The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ex-Republican meteorologist calls for end to partisan divide over climate science


There is overwhelming agreement within the scientific community, backed by multiple lines of evidence, that human activities are causing the climate to warm. Yet only 27 percent of Republicans agree, according to a July survey from the Pew Research Center.

Republican presidential candidates are decidedly mixed on their acceptance of the link between warming and human activities.

Greg Fishel, chief meteorologist for the CBS affiliate in Raleigh in N.C., is sickened by this state of affairs.

Over the weekend he penned a stirring commentary railing against the partisan divisiveness in climate change discussions and disregard for the science.

Fishel said in an email message that due to overall state of party politics, after 30 years, he is no longer a Republican and considers himself unaffiliated.

“I hate agendas, and there are agendas on both sides of the climate change debate which I abhor and have no time for,” Fishel’s essay begins. “But once you cut through all of that, much of which is ideological and political, you are left with hard science.”

Fishel’s essay lays out the scientific case for manmade warming, starting by debunking one of the most oft-repeated myths that the sun is behind the recent warming trend:

If it were the sun, the entire atmosphere would be warming, but it’s not. The troposphere, where most of the weather occurs, is warming up, and the stratosphere is cooling. This is all part of the radiative adjustments that are taking place because of what man is doing to the composition of our atmosphere.

He pleads with readers to set aside their biases and swallow their pride in scientific discussions.

“We live in a country now where we embrace division for the sake of division,” he says. “It’s about winning and being right as opposed to doing what’s best for the country and the world.”

Fishel specifically appeals to conservatives and people of faith to open their minds:

I believe science is a gift from God. We benefit from science in our daily lives 1,000 times over through all the conveniences we enjoy. Why have we chosen to turn our back on science when it comes to basic chemistry and physics? It is time to stop listening to the disingenuous cherry-pickers and start taking responsibility for learning the truth about climate change.

Fishel was once skeptical of manmade contributions to warming himself. But after after spending many hours reading scientific papers and talking to climate scientists, changed positions.

“I have gone through the entire process,” Fishel writes. “But in my mind, I didn’t make a mistake, I simply grew as a human being. There aren’t too many experiences in life that can top that.”

Fishel’s entire essay can be read on the WRAL Web site. It was also posted to Facebook where it has been liked over 1,400 times and received glowing endorsements.

“Your unique perspective as a well-known, widely respected meteorologist, a Christian, and a curious skeptic, positions you well to convince a lot of fence-sitters of the need to make meaningful and substantive changes in government policy, as well as in our lifestyle choices,” writes reader David Brackins.

His words and themes echo those made by another Republican meteorologist, Paul Douglas of Minneapolis. In 2012, Douglas wrote:

I’m going to tell you something that my Republican friends are loath to admit out loud: climate change is real. I am a moderate Republican, fiscally conservative; a fan of small government, accountability, self-empowerment, and sound science. I am not a climate scientist. I’m a meteorologist, and the weather maps I’m staring at are making me uncomfortable.

[Republican meteorologist Paul Douglas: conservatives should embrace climate science]