BY EMILY ATKIN MAY 31, 2016 10:49 AM
A lot of people consider astrophysicist Stephen Hawking to be the smartest man in the world. His research and theories have explained some of the deepest mysteries of time and space.
So it’s understandable why, on Tuesday, people sort of freaked out when Hawking said there was one thing he could not explain: The popularity of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“I can’t,” Hawking responded, when asked to explain Trump’s rise as part of an exclusive interview with British news station ITV News. “He is a demagogue, who seems to appeal to the lowest common denominator.”
But here’s the thing: in that same interview, Hawking also said he didn’t believe Trump was the greatest threat facing America, or even the world. The greatest threat, he said, is human-caused climate change.
“A more immediate danger is runaway climate change,” Hawking said. “A rise in ocean temperature would melt the ice-caps, and cause a release of large amounts of carbon dioxide from the ocean floor. Both effects could make our climate like that of Venus, with a temperature of 250 degrees.”
Hawking’s comments about Trump made headlines in nearly every major American media outlet. His comments about climate change being the world’s greatest threat, however, did not make the cut.