Paul Douglas: Sh*t Storm Chaser

Seen in same room at same time?

I’ve always thought WCCO-TV meteorologist Paul Douglas looked like Pee Wee Herman, comedian Paul Reubens’ brilliant character who famously responded to insults by using every elementary student’s favorite plaground rebuttal: “I know you are, but what am I??” Works every time.

Well, Paul the weatherman might be tempted to use Paul the comedians’ cathartic line over the next few weeks, as conservative climate chaos doubters get wind of his recent Huffington Post essay “A Message From a Republican Meteorologist on Climate Change.”

In contrast to KSTP-TV weather man Dave Dahl, Douglas has long been a believer in climate change. But he really provoked the anti-science crowd in this tour de force. It’s a long piece, but worth the read. Here are a few excerpts:

I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real.

I’m in a small, frustrated and endangered minority: a Republican deeply concerned about the environmental sacrifices some are asking us to make to keep our economy powered-up. It’s ironic. The root of the word conservative is “conserve”. A staunch Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, set aside vast swaths of America for our National Parks System, the envy of the world. Another Republican, Richard Nixon, launched the EPA. Now 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. Well, we have good reason to be alarmed.

My father, a devout Republican, who escaped a communist regime in East Germany, always taught me to never take my freedom for granted, and “actions have consequences”. Carbon that took billions of years to form has been released in a geological blink of an eye. Human emissions have grown significantly over the past 200 years, and now exceed 27 billion tons of carbon dioxide, annually. To pretend this isn’t having any effect on the 12-mile thin atmosphere overhead is to throw all logic and common sense out the window. It is to believe in scientific superstitions and political fairy tales, about a world where actions have no consequences — where colorless, odorless gases, the effluence of success and growth, can be waved away with a nod and a smirk. No harm, no foul. Keep drilling.

Thems fightin’ words. Hang on, Paul, a violent storm front is rolling into your neighborhood.

- Loveland

47 Responses

  1. What is it you think should be done about climate change Joe?

  2. Reduce CO2 emissions through emissions trading and/or carbon tax. Align the incentives and let the free market will solve the problem. Bush the First had it right.

    And what is your solution?

    • Reducing carbon emissions is not on the table as a practical matter. It can’t happen. It’s a logistical impossibility. So moreso, my immediate interest is this paradox of who can be credibly called anti-science. The one who recognizes that carbon emissions are not going to be cut or the one who’s child like naïve to that?

      My solution is do nothing.

      • I honestly don’t think we have room for a constructive conversation then.

      • It’s actually an easy conversation. The first thing to do is determine who is correct on the most basic of assumptions.

        Is it possible to scale up green energy so that we can scale down carbon energy given current population trends?

      • Here is what actual scientific experts say:

        “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scientists believe that it is very likely (greater than 90 percent chance) that most of the warming we have experienced since the 1950s is due to the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. If humans continue to emit greenhouse gases at or above the current pace, we will probably see an average global temperature increase of 3 to 7°F (2 to 4ºC) by 2100, and greater warming after that. Temperatures in some parts of the globe (e.g., over land and in the polar regions) are expected to rise even more.

        Even if we drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, returning them to year 2000 levels and holding them constant, the Earth would still warm about 1°F (0.6ºC) over the next 100 years. This is due to the long lifetime of many greenhouse gases and the slow cycling of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere.”

        The degree of climate chaos that results from a 3 to 7 degree increase versus the climate chaos that comes from a 1 degree increase is huge. If we align the incentives correctly, the market could come up with technology and behavior change to hold CO2 levels to 2000 levels, and thus at least bend the very scary trend curve we’re riding. Can we get it back to 1950s levels? I’m not sure. Can we get to 2000 levels? I think we could if we had the political will to make carbon emitting expensive.

        If you make CO2 emitting activities expensive enough, the markets will find another way. We may not be able to get it back to the 1950s levels, but we do need to bend that trend line back to 2000 levels or we are going to mess up the planet a whole lot worse than we already have.

        P.S. I’m with you that population control has to be a big part of this discussion.

      • What’s your preferred plan? The way the Chinese do it?

      • Not the way Romney, Santorum and Gingrich do it.

      • You’re not sure if we can get back to 1950 levels?

        Joe, as a planet, we won’t be reducing energy consumption, and the green energy that ostensibly should replace the carbon energy doesn’t exist in any quantity. To be “not sure”, means you actually put faith in the idea that we will be returning to some Pol Pot agrarian dystopia.

        We’re not reducing to 1950 levels.

        We’re not reducing to 2000 levels.

        Wealthy countries, which by definition consume a lot of energy, have very stable population growth.

        Your various understandings are so dissonant that its hard not to remark on the gall it must take to spout meme-y platitudes and then pat yourself on the back for being “pro-science”.

      • If gasoline got expensive enough, compressed natural gas, battery and hydrogen cars would reach market viability much more quickly.

        If coal got expensive enough, more investment and infrastructure support would go to solar and wind.

        If energy got expensive enough, more would be invested in efficiency and conservation, because it would be worth the investment.

        Now is when you cherry pick one of those fuel sources and lecture me: “that’s ridiculous you naive liberal, X is not economically competitive and isn’t sufficient as a stand alone solution.”

        Then, I say “yes but X could be competitive in the market if carbon emitting sources were expensive enough, and T + U + V + W + X + Y + Z absolutely can, working together, bend the current cheap CO2 emissions trend line.”

        We’re like an old married couple who can finish each others sentences.

      • I don’t think this is all that rote.

        Making gasoline artificially inefficient as measured by cost in order to make a less plentiful alternative efficient as measured by cost is not going to work. By which I mean, the productivity suck / sink that it theoretically constructs means the bias is it never actually happens. You never actually successfully create the environment in which the subsidized green energy becomes the preferred energy in the marketplace.

        It doesn’t matter what price the carbon fuels go to. If they exist, they’ll still be bought and used. Which is to say, our carbon fuel consumption isn’t going to decrease. Our carbon emissions aren’t going to decrease.

      • Yes, I often hear that from free market conservatives. Price never impacts consumer demand.

      • Is that what I said?

      • This is what I hear you saying: 1) There is no climate chaos problem, so there should be no time or resources wasted on solutions. 2) If it can’t be fixed in the ultra-near term with one panacea policy, we should give up. 3) If we can only bend the curve and not immediately reverse it, if we can only limit the problem and not immediately eliminate it, we should do nothing. Drill baby drill. Burn baby burn. Don’t worry, be happy. 4) Prices drive consumer demand and consumer demand drives supply, and we should organize our entire economy and society around this truism, except when I say it isn’t true, and it isn’t true with fossil fuels.

        It seems pointless to debate the last three assertions if you aren’t convinced on the first. Everything stems from your first assertion — there is no problem of climate chaos, so there should be no attempted solutions. If you don’t believe the current level of overwhelming scientific consensus about the problem of climate chaos and that the problem is driven by human actions, what could possibly convince you? What scientific organizational statement? What scientific finding?

  3. Douglas is engaging in some persona building and self-aggrandizement. Being a rich, outspoken moderate Republican is a form of humble-bragging. He’s not speaking out for the cause. He’s doing it for his own psychological needs.

    The thing is, the archetype he’s going for expired about 4 years ago.
    Yes, he probably will get crank letters. But this is similar to gun control. The righties won. Who cares anymore.

  4. Douglas holds a B.S. in meteorology from Penn State, which makes him unqualified to render an expert opinion on this subject. As you all point out – meteorology is NOT climatology. Two separate disciplines, right?

    Further, please explain how 200 years of sketchy, imperfect whip-and-buggy-era-collected climatologic “data” trumps Earth’s 4.5 BILLION year history, which includes scores of heating and warming cycles, the vast majority of which were pre-human.

    Answer the damn question, anyone! I can be persuaded if anyone can answer this question directly.

    The follow-up question is: How do you differentiate human-caused global warming (assuming it exists) from other causes of global warming (and you better be able to prove what other causes were)?

    If these questions can’t be answered, then I’d urge everyone here to promptly migrate to the impending Meteorite Avoidance Crisis. We need social policy to head off this disaster, too.

    • The ins and outs of the climatology isn’t all that important.

      Pertinent Climate Change Science Fact #1 is that decreased energy consumption is unrealistic to the point of impossibility. Replacing carbon energy with green energy in any meaningful, scalable way is unrealistic to the point of impossibility.

      If you’re a liberal (or a liberal Republican) and you can’t acknowledge this, then you are either naïve or too obtuse to be part of the adult discussion. Joe and Paul Douglass are no doubt of the educated and reasonably sophisticated liberal type, so it’s doubtful they’re incapable of acknowledging Pertinent Climate Change Science Fact #1.

      But they then find themselves in a position where they advocate a solution that doesn’t fix the problem. This is dumb. And here we are, back on topic now. Notwithstanding us righty’s ‘anti-science’ bias, I think our ire and critique of their ulterior motivations is completely justified.

      • Pertinent economic fact # 1: if you raise the price of something (say, thru a carbon tax) people will use less of it, or use it more efficiently, or seek out alternatives (and those 3 things are not mutually exclusive).

        Why are you opposed to a carbon tax, Erik?

      • Even Mitt Romney agrees that if you lower the price of energy, people will use more of it–so, conversely, if you raise the price, they will use less.
        http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2012/03/22/mitt_romney_talking_sense_on_gas_prices_in_2006.html

        of course, he said this in 2006, so he has probably changed his mind by now….

      • Your economic fact is fine, and not at odds with Pertinent Climate Change Science Fact #1.

        Romney is irrelevant, a side argument.

        On the margins, it’s probably possible to compress energy use per capita a touch. But we have a growing world population that will take up the slack and then some.

        World energy use is going to go up. Green energy can’t provide that energy. This is immutable. This is math.

        Look,you can either be an honest participant in the conversation or you can be some combination of obtuse and dishonest. Carbon emissions go up under any scenario. Which makes the rationale for the tax a lie.

  5. Further, on the topic of the conservative anti science bias:

    http://www.salon.com/2012/04/02/inside_the_republican_brain/singleton/

    “And not only did Gauchat find that, from 1974 to 2010, conservatives marched away from the scientific community. He also found, quite disturbingly, that this had a surprising and paradoxical relationship with their levels of education. It turns out that it was the educated conservatives who became the most distrusting of science over time — a phenomenon that I have called the “smart idiot” effect, and that likely reflects their higher level of political knowledge and engagement. Liberals, in contrast, remained relatively uniform in their trust in science over the period.”

    “The idea, then, is that conservatives came to define the worlds of science and academia as a liberal domain that was biased against them — one they had to actively combat by generating their own sources of “counter-expertise.” And naturally, this led to decreased trust in scientists and their institutions, especially among the most politically attuned conservatives, who were most familiar with the nature of these battles, and tracked them most closely”

    • Is it possible to scale up green energy so that we can scale down carbon energy given current population trends?

  6. Regarding your Pee-wee Herman quote, isn’t it “I know you are. But what am I?”

    • I stand corrected. (I edited the original post to avoid further humiliation, but it was originally a misquote. I orginally had “that’s what you are, what am I.”)

  7. Erik:

    seems to me that you are using a variation of the reductio ad absurdem argument here–saying that because we can’t (in the near term) reduce the absolute levels of carbon emissions, we should do nothing.

    wouldn’t taking steps to reduce (in the near term) the rate of growth in carbon emissions be a good thing? After all, we are not talking about a static system here–it may well be enough to simply reduce the rate of growth in carbon emissions.

    Further, there is nothing to suggest (rather than your bald assertions) that, in the long term, the absolute levels of carbon emissions cannot be reduced. I think that is a failure of imagination (at least) on your part. What makes you think that because something is so now (our principle source of energy is carbon based) it must be so forever? After all, forever is a very long time, and we know that there are indeed alternatives (wind, solar, nuclear, etc), and we further know that carbon is simply a variation on solar (after all, carbon based energy is simply a means of releasing stored solar energy).

    i do agree with you that in the short term (and maybe even in the medium term) we are highly unlikely to get our absolute levels of carbon emissions to stabilise much less fall, but that is not an argument for doing nothing.

    If you want to argue against carbon taxes and the like, i think that you would do a better job by making the case that there are better things we could spend our money on, like making clean water available to all or addressing malnourishment. This is the approach that Copenhagen Consensus has taken.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_Consensus

    • PP1 & 2 – In saying “do nothing”, I was no doubt too blunt. The greenie scolds argue for a carbon tax scheme that will disincentive energy use and push down absolute levels of consumption and emissions. At this time, this isn’t an economically or demographically serious proposal.

      Your response is pretty level headed with respect to the logistical lay of the land, so I gather you should be able to acknowledge that if the tax isn’t an effective emissions mitigator, then it must have other appeal. Like providing new general purpose revenues to the government and also acting as a cudgel to beat down first world middle class consumption, for which urbane liberals and the hard left have bottomless antipathy.

      To the extent these other features are not acknoleged, the carbon tax is a lie, and I’m thus against it. I’m not against energy efficiency. I’m not against government research grantmaking. I’m not against taxes.

      PP3 – I agree, it’s not impossible that carbon energy consumption goes down in the future. But absolute energy consumption is not going down. To believe otherwise is to be one of these excretable Pol Pot, Maoist agrarian dystopians.

      PP4 & 5 – It goes without saying I think there are better things to spend our money on.

      All of which is just to say Douglas and the like minded don’t have a solid perch from which to be self-righteous. Theirs is not a logical worldview.

      • Personally, i like the idea of a carbon tax as a replacement for other taxes–ie, as a part of tax reform. I think that it would be good as a way to increase efficiency and start to reduce carbon emissions and maybe some alternative forms of energy that would be cleaner–without the various negative externalities of coal and oil.

        I have no desire to see total energy consumption decrease, nor do I have any particular desire to decrease our general levels of consumption (although i think that a VAT might be a good idea as a means of promoting investment relative to consumption–but my goal would be to do so as a means of increasing overall economic growth–not limiting it).

        In other words, I tend to agree with Julian Simon, not Paul Erlich ( I suspect that you are of the same mind on this).

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon%E2%80%93Ehrlich_wager

      • If you want to take carbon tax proceeds and dedicate the proceeds specifically for a) reducing the debt and/or b) offsetting other equitable tax cuts, that’s fine.

        I want a large carbon tax to make dirty fuel sources less economically competitive than cleaner sources, so that both the demand-side and the supply-side reorient toward cleaner sources…so we can bend the very dangerous CO2 trend curve we’re currently ascending. I don’t need the carbon tax to fund an expansion of government. I know that won’t stop you from indulging in the Limbaughian cookie cutter ascribing of motives, but, for what its worth, that is my motive.

      • PM and I are in the process of mutually acknowledging some basic facts Joe. If you can’t do that, you can sit at the kids table.

        There isn’t enough green energy to reduce the demand for carbon energy. Your premise is bogus, so I am in fact forced to note the ulterior motives.

      • Oh good grief. Such melodrama.

      • I’m kind of a chick that way. Anyway… I’m declaring victory.

        There’s a populist conservative critique of the green movement and there’s a think tanky conservative critique of the green movement. Mine is think tanky, but it’s not in disharmony with the populist critique. I’ve made the argument. PM has acknowledged the important observations of that argument. It’s a math argument and by definition is not anti-science. The math is much more scientifically grounded than the green global warming meme.

      • My position:

        I agree with you that emissions reduction is difficult, because the current economics and future population trends. If that is what you would like me to agree with you about, of course that is true. Kumbaya.

        But I disagree with you that we should “do nothing” because it is difficult, that price doesn’t drive consumer demand of fuels, and that there is no manmade climate chaos problem to address. If that earns me a seat at the kids table, well, you can have my seat next to Uncle Newt.

  8. I knew it.

    NO ONE here could plausibly address the cause of previous warming-cooling cycles in the 4 billion years that preceded humans on Earth, nor the 4.49 billion years that preceded human-caused carbon emissions.

    I suggest that global warmists are better off devoting their energies to heading off asteroid strikes, earth quakes, volcanic eruptions, martian invasions, etc.

    • Well, Newt, those warming-cooling cycles were not human caused, so why would they be relevant to the human caused carbon emissions debate?

      • So PM -

        You’re able to certify to the cause(s) of all non-human global warming episodes over 4.5 billion years and, more importantly, that the current warming trend (if true) is unrelated to previous warming cycles?

        This should be good, folks.

      • Did you read what i said? It was actually pretty clear, and pointed out just how silly your previous point was.

        Now you are trying to invert your original argument. What you are stating now is completely different from what you stated earlier.

        Actually, you sort of remind me of Mittens Romney, criticizing Obama for spending too much time at Harvard….when Mittens actually spent more time there. Same general level of incoherence.

      • http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/apr/04/study-rising-co2-global-warming

        “A scientific conundrum that has puzzled climate experts for years may have been solved with the publication of research showing how an increase in carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere contributed to rising temperatures millions of years ago.

        The paper, published on Wednesday in the journal Nature, has wide-ranging implications for climate science, because the question of whether a rise in carbon dioxide leads to an increase in temperature – or whether rising temperatures lead to an increase in carbon dioxide – has been seized on by climate sceptics eager to disprove a link between atmospheric carbon and global warming.

        It also suggests that imminent “runaway” climate change – whereby our actions in pumping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere contribute to melting permafrost or sea changes that release stores of methane – is a real possibility.

        Commenting on the findings, Prof Mark Maslin of University College London said: “[This] should put paid once and for all to the false claim that the rise in carbon dioxide was a passive response to increased global temperatures.”

  9. I see that Daily Kos is plugging Douglas weather channel:

    “If you like Paul Douglas, do him and your fellow citizens a favor and write your local cable or satellite company and tell them to add WeatherNation TV. It’s a viable alternative to The Weather Channel, which has switched to entertainment since NBC bought it in the mid-naughts. It’s already been picked up by numerous cable companies in Florida, Arkansas, and a few other states.”

  10. Really, Newt, arguing by anecdote is silly.

  11. Joe: Thanks for tipping me to this one. Douglas has been the one brave meteorologist in the room for years. The rest fretfully natter about it being “so political”, or “unsettled science”. It long ago became, as Douglas says in his post, a weird test of conservatism. As in: Our side must never agree with anything Al Gore got to first, no matter how ridiculous we look and sound. Frankly, there is no discussion to be had with the anti-believers. Science isn’t their point. “winning” a convoluted rhetorical competition is. At best it’s just sophomoric mobius strip pseudo logic, invective and name-calling. A crowd best ignored, I’ve decided.
    .

    • Heh. You write blog pieces because of writer’s vanity, and then read every comment. You’re not ignoring. You’re just not responding. You can’t engage in conversation with a conservative without resorting to douche-baggery, and I’ve disarmed you of that here at SRC.

      Lambo, I’m an engineer with a masters. You washed out of college. Science is my point. You’re an illiterate with rock solid certitude nonetheless.

      • So, Erik, your point is that yours is bigger than his?

        Really, this seems awfully small and petty to me, and, i suspect, to others. I (and everybody else) understand that you don’t like Lambert, Great. But your constant ad hominem attacks make you out to be nothing other than a troll, and undercut your credibility. You are turning yourself into a Newt.

        Normally, i wouldn’t even bother to “defend” Lambert, but your over the top attacks seem so personal and so full of animus and vitriol that i feel compelled to say something–maybe even you will see that your comments are so out of place that they only serve to create sympathy for Lambert, and I doubt that is really your intention.

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