As seen on David Letterman! (In my defense, this is “Odd day”)

If you saw the Late Show with David Letterman last night and are visiting this website for the first time, please click here:  “An Introduction to Climate Progress.”

For regular readers, yes, this is me with a ventriloquist’s dummy, but I can explain….

Click here for video.

First off, it is now officially “Odd Day,” and everybody should do something odd to celebrate this rare occurrence:

For the mathematically challenged, Thursday’s date, 5/7/09, is one of only six this century that will feature three consecutive odd numbers.

Numbers lovers say the rare occurrence is an excuse to celebrate.

“The previous stretch of six dates like this started with 1/3/1905 “” 13 months after the Wright Brothers’ flight,” said Ron Gordon, the Redwood City teacher who enthusiastically promotes these numerical holidays, like Square Root Day on 3/3/09.

Gordon is offering a prize of $579 to those who celebrate the date with the most zeal or who get the most people involved in an Odd Celebration.

So if you all do something odd and report your odd activity below, maybe I can get $579 and spend it on a Netbook.  And no, I’m not being entirely serious here.  Or am I?

For more on Odd Day, whose motto is “Be awed by the odd,” go to

And no this segment wasn’t really filmed or even aired on Odd Day (on the East Coast at least).  But it has been a lifelong ambition to be on the David Letterman show, so when they tracked me down through the Internet as a “climate expert” and asked me to come up to the American Museum of Natural History, I of course said yes.

The Letterman folk are very nice, including Kindler, no matter what his on-screen persona may seem.  I am so naive that when I saw a somewhat odd-looking man carrying around a ventriloquist’s dummy, I was very puzzled.  After several minutes, while waiting for the crew to set up, I asked him, “So, you are a ventriloquist?”  And he said, “No, I’m the prop man.”  And I’m still so naive that I still didn’t get what was going on until they gave me the dummy as they did in the segment.

So yes, very silly, but hey, they also made fun of RealClimate‘s Gavin Schmidt — and he didn’t even get to plug his website or his new book in return!

I got to say the name on the David Letterman Show, they actually showed the website name under my picture (which even 60 Minutes didn’t do), and I was featured as a climate change expert — what were the odds of that?

Happy Odd Day!

[And for the serious sticklers, the answer I gave to the question “if we don’t do anything about global warming, if we just let it go, tell me what’s going to happen” — which was “by the end of the century, much of United States will be 10 to 15°F warmer on average, from Kansas to California could be in permanent drought, could be turned into a desert [yes Dust Bowl would have been better] and the ocean could be turned into a hot acidic dead zone” [yes, I usually say “much of”] is a scientifically accurate statement if we don’t do anything.  See “Yes, the science says on our current emissions path we are projected to warm most of U.S. 10 – 15°F by 2100, with sea level rise of 5 feet or more, and the SW will be a permanent Dust Bowl” and “An introduction to global warming impacts: Hell and High Water.”  Since the climate science deniers seem confused on this point, I’ll just repeat that if we don’t do anything about global warming pollution, then multiple analyses (IPCC, MIT, Hadley Center) now project a total warming by 2100 from preindustrial levels of 4.5°C to 5.5°C globally, which is to say 8°F to 10°F globally, which is to say roughly 11°F to more than 14°F over much of the inland United States, including Alaska.  And that wouldn’t be odd or funny, but just plain tragic.]


21 Responses to As seen on David Letterman! (In my defense, this is “Odd day”)

  1. Kudos Joe!

    Now you must tell us the increased number of visits to CP from your Letterman plug. Care to share?

  2. Joe says:

    Well, my web stats program can compare any two days, so I will be able to compare today to last Thursday.

    But I’m personally kind of skeptical that there will be a particularly big bounce, but I’ll report one of there is.

  3. Gail says:

    Joe, you handled that with great aplomb. Are you ready for Stewart and/or Colbert?

  4. PeterW says:

    Hi Joe, Unfortunately in Canada we don’t get to celebrate Odd Day until July. ;-)

  5. Brewster says:

    Is that the problem?

    Couldn’t watch the video here in Alberta either.

  6. Dean says:

    I’ve read about the ocean anoxia issue that you referred to. Wikipedia has a good article about it at for those who aren’t familiar with it.

    However this article does not say how long it would take for the effect to take hold once the temperature got high enough to trigger it. Note that the wiki says that sea surface temps at the poles were probably above 80 o F when past anoxic events occurred.

    So while this worst case scenario could be triggered by 2100, it would probably be a lot longer till “most of the world [will stink] of rotten eggs.”

  7. Modesty says:

    I loved the there’s-a-communication-problem-here theme. Brilliant.
    Canadians–I’m sure it will show up on youtube soon. Must see.

  8. ed says:

    3/3/09 was my 21st birthday!

  9. ed says:

    cant watch the video in England by the way. says not available in my region, is there another site i could watch it on?

  10. Gail says:

    As far as an effective message, I was glad you used Fahrenheit instead of Celsius, since we are in America after all, but I do wish we would dispense with the 100 year timeframe. It’s just not very compelling and what with the disappearing glaciers, melting polar caps, droughts, hurricanes, floods and wildfires going on right now, it seems like it would be just as accurate to bring these events into the discussion without attributing any individual weather event to climate (chaos?) change. Can’t we dispense with the 100 years and say that these current disasters are part of what we expect to occur and that they will be happening more frequently over greater areas?

  11. ZS says:

    I agree with Gail. We should certainly be talking about the impacts of climate change over the next century, but if the main emphasis is on the state of the environment in 2100, it reinforces the notion that climate change is a problem that will really be damaging to later generations. So many people who are fairly knowledgeable on the subject and sympathetic to the cause believe that they won’t really have to deal with the consequences of climate change because it won’t “happen” until after we’re all dead.

    Joe, I appreciate your focus on communication on, and your go to soundbite on climate change (“10 to 15 F warming, dust bowl in the Southwest, droughts, ocean acidification”) is effective and concise. But what we need is to develop a similar soundbite that communicates the consequences that we are seeing NOW and over the next 15 to 20 years. Some people will never act (or care, for that matter) unless they see this as something that will affect them in the near term.

  12. Bruce says:

    So that’s what you look like. You look more staid than I imagined.

    [JR: What did you imagine?]

  13. PeterW says:

    Actually I was referring to the format of the date. Most places in the world don’t use the mm/dd/yy that makes this Odd Day. Canada use to be only dd/mm/yy but I guess the official version that nobody uses is yyyy-mm-dd. Also mm/dd/yy is used because we’re close to the States. Anyway, 05/07/09 is July 5th, 2009 in many parts of the world.

  14. Modesty says:


    LOL. More communication problems.

  15. Charlie Fog says:

    I agree, let use a different time frame than the year 2100. How about the 500-year time frame? That’s when the really dramatic impacts show up — the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets melt, the sea level rises 40 feet, most of the world’s coastal cities disappear underwater, the ocean plankton and fish stocks collapse, most agricultural areas become unsuitable for growing crops. And oh by the way, hundreds of millions or billions of humans die.

  16. R Paul says:

    Why talk about just 15-20 year outlook, or the 90-year outlook, or the 500-year outlook?

    Let’s look at cancer. When it’s diagnosed the patient has three choices: fight it and beat it into submission, sort of fight it and prolong one’s life a bit, or take no action against the cancer and let it kill the patient on a timetable established by the cancer itself.

    What’s humanity doing right now? I’d say mostly the second and for a lot of us, I’d say we’re taking the third route. It’s like the smoking addicts who could not be convinced by the facts to change their ways. They smoked until it killed them. Sadly, the 50% who see things the way Limbaugh does, will take us all down with them unless we crush them at the polls (or the poles if you prefer).

  17. ecostew says:

    Well – it was great!

  18. Jim Prall says:

    Thanks to Joe’s heads-up yesterday, I managed to record the segment on my PVR and watched it before work this morning.

    Andy Kindler did a good job picking the experts and letting them say their (very brief) sound bits (barely even a whole bite).

    Spoiler alert – below is a partial, sketchy transcript of some of the dialogue, for the record. If you expect to get to watch the video, you might prefer to save this for after.

    Key punchlines:
    talking to token skeptic George Kukla:
    Kindler: “Did you present your views to the government?”
    Kukla: “Yes, to Al Gore”
    Kindler: “What was his reaction?”
    Kukla “He said ‘Most of that is bullsh*t’ ” (big audience reaction)

    In reply to Gavin Schmidt’s overview of his work, at his PC:
    “Can you get YouTube on this thing? Have you seen the video of the turtle trying to have sex with a shoe?” (Gavin plays along and watches the video.)

    Kindler said nothing meaningful about climate himself, yet by asking simple, direct questions and letting the experts give their best one-liners, he actually let through some serious content amid all the frivolity.

    It was an interesting variant on the kind of deadpan ambush that the stringers for the Daily Show pull off to such great effect. The interview subject walks into their absurb setups and looks like a fool; in this format, the interviewer plays the fool while letting the subjects talk sense. It actually works.

    Made my day.

  19. Tim says:

    Can’t view your video in Australia – Vimeo or YouTube might be good.

  20. John says:

    I know the WWII comparisons are tired and overused, but I found myself screaming at Kindler and Letterman over this segment.

    Would we laugh at Kindler eating a segment of wedding cake topped with a charming “Arbeit Macht Frei” gate alongside Robert Faurisson, while Elie Wiesel had to speak through Charlie McCarthy?

    The number of human lives and planetary species at stake are far larger, and we’re in the middle of the war, not post-war.

    I was really pleased to see CP get exposure, but I am unconvinced that anyone learned anything or changed their mind about anything. Self-satisfied denialists saw the folks speaking out against them made clowns of.

    A big thumbs-down to Letterman and his team.

  21. Gavin says:

    It has magically appeared on youtube: