my MasterClass. [MUSIC PLAYING] Fighting climate change will require the cooperation of everyone-- citizens, businesses, and governments. With science as our guide star, we can rise to the occasion, create a society based not on fear and ignorance but fairness and reason. For this to happen, we must confront inequality, kindle a collective spirit, and consider bold new ideas. [MUSIC PLAYING] You may have heard of the tragedy of the commons. This is an old idea that's pretty easy to understand. It's based on the idea that you had farmers living around a big grassland. If everybody's allowed a certain number of cattle or cows to graze on that land, then things are fair. Everybody gets the same amount of grass. But suppose somebody says, well, I'm just going to have one extra cow so I can get a little more milk, which I can have for my family, or maybe I can sell at the market. Then one extra cow may not have a big effect if there's hundreds or thousands of cows. But if everybody does that, then the commons, the common grassland, can't support everyone because everyone's taking a little more than his or her share, okay? That's the tragedy of the commons. Everybody adding just a little bit ends up causing hardship for everyone. So in the case of the farmers, the cost of raising the cow is the grass. After the cow eats the grass, the grass is too short for other cows to feed on. So this farmer in this case and the old case of the commons has externalized his cost. That is to say, someone else has to be out there to let the grass grow back. And the big example of this, you guys, is when we burn fossil fuels. We produce carbon dioxide. It goes into the atmosphere, the atmosphere that we all share, and causes the whole world to get warmer. Traditionally, whether or not the car, for example, gets a few miles per gallon or a lot of miles per gallon, the externalization, the throwing of the carbon dioxide into the common atmosphere, is a problem for everyone. You are externalizing the cost of producing this carbon dioxide. This is an old idea in economics, but there's a lot to it. It's a very important, big idea. So what we could do, if you had to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide you put into the air, this would make everything quite a bit more fair. The more carbon dioxide you burn, the more money you have to put into some fund for adding this carbon to the commons of the atmosphere. And you can say, well, that's a regressive tax because lower-income people would pay the same for their carbon as higher-income people. But here's the trick that people have done economic studies on this. Because wealthy people, or people who live a more energy-intensive lifestyle, produce more carbon, they would pay a lot more than somebody who-- who mows lawns for a living and goes from house ...

About the Instructor

With his 19-time Emmy Award–winning show, Bill Nye the Science Guy introduced the joy of scientific discovery to a worldwide audience. Now, for the first time, the beloved educator is teaching his framework for scientific thinking and everyday problem-solving. Learn Bill’s approach to navigating information through “critical filtering” and embrace a science-based, optimistic response to some of the planet’s biggest challenges.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Nye

Emmy Award–winning science educator Bill Nye teaches you his method for solving everyday problems, evaluating information, and thinking like a scientist.

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