UCS Scientist vs Joe Bastardi on tonight’s Colbert Report

UPDATE:  You can watch the video here.  It’s somewhere between pointless and unhelpful.

UCS climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel goes head to head with a skeptical meteorologist during “couples counseling” tonight on the Colbert Report (Comedy Central, 11:30 p.m. EDT).

And that skeptical meteorologist would be none other than InAccuweather’s long-range conspiracy theorist Joe Bastardi!

Good luck Brenda!  And no, I don’t think that “marriage” can be saved.

For people who haven’t read my various debunkings of Bastardi, start here:  Joe Bastardi can’t read a temperature anomaly map and so spins another conspiracy theory and Accuweather’s Joe Bastardi admits, “Earth continues warmest winter since satellite measurements started” and “Feb should be warmest on record!!!”

20 Responses to UCS Scientist vs Joe Bastardi on tonight’s Colbert Report

  1. David says:

    Thanks for the heads-up… Should be entertaining. I’ll have to make sure I catch it tonight.

  2. He is embarrassing my profession.

  3. Stuart says:

    Argh! He was spouting bull$#!* about the arctic ice being back among other crap – Colbert is great but I am not sure if this helped us.

  4. Richard Brenne says:

    Hi Dan (and thanks for your kind e-mail about my event you saw on-line)!

    For the record, the previous commenter Dan Satterfield is for my money the finest TV weathercaster in the U.S. for understanding and communicating climate change. He has a wonderful understanding of the science, constantly reading the peer-reviewed literature (we’re in the same e-mail group and we get stuff from scientists all the time, including a paper today from Gabe Vecchi questioning whether AGW is influencing the ENSO cycle – nothing definitive yet) and he is a masterful communicator.

    Dan’s in Huntsville, Alabama where John Christy is at the University of Alabama, Huntsville (how’d UAH get into the NCAA hockey tournament, Dan?) but don’t let the small market fool you, Dan is a Ready for Primetime Player. Anybody needing a speaker about climate change in Alabama or the South or (with a speaker’s budget) in the nation should look up Dan, who I hear is a dynamite forecaster as well.

    My dream is to create a media outlet ultimately including TV focusing on climate change and related issues where the pundits are Hansen, Romm, McKibben, many others – and Satterfield.

    Oh, and Stu Ostro is Senior Meteorologist at the Weather Channel, occasionally on-camera where he does a great job, and he’s the other great speaker about climate change I know about who is in TV weather. Paul Gross in Michigan and others sound great as well, but Satterfield and Ostro are the two I’ve seen speak and they’re awesome. Ostro’s hypothesis about AGW creating a greater likelihood of often record or near-record high pressure ridges often accompanied by corresponding cut-off lows is really great, ground-breaking, important and scary stuff.

    Oh, for once on-topic I think Dan and Stu are a little better than Bastardi at understanding climate change, as are their dogs.

  5. Dana says:

    It was more silly than anything, but at least Colbert got in a lot of potshots at TV weathermen.

    Not long ago Bastardi said “to me its all about the weather”.

    Yet he continues to make ignorant climate predictions, claiming it’s all about PDO, despite there being one negative and one positive PDO cycle since 1950, and 0.6°C global warming over that period.

    Bastardi should shut up about the climate, stop embarrassing himself, and try to get a few weather predictions right.

  6. Whatshisname says:

    Holy spit take. Joe, you and Monckton go feed the pigeons with Gray.

  7. Richard Brenne says:

    It was an odd broadcast all the way around, touching on many things you’ve talked about here, Joe. It looks like Colbert’s staff reads Climate Progress.

    But Colbert was dancing like a butterfly so that no cogent points could be made, and Bastardi just spewed complete and utter nonsense but he did it with such conviction that this scored more points for the deniers.

    It was actually frustrating to watch and if Colbert and his producers and writers care about the lives of their children and grandchildren (the problem is that they’re mostly in their twenties and can’t conceive of caring about anything other than their careers), they should set the record straight about this and have Joe on by himself.

  8. Anne says:

    Colbert usually gets it right on most of society’s hot button issues in ways that raise awareness, which this “cat fight” clearly did on the topic of meterologists vs. climatologists and other scientists re: climate change causes. I think I disagree that this helped the denialists (comments 3 and 6) — Colbert fans are typically higher up on the IQ scale than, say, fans of Glenn Beck, and mostly get the nuances woven throughout Colbert’s endearing style and TV persona (a sort of right-wing-nut-with-attention-deficit-issues). Also let’s remind ourselves that Colbert nation is a comedy show on comedy central, more serious sober discussions are left to others. Brenda did a good job of sounding well-informed and reasonable; Bastardi came off as sounding like a know-it-all who doesn’t have his facts right. So maybe this will raise just enough curiosity so more people will wake up to the fact that the vast majority of TV Weathermen lack the education and training to speak with any authority on climate change. And by the way I second Joe’s fave title of late, “If global warming kills us, Blame the Weatherman,” posted a few days ago. Someone needs to take this format, expand it, and host a well organized public debate that vets this point and drives home the need to either train MSM weather predictors on climate science or get them to shut up about it altogether and leave it to the real experts.

  9. PSU Grad says:

    #5, “Bastardi should shut up about the climate, stop embarrassing himself, and try to get a few weather predictions right.”

    Has anyone heard so much as “Boo” out of these guys the last month and a half, and especially the last week? They were all so quick to jump on the “global warming is disproven” bandwagon when we had a week’s cold snap in January and some major snowstorms in February. Now, with high temperatures fully 30 F (THIRTY?) above normal, I continue hearing crickets. Actually, not crickets, last night I heard the hum of numerous air conditioning units, something I never dreamed of hearing on April 6.

    I know, I know, it’s just weather in a relatively localized area. But if “you” commented about how the week-long January cold and February snows (also in a relatively localized area) “disproved” global warming, where are the comments about the March/April heat?

  10. Martin Hedberg says:


    A meteorologists are not by definition a person who does not understand climate science. Take for example Bert Bolin, a Swedish meteorologist who was part of creating IPCC and also was its first chairman (1988-98).

    I agree with Dan Satterfield; Bastardi is embarrassing a profession. I though wouldn’t call Bastardi a colleague.

    /Martin Hedberg, meteorologist

    [JR: It’s different in Europe, I’m told.]

  11. Wow, JB stated that glaciers are advancing! He is really out in left field, isn’t he?

    Arctic Ice & Glacial Trends

    Scott A. Mandia, Professor of Physical Sciences
    Selden, NY
    Global Warming: Man or Myth?
    My Global Warming Blog
    “Global Warming Fact of the Day” Facebook Group

    [JR: Great link there. You should do a guest post for CP. Bastardi and his ilk spread disinformation via the Gish Gallup. Hard to out-debate.]

  12. JR, I would be happy to do a guest post. Did you wish me to do a guest post related to my Modern Day Climate Change page or just the Ice section? Or something else?

  13. Eric Steig says:

    Yup, pretty much pointless.

    It was helpful though! Now I know that global warming is ’caused by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation’!
    Oh yes, Joe Bastardi really is impressive in his knowledge of climate dynamics. Not.

    Any of you the climate denier types want to explain how this works? I’ll give you a hint to get you started:

    The PDO is only one of the following three things:

    1) Pacific
    2) Decadal
    3) Oscillatory

    Which one?

  14. Peter Sergienko says:

    The 5 minute plus introduction was great.

    Although this is The Colbert Report, Bastardi’s debate tactics and Stephen’s moderation style show the difficulty of engaging in a productive debate on climate science with a skeptic. Interestingly, I think it confirms Joe’s view that real debates, which are problematic for many reasons (e.g., putting disinformers on seemingly equal footing with adherents of mainstream science) are generally futile.

    Obviously, this is a comedy show, but it is still instructive that Bastardi makes stuff up (glaciers are increasing) and no one really calls him on it. He also aggressively questions the pre-satellite temperature record likely knowing that no time for the necessarily detailed and nuanced response is possible. Thus, from a debating standpoint, Bastardi looks like the winner because he is confident and aggressive even though most of what he says is nonsense.

    To win a real debate of this sort, the person debating the skeptic has to aggressively take apart their opponent’s qualifications and expertise and their opponent’s case, calling out lies as lies, while remaining reasonably likeable and confident. Merely stating and defending one’s own case in a format like this is a losing strategy.

    As Stephen aptly notes, most people don’t know enough to understand the arguments anyway, so they’ll agree with the person who confirms their pre-existing views. Because debates give skeptics more stature than they deserve and moving debate observers from strongly held views is incredibly difficult, debates are not likely to move public opinion and, therefore, not worth the time and effort.

    I think we really do need a prime time presidential speech on the science to move forward from where we are now as a country on policy. One of the things that impressed me most about President Obama’s campaign was his willingness to treat us as adults in discussing race and race relations in America. He needs to do the same with climate change.

  15. First let me be upfront that I am a friend and colleague of Joe Bastardi and have known him for 36 years. I am not a so-called denier, but I am skeptical about everything I hear and see from anyone on this issue. I see that nearly all of the comments here are negative toward Joe (which doesn’t surprise me given the tenet of people on this site). But nowhere here do I see anyone comment on Brenda’s statements as also being problematic. For example, when asked why she thinks global warming is man-made she pointed to changes such as glaciers melting and sea-levels rising, which in themselves may indicate warming but say nothing about the causes.

    [JR: I have blogged repeatedly on the absurdly anti-scientific statements of Bastardi. Scientists are inherently skeptical, but they don’t ignore reams and reams of scientific observations and peer-reviewed studies. The fact that most of the warming is due to human causes has been well established through attribution studies. On TV, one has to pick which scientific arguments you are going to make in a limited space. Brenda’s statements are accurate — I’m sure she wishes she had time to get into the fact that humans were the cause before she got interrupted. Bastardi’s claim about glaciers among other things was an outright falsehood.]

  16. J. says:

    Ms. Ekwurzel near the end of the clip just threw out an appeal to authority, as opposed to any actual evidence. Something about the American Meteorological Society having an official statement about the warming of the last hundred and fifty years or so being man-made. A logical fallacy while debating.

  17. Johan says:

    I suspect that quite a few people watching won’t take Bastardi’s word for it but will in fact try to look it up. And that is much more important than whether any actual points where made in the “debate”.

  18. Cmac says:

    Just saw the repeat — slightly painful even though I think Colbert was trying. They should’ve called you.