Tyson explained that starting 300 million years ago, the trees that covered the Earth in the Carboniferous period became entombed under new layers of Earth, and the carbon content of these former lifeforms was released into the atmosphere, creating the climatic optimum which has made human civilization possible for approximately the last 10,000 years. Tyson says the burning of fossil fuels has consequences that will dramatically alter climate away from the optimum.
We just can't seem to stop burning up all those buried trees from way back in the carboniferous age, in the form of coal, and the remains of ancient plankton, in the form of oil and gas. If we could, we'd be home free climate wise. Instead, we're dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a rate the Earth hasn't seen since the great climate catastrophes of the past, the ones that led to mass extinctions.
We just can't seem to break our addiction to the kinds of fuel that will bring back a climate last seen by the dinosaurs, a climate that will drown our coastal cities and wreak havoc on the environment and our ability to feed ourselves. All the while, the glorious sun pours immaculate free energy down upon us, more than we will ever need. Why can't we summon the ingenuity and courage of the generations that came before us? The dinosaurs never saw that asteroid coming. What's our excuse?
The show aired Sunday, two days before the White House released a climate change report saying the burning of fossil fuels will only continue to accelerate climate change, and that the impacts will increase across the country.
Tyson has received backlash before for his definitive statements on issues that some consider controversial. His explanations of the Big Ban theory and evolution have even led creationists to demand equal airtime on the show. Tyson says the goal of the show is to explain science in relative terms for the purposes of education, and that creationism is unrelated to science.