• Malcolm Roberts and Brian Cox face off on Q&A. (ABC, Q&A)Source: ABC, Q&A
It makes for compelling viewing.
Alyssa Braithwaite

16 Aug 2016 - 10:16 AM  UPDATED 16 Aug 2016 - 12:52 PM

What happened when British physicist Brian Cox went head-to-head with One Nation climate change denier Malcolm Roberts? A televised showdown on the ABC's Q&A program that set Twitter alight.

The newly elected senator from Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, who graduated from the University of Queensland with honours as an engineer and has worked in the coal mining industry, has consistently questioned the existence of human-induced climate change, and has called for a Royal Commission into climate science. 

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So when Cox, an Advanced Fellow of particle physics at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Manchester, a BBC science presenter and recipient of Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to science, was booked to appear on the show, he came prepared.

Roberts repeatedly asked for 'empirical data' to prove that climate change is real, so Cox presented a graph of global surface temperatures for the past century.

"We've had a pause in this so-called warming for 21 years, it depends how you measure it, 21 years, and I'm absolutely stunned that someone who is inspired by Richard Feynman, a fantastic scientist who believes in empirical evidence, is quoting concensus," said Roberts.

"Can I just say, I brought the graph," replies Cox, debunking the myth and prompting a round of applause from the Q&A audience.

Cox presented another graph showing CO2 emissions, but faced with evidence that contradicted his claims, Roberts moved the goalpost and announced the data had been manipulated.

"The data has been corrupted...manipulated," Roberts said.

"By who?" Cox asked.

"NASA," replied Roberts, claiming the figures of the US space agency had been changed and had originally shown the world was warmer in the 1930s. 

At which point Cox asked Roberts whether he believed NASA had actually landed men on the moon.

While Cox eventually realised, "I could sit here and read out figures until I'm blue in the face" to Roberts, Twitters users were quick to respond to Roberts' climate change denials and conspiracy theories.

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