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ow_20121205_covernasa

NASA image of Superstorm Sandy

Climate out of control

TV meteorologists talk about climate change: An interview with Paul Douglas, plus four local TV meteorologists

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Paul Douglas is running against the grain.

He is Republican who acknowledges the reality of human-caused climate change. Republicans tend not to agree with the science, despite the overwhelming – 97 percent – consensus among climatologists that human-created emissions are warming the planet, causing climate change and triggering extreme weather.

For example, a Bloomberg national poll released in early October said that while "78 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of independents believe humans are warming the earth … almost two out of three Republicans don't."

The Minneapolis-based Douglas is also a nationally recognized broadcast meteorologist, and the majority of people in his profession don't necessarily acknowledge the level at which humans are causing climate change. According to a 2011 report by the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication, only 53 percent of broadcast meteorologists said that human influence plays an important role in climate change – with 34 percent saying climate change is a result of human and natural causes, and only 19 percent saying it is mostly human-caused.

Douglas would place himself with the 19 percenters, adding that he believes "human activities, the burning of fossil fuels and a 40 percent spike in greenhouse gases are having an impact on warming the atmosphere and the oceans – where 90 percent of the warming has gone in the last four decades."

Every day, we get better at connecting the dots of climate change and extreme weather. As NASA's James Hansen said in August: "The deadly European heat wave of 2003, the fiery Russian heat wave of 2010 and catastrophic droughts in Texas and Oklahoma last year can each be attributed to climate change."

Earlier this year, Douglas argued in his blog that Republicans were wrongheaded to ignore climate change. "Some in my party believe the EPA and all those silly 'global warming alarmists' are going to get in the way of drilling and mining our way to prosperity," he wrote. "Well, we have good reason to be alarmed."

Later in the year, he wrote a direct message to Mitt Romney via Huffington Post, exhorting the Republican presidential candidate to acknowledge the reality of climate change, and impress upon his party the severity of our current predicament.

"If Mitt Romney is genuine about his promise to 'help you and your family,' he needs to acknowledge this, and work for a solution that will solve both the economic and the climate crisis," Douglas wrote.
We talked to Douglas recently about his stance on climate change, then we contacted a sampling of local meteorologists to get their take on the phenomenon that is, literally, changing the world as we know it.

Jim Poyser: When did you begin to take note of climate change?
Paul Douglas: All of us have different thresholds for when you acknowledge the science. For me it was when James Hansen went before Congress in 1988. I thought he was jumping the gun. I didn't see it. But after living the weather – and that's what any meteorologist does, you live the weather – I just noticed in the mid and late '90s that something had changed.