Why Is Fox Going To Joe Bastardi For Climate Change Analysis?
Research ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG & SHAUNA THEEL
Fox News and Fox Business Network frequently host Joe Bastardi to comment on climate change. But Bastardi, who is a weather forecaster, not a climate researcher, has made inaccurate claims about climate science on multiple occasions and is not seen by experts as a credible source of climate information.
Fox Regular Joe Bastardi Believes Global Warming Is "An Obvious Fraud"
Bastardi Has Discussed Climate Change On Fox At Least 18 Times Over Past 2 Years. Bastardi often appears on Fox to report on weather events but he has also commented on the issue of longer-term global climate change at least 7 times on Fox News and at least 11 times on the Fox Business Network since September 2009:
[Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/09/09]
[Fox Business Network, Imus in the Morning, 12/11/09]
[Fox Business Network, Cavuto, 12/11/09]
[Fox Business Network, Cavuto, 2/09/10]
[Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 2/22/10]
[Fox Business Network, Imus in the Morning, 2/26/10]
[Fox Business Network, Imus in the Morning, 7/2/10]
[Fox Business Network, Cavuto, 12/13/10]
[Fox Business Network, Follow the Money, 2/1/11]
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 2/2/11]
[Fox Business Network, Cavuto, 4/28/11]
[Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 4/28/11]
[Fox News, Your World With Neil Cavuto, 5/25/11]
[Fox Business Network, The Tom Sullivan Show, 5/28/11]
[Fox Business Network, FOX Business, 6/16/11]
[Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/6/11]
[Fox Business Network, FOX Business, 7/21/11]
[Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 8/6/11]
Bastardi: Manmade Global Warming "Is An Obvious Fraud." Bastardi wrote in a blog post:
How do these people have any credibility? How do they get away with this? It's mind boggling that its gotten to a point where the EPA is dictating policy based on what is an obvious fraud, or if you want to be gentle about it, creates enough doubt to back off. [NoTricksZone.com, 8/8/11]
Bastardi: "I Am Not, Nor Do I Seek, To Be A Spokesman" On Global Warming. Bastardi wrote in a September 2009 letter that "I am not, nor do I seek, to be a spokesman on the AGW [anthropogenic global warming] issue. I will however take a stand when called upon, on what I believe to be true." Bastardi claimed "We can't know till after the period that is coming up through 2030 whether co2 is really a player or not." He added:
Common sense dictates that a trace gas needed for life on the planet would not be the cause for destroying life on the planet. Common sense dictates that what has happened before without man can happen again with man. Common sense would dictate that you not believe me, or any one else, but go look for YOURSELF. [Examiner.com, 9/11/09]
Fox News' O'Reilly Cited Bastardi As A Reason Why He Is "Skeptical About All This Stuff." From a December 2009 edition of The O'Reilly Factor:
BILL O'REILLY: [L]ook, I want a cleaner planet. I've always said that I think you do. I think most people watching us do. But I'm skeptical about all this stuff. I got Joe Bastardi, who I think is the best weather forecaster in the country and State College, Pennsylvania telling me, hey, there has -- just as you said, there hasn't been any warming for 12 or 13 years. I'm looking at the scientists argue back and forth. I'm looking at the scandal. Don't have any dissenting views on this out of England. And I'm going you know, this doesn't feel right. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 12/7/09, via Nexis]
- O'Reilly: "Our Pal Joe Bastardi ... Thinks It's All Bogus." From a December 2009 discussion between Bill O'Reilly and John Stossel on the so-called "Climategate" controversy:
O'REILLY: So they didn't want to give the actual hard data on warming? You know, our pal Joe Bastardi of AccuWeather down in Pennsylvania thinks it's all bogus. He thinks there hasn't been a warming trend since 1998 in the world. Does this prove that Bastardi is onto to something?
STOSSEL: This doesn't, but clearly he's on to something. There hasn't been warming for the past 11 years. [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 12/1/09, via Nexis]
Bastardi Has Repeatedly Misinformed Fox's Audience
CLAIM: El Niño Accounts For Warming Trend. A FoxNews.com article reported: "Of course temperatures are up, said Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist with Accuweather: It's El Niño, stupid. 'El Niños cause spikes up. La Niñas drop it down,' Bastardi told FoxNews.com. 'Why have we gone up overall in the past 30 years? Because we've been in a warm cycle in the Pacific,' he said." [FoxNews.com, 1/24/11]
- REALITY: Scientists Say El Niño Can't Explain The Long-Term Warming Trend. David Pierce, a climate scientist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography said that "the main way we know that El Nino is not responsible for the 'global warming' in recent decades is that the up-and-down temperature sequence of the El Ninos and La Ninas does not match the long-term, secular rise in temperatures" and "the spatial signature of El Nino warming does not match the spatial pattern of global warming either." [Media Matters, 1/27/11]
CLAIM: Human-Induced Climate Change "Contradicts" The 1st Law Of Thermodynamics. On the August 5 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Bastardi claimed that the theory of human-induced climate change "contradicts what we call the 1st law of thermodynamics. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. So to look for input of energy into the atmosphere, you have to come from a foreign source." [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 8/6/11]
- REALITY: Climate Scientists Say The Energy Driving Warming Originally Comes From The Sun. Duke University scientist William Chameides called this claim "utter nonsense," and explained, "It is true that global warming requires a source of heat. In this case it comes from the sun. What CO2 does is trap a larger amount of the heat from the sun, preventing it from escaping and thus driving up temperatures. To argue otherwise is to argue that the greenhouse effect does not exist." [Media Matters, 8/9/11]
CLAIM: Human Contribution To CO2 Levels Is Too "Tiny" To Cause Warming. On both the July 4 edition of Fox & Friends and the August 6 edition of Fox & Friends Saturday, Bastardi claimed manmade global warming is undermined by the fact that the human contribution of CO2 is small compared to the amount of natural CO2. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 7/4/11] [Fox News, Fox & Friends Saturday, 8/6/11]
- REALITY: Fossil Fuel Emissions Overwhelm The Natural Carbon Cycle. As the Congressional Research Service explains, the release of CO2 from fossil fuel use causes the otherwise balanced carbon cycle to overflow into the atmosphere: "Humans tap the huge pool of fossil carbon for energy, and affect the global carbon cycle by transferring fossil carbon--which took millions of years to accumulate underground--into the atmosphere over a relatively short time span. As a result, the atmosphere contains approximately 35% more CO2 today than prior to the beginning of the industrial revolution." [Media Matters, 7/6/11]
Scientists: Bastardi's Claims Are "Completely Wrong," "Scientifically Incorrect," "Nonsense"
Kerry Emanuel: "Bastardi's Background Is In Weather Forecasting, Not Climate Science." Kerry Emanuel, atmospheric scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, stated via email:
I might point out that Bastardi's background is in weather forecasting, not climate science. Asking him to comment on the science of climate change is rather like asking a country doctor to comment on the latest developments in biomedical research. The media really ought to know better. [Email to Media Matters, 8/16/11]
Keith Seitter: Bastardi Has Presented "Scientifically Incorrect" Information On Fox. Presented with statements by Bastardi from multiple Fox appearances, Keith Seitter, the Executive Director of the American Meteorological Society stated, "I have not seen Mr. Bastardi on these programs, but several components of the quotes you provide are scientifically incorrect." [Email to Media Matters, 8/16/11]
Judith Curry: "Fox News Needs To Find A More Credible Spokesperson" On Climate Science. Judith Curry, a climatologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology and a frequent critic of the IPCC, stated via email:
He is a private sector meteorologist. His clients can judge whether or not he is good at forecasting the weather (he probably does a credible job). However, when it comes to science and climate change, his public statements on the subject imply to me that he does not understand the very basics of the science. His statement regarding carbon dioxide and the first law of thermodynamics is a particular whopper. His only academic credential is a B.S. in Meteorology from Penn State in 1978. Fox News needs to find a more credible spokesperson. [Email to Media Matters, 8/16/11]
Tim Barnett: "I Do Not See Where He Has Any Credentials To Make The Statements He Makes." Tim Barnett, a research marine physicist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography stated of Bastardi: "I do not see where he has any credentials to make the statements he makes. No evidence of scientific papers, etc. His arguments are vague and not possible to pin down, e.g. mumbling about sun spots causing warming/cooling, etc." [Email to Media Matters, 8/16/11]
Richard Muller: Bastardi's Claim About Physics Is "Completely Wrong," Other Statements "Equally Bad." Richard Muller, professor of physics and a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory said that Bastardi's August 6 claims on Fox News are "completely wrong," adding that "even skeptics of global warming, if they know physics, would disagree with him. Explicitly, humans contribute essentially 100% of the excess CO2. He is confusing the total upward CO2 flux with the yearly increase." Muller added that other statements made on different occasions by Bastardi are "equally bad." [Email to Media Matters, 8/17/11]
Gavin Schmidt: Statements Made On Fox By Bastardi Are "Nonsense," And "Simply Ignorant." In a point-by-point rebuttal to multiple statements made in the past by Bastardi, NASA climatologist Gavin Schmidt used the words "nonsense," "simply ignorant," "completely wrong," "handwaving," "very odd," and "based on nothing." Schmidt concluded that presenting Bastardi as an expert on climate change is "about as credible as someone claiming to be an expert on the Greenland ice sheet because they eat ice cream." [Email to Media Matters, 8/16/11]
Bastardi Predicts Global Cooling In Coming Decades
Bastardi: "By 2030, The Earth Will Be Back Down To" Temperatures In Late 1970s. Appearing on The Colbert Report in April 2010, Bastardi predicted that "we're going to find out that global warming is basically natural." He also said that "by 2030, the earth will be back down to where it was in the late 70s when we started measuring with satellites. You mark my words." [Comedy Central, The Colbert Report, 4/6/10]
Bastardi: "If I'm Right, The Earth's Temperature Is Going To Cool A Degree To A Degree-And-A-Half." From Bastardi's December 2009 appearance on Sean Hannity's radio show:
BASTARDI: We will get our answer in the next 20 to 30 years. And we don't have to panic. We don't have to rush around because if I'm right, the earth's temperature is going to cool a degree to a degree and a half Fahrenheit the next 20 to 30 years. And if it does, then that's a game, set, match. You know [CO2] is not the driver that people say. [The Sean Hannity Show, 12/17/09]
Bastardi: "I'm Just As Worried That In The Next 30 Years, That We Are Going Back Into ... A Mini Ice Age." From the December 11, 2009, edition of Fox Business' Imus in the Morning:
BASTARDI: I think people have to understand what's going on. I have something behind me here called the triple crown of cooling. I'm just as worried that in the next 30 years, that we are going back into a period back in the early 1800s which was a mini ice age.
We have the natural reversal of the ocean cycles going on. We have very low sun spot activity, increased volcanic activity. I've got to tell you something, after this winter in the eastern and southern part of the United States and in Europe, this winter here, a lot of people aren't going to want to hear about global warming because there are already signs that things are turning around. [Fox Business Network, Imus in the Morning, 12/11/09, via Nexis]
Bastardi Predicts That Arctic Sea Ice Will Return To 1970s Levels Within 20 Years. From an AccuWeather video:
BASTARDI: Now there's no question about it that overall sea ice in the northern hemisphere has decreased since the beginning of the satellite era. I have no question about that but the theory that guys like me have is that with the PDO changing and the AMO going to change, it's going to go back on the increase again and within 20 years be back where it was in the late 70s. [AccuWeather, 3/22/10]
Bastardi: There Are A Lot Of Reputable People Who Think Another Ice Age Is Coming." From a Vanity Fair interview:
Mr. Heat Miser might be getting more credit than Mr. Cold Miser--we're going to find out over the next 30 years. I think the cold side of the equation, Mr. Cold Miser, is going to win over the next 20 to 30 years. The Pacific is already getting colder, and the Atlantic will be turning colder in 10 years, like it always does. You've got solar cycles getting involved. Some of my colleagues think that not only is Mr. Snow Miser going to win, he's going to put Mr. Heat Miser out of business.
There are a lot of reputable people who think another ice age is coming. I go to conferences where there'll be a thousand PhDs who don't believe any of this stuff. [Vanity Fair, 2/24/11]
Bastardi Is A Meteorologist Who Advises A "Free-Market" Think Tank
Bastardi Works As Meteorologist For WeatherBELL Consulting Firm. The Washington Post's Capital Weather Gang reported in March:
Less than three weeks after resigning as AccuWeather's chief long-range forecaster, Joe Bastardi announced Friday that he has accepted the position of chief forecaster at WeatherBell, a fledgling weather consulting firm.
WeatherBell has also hired veteran meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo, who served as the Weather Channel's first director of meteorology.
Based in New York City, WeatherBell Analytics LLC will offer meteorological products and services geared toward helping businesses manage weather risk. The company is funded entirely by angel investors.
During his tenure at AccuWeather, Bastardi was also a frequent guest on Fox News where he discussed not only weather but his skeptical position on global warming. [Washington Post, 3/11/11]
- Bastardi Has A Bachelor's Degree in Meteorology. [WeatherBELL, accessed 8/15/11]
Bastardi's Forecasts Are Marketed And Sold To Energy Companies. WeatherBELL offers an industry specific package of products targeted to "energy companies, hedge funds, or related businesses," which includes "daily videos produced by" Bastardi, a "daily interpretation" from Bastardi of NOAA's report, forecasts, and a weekly web conference call with Bastardi. [WeatherBELL, accessed 8/15/11]
Bastardi Says He Is "Heavily Involved" In Forecasting For Corporate Energy Clients. From a February 24 Vanity Fair interview:
Bastardi frequently appears on CNN and Fox News, arguing against anthropogenic global warming and looking as though he's about to burst out of his shirt like Bruce Banner. He's debated Bill Nye the Science Guy on The O'Reilly Factor and gotten into a "Science Catfight " with Brenda Ekwurzel, a climatologist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, on The Colbert Report. Until earlier this week, he was the "Chief Long Range Forecaster" for AccuWeather, a weather-forecasting service based in State College, Pennsylvania. But his bread and butter, he says, are his corporate clients, the names of which he won't divulge, saying only that he's "heavily involved in energy. Some of the companies that I work for were very happy that it snowed as much as it did this winter." [Vanity Fair, 2/24/11]
Bastardi Is An Advisor For A "Free-Market" Think Tank. Bastardi is a Senior Advisor and Fellow at The American Tradition Institute, a "free-market" environmental policy think tank. [ATI, accessed 8/10/11]
AAAS Issued A "Rare Statement" Denouncing ATI's Tactics. The Hill reported on June 29:
The board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science issued a rare statement Tuesday underscoring that it "vigorously opposes" personal attacks on climate scientists. It's the organization's strongest rebuke of efforts by conservative groups to criticize climate scientists.
"Reports of harassment, death threats, and legal challenges have created a hostile environment that inhibits the free exchange of scientific findings and ideas and makes it difficult for factual information and scientific analyses to reach policymakers and the public," the statement says. "This both impedes the progress of science and interferes with the application of science to the solution of global problems."
The statement comes a week after a conservative group sued NASA for records related to the outside advocacy and compensation of James Hansen, a prominent advocate for reducing the country's greenhouse gas emissions. The same group, the American Tradition Institute, has also sought documents from the University of Virginia related to Michael Mann, another prominent climate scientist.
"The sharing of research data is vastly different from unreasonable, excessive Freedom of Information Act requests for personal information and voluminous data that are then used to harass and intimidate scientists," said AAAS, which bills itself as the world's largest scientific society. "The latter serve only as a distraction and make no constructive contribution to the public discourse." [The Hill, 6/29/11]
NY Times: Unlike Meteorologists, Climatologists "Almost Universally Endorse" Theory Of Human-Induced Climate Change. From a March 2010 New York Times article:
Climatologists, who study weather patterns over time, almost universally endorse the view that the earth is warming and that humans have contributed to climate change. There is less of a consensus among meteorologists, who predict short-term weather patterns.
Joe Bastardi, for example, a senior forecaster and meteorologist with AccuWeather, maintains that it is more likely that the planet is cooling, and he distrusts the data put forward by climate scientists as evidence for rising global temperatures. [New York Times, 3/29/10]
CJR: Meteorologists And Climatologists "Ask Very Different Questions." From a February 2010 Colombia Journalism Review article:
But the disagreement, then as now, also came down to the weathercasters themselves, and what they knew--or believed they knew. Meteorology has a deceptively close relationship with climatology: both disciplines study the same general subject, the behavior of the atmosphere, but they ask very different questions about it. Meteorologists live in the short term, the day-to-day forecast. It's an incredibly hard thing to predict accurately, even with the best models and data; tiny discrepancies matter enormously, and can pile up quickly into giant errors. Given this level of uncertainty in their own work, meteorologist looking at long-range climate questions are predisposed to see a system doomed to terminal unpredictability. But in fact, the basic question of whether rising greenhouse gas emissions will lead to climate change hinges on mostly simple, and predictable, matters of physics. The short-term variations that throw the weathercasters' forecasts out of whack barely register at all.
This is the one explanation that everyone who has mulled the question seems to agree on--and indeed, when I spoke with meteorologists who were skeptical of or uncertain about the scientific consensus, it was the one thing they all brought up. "Meteorologists know our models," Brian Neudorff, a meteorologist at WROC in Rochester, New York, told me. "There's a lot of error and bias. We'll use five different models and come back with five different things. So when we hear that climatological models are saying this, how accurate are they?"
Most scientists are loath to speak to subjects outside of their own field, and with good reason--you wouldn't expect a dentist to know much about, say, the geological strata of the Grand Canyon. But meteorologists, by virtue of typically being the only people with any science background at their stations, are under the opposite pressure--to be conversant in anything and everything scientific. This is a good thing if you see yourself as a science communicator, someone who sifts the good information from the bad--but it becomes a problem when you start to see scientific authority springing from your own haphazardly informed intuition, as many of the skeptic weathercasters do. Among the certified meteorologists Wilson surveyed in 2008, 79 percent considered it appropriate to educate their communities about climate change. Few of them, however, had taken the steps necessary to fully educate themselves about it. When asked which source of information on climate change they most trusted, 22 percent named the AMS. But the next most popular answer, with 16 percent, was "no one." The third was "myself." [Colombia Journalism Review, February 2010]
Climate Models Differ From Weather Models. From an April 2010 Minnesota Public Radio report:
This week, researchers at the University of Texas and George Mason University released a study showing only 54% of weathercasters believe climate change is occurring, while one in four agreed with the assertion that climate change as a result of human activity is a scam (See the full research here).
"From our perspective there's a lot of positive in it about the willingness of a lot of weathercasters who say they don't know as much as they want to about the science," Kris Wilson, senior lecturer in the College of Communication at the University of Texas told me this week. "They can still change their mind; they're open to learning about the science."
Wilson has created a two-hour module for weathercasters that tries to convince them that if they would simply report the science of climate change, the public might get better information.
"One of the big chunks was how do climate models differ from weather models, because many of the skeptics were couching their criticisms with 'you can't trust the models,'" according to Wilson. "If you can just stick to the science, the science is really pretty clear and definitive and the consensus that's been built among climate change science is really very extraordinary in the field." [Minnesota Public Radio, 4/1/10]
AMS Officials: Some Broadcast Meteorologists Are Offering "Nonscientific Personal Opinions In The Media." Bob Ryan, former president of the American Meteorological Society and John Toohey-Morales, AMS commissioner, wrote in a Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society editorial:
Increasing numbers of broadcast meteorologists, to whom the public looks for information and guidance on climate change and global warming, are not offering scientific information but rather, all too often, nonscientific personal opinions in the media, including personal blogs. Alarmingly, many weathercasters and certified broadcast meteorologists dismiss, in most cases without any sold scientific arguments, the conclusions of the National Research Council (NRC), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other peer-reviewed research.
We strongly believe that, above all, if we are to professionally, fairly, and objectively communicate scientific information (as opposed to a personal or political opinion), we should use our scientific training to stay as informed as possible and make sure to read beyond the headlines.
Few of us possess extensive training or research experience in global climate modeling or paleoclimatology, solar physics, glaciology, oceanography, or the numerous other rigorous disciplines related to climate change. However, many AMS Sealholders, CBMs, and most CCMs have a bachelor's degree in meteorology or a related science and should be comfortable reading climate change-related papers or abstracts in BAMS, Journal of Climate, Journal of Geophysical Research, and other peer-reviewed sources such as summaries of recent IPCC and NRC reports.
The expertise of scientists actively researching climate change is well beyond that of most professional meteorologists, some of whom may only have basic training in weather analysis and forecasting. Nonetheless, the public sees media meteorologists as experts. If we "experts" communicate conflicting information, conveying personal opinions with no scientific basis, the public can become confused and often collectively "tune out" of the issue just when it requires the most attention. [Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, August 2007]
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- Environment & Science, Climate Change
- Fox News Channel, Fox Business
- Bill O'Reilly, Neil Cavuto, Eric Bolling, Joe Bastardi
- The O'Reilly Factor, FOX & Friends, Your World w/ Neil Cavuto, Imus in the Morning, Fox & Friends Saturday, Cavuto, Follow the Money with Eric Bolling, The Tom Sullivan Show