Forecasting Change: A Meteorologist and an Artist on the Climate Crisis — Magazine — Walker Art Center
Paul Douglas considers himself an “albino unicorn.” A moderate Republican, he’s also a meteorologist who believes climate change is real. That position was met with scorn by some of the right, who called him a “RINO [Republican In Name Only] climate poser,” a “global warming hoax promoter,” and worse.
A lot of this comes down to science literacy, and the fact that many Americans really aren’t willing to dig into the science. It’s much easier to turn on a cable news show with bloviating talking heads going back and forth, and it’s kind of sad. You know what’s ironic? Mother Nature is now accomplishing what climate scientists have had a hard time doing—getting people’s attention. The past two years have been the most extreme, weather-wise, in America’s history. In 2011, four out of five Americans surveyed personally witnessed severe weather. One out of three were personally injured by severe weather. We’ve had $188 billion in severe-weather damage in the last two years, so Mother Nature is accomplishing what climate scientists cannot, and that is, convince a majority of rational, god-fearing people that something has changed. It’s not your grandfather’s weather.
...But I think the most effective image, especially for a denier over the age of 55 or 60, is a photograph of their grandkids...It’s not rocket science! It’s basic physics!...here’s a forecast with 100% accuracy: at some point, your kid or your
grandkid will come to you and say, on this subject—climate change—“What did you know, when, and what did you do? Did you sit on your hands? Did you continue business as usual? Or were you part of the solution?” I want to pass the red-face test with future grandkids... I said, “Senator McCain, is it possible, is there even a chance that this could be a natural cycle, that this could be a fluke, an aberration?” He looked at me, rolled his eyes, and chuckled. “Paul, I just got back from the Yukon, where a village elder presented me with a 4,000-year-old tomahawk that just melted from the permafrost. This is no natural cycle. Next question.” [How, specifically, does that anecdote prove that CO2 is overheating the planet?]
...We’ve become a planet of fossil fools...I refuse to believe that we have to rely on 19th-century extraction technology to power our economy in the 21st century. Really?! You’ve gotta be kidding me. We’ve gotta suck stuff out of the ground to keep the lights on? We have the technology. [Like what, specifically, Paul? Are you personally using this technology to keep your own lights on and/or power your own vehicles?] What we don’t have is the political will.
[Schmelzer] Isn’t the extraction of oil from tar sands so intensive that it it’s kind of like the junkie robbing from grandma to get a fix?
[Douglas] Absolutely. It’s the dirtiest oil.