Friday, April 20, 2012
By Climate Guest Blogger on Apr 20, 2012 at 11:30 am
by Paul Douglas, via Bloomberg Businesweek
I’m a moderate Republican — a fan of small government, light regulation and market solutions. A serial entrepreneur, I founded companies that invented 3-D television weather graphics and the first app on a cell phone. I’m a Penn State meteorologist. My day-job since 1979: tracking weather for TV news.
If you know anything about American politics these days, and follow the climate war at all, you might anticipate with some confidence that I agree global warming is a hoax. That’s a shame, and I hope it changes soon.
In the 1980s I was skeptical that an upward blip in global temperatures was the result of manmade gases. Then the blips persisted. By the mid-90s I began to see them as unsettling changes. The weather was becoming erratic and even more unpredictable than usual. Storms were more frequent and intense. Curious, I began including climate statistics in daily TV weather segments, like annual trends in flash-flooding, hail, summer humidity, fewer subzero nights and decreased snowfall.
Mixing climate and weather was a problem in local TV news, with its reliance on Q-scores and market research. Finally, in 2008 I lost my job in local TV. I continued to write a daily column for the Star Tribune. Mixing climate news in with weather reports made me a lightning rod for skeptics there, too. The flame-mail was relentless. “Stop proselytizing, you crazy liberal – climb back under your rock!” wrote one reader. That’s one of the tamer, more family-friendly messages I’ve received.
I don’t take speaking out on this topic lightly. My father escaped a communist regime in East Germany, moved to the U.S. and became a Republican. He taught me to never take my freedom for granted. He taught me “actions have consequences.” That’s true of nations as it is of individuals. It is sheer lunacy to pretend that releasing 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year won’t come back to bite us.
Climate is what you expect; weather is what you get, the saying goes. Climate is the weather over a long period of time — 15 or 30 years. We’ve pushed the bell curve of ‘average weather’ in a new and more extreme direction. There are simply too many coincidences not to take this seriously.
Climate science shows that over a long period of time, the statistics have changed. Things that used to happen a lot, like consistent winter snow cover, are happening less reliably. Things that happened every now and then, like droughts and wildfires, are happening more reliably. And things that almost never happened — such as the 15,000 new U.S. temperature records in March — sometimes now do occur. And they can’t be explained with purely meteorological reasoning.
The changes we’re seeing, far more than I can list here, seem like an accumulation of coincidences. Pieced together, reveal the full puzzle: There’s more heat and moisture in the atmosphere, and our emissions are largely responsible for keeping it there.