WILLMAR - For Paul Douglas, long-time Minnesota meteorologist who has worked in television, radio and newspapers for over 40 years, there wasn't one moment when he went from a climate change skeptic to a believer.
Instead it was a lifetime of viewing, predicting and living the weather that made him realize that changes were happening.
"Weather growing up for me was always a Beethoven symphony, it was always magnificent," Douglas said. "In the last 20 years the weather has been playing increasingly out of tune."
Douglas shared his views Friday as the guest speaker at Life Connections, a senior citizen trade show held at the Willmar Civic Center.
He called himself an albino unicorn for the simple reason that he is an evangelical Christian and moderate Republican who believes in climate change and the impact it is having.
"I consider myself a conservationist," like former President Teddy Roosevelt, who felt conservation was a moral issue and a patriotic duty, Douglas said. "We have something amazing in this country, something that is deserving of our respect, something we need to preserve."
Douglas has a lot of experience with weather, having been a working meteorologist for over 40 years. He worked for Kare 11 and WCCO television and currently works as a meteorologist for the Star Tribune and Twin Cities Public Television and as a radio host on WCCO. He also founded several weather-related companies including Praedictix, AerisWeather, WeatherNation TV, Digital Cyclone Inc., and EarthWatch Communication.
In his presentation at Life Connections Douglas showed a variety of slides illustrating the major changes that have been taking place in weather and climate across the country including Minnesota and the midwest.
"I am just looking at the data. I am reacting to the data and facts and evidence. And trying not to react to political talking points," Douglas said.
Climate and weather are not the same thing, but flip sides of the same coin, Douglas said.
"You change the climate, it shows up in the weather," Douglas said.
According to scientific data the world has gotten warmer and in some places wetter, including Minnesota. Since the 1880s Minnesota's average temperature has increased three degrees and over the past several decades the average precipitation has also risen, Douglas said.
The climate has always changed over the millennia, but in the past, there has always been a reason for those changes, like massive volcanic eruptions or increased energy from the sun reaching Earth, Douglas said. Today, however, less solar energy is reaching the planet surface.
"We should be in a cooling phase, but we are not," Douglas said. "The atmosphere doesn't care what we believe. The atmosphere reacts to physics."
The impacts of a warming climate are a lot like what happens when a person has a fever. While the body's temperature might only increase a few degrees, the impacts can be severe.
"A few degrees can make a big difference, you feel miserable," Douglas said. "Those symptoms are starting to show up in the weather."
Despite the concerns and challenges tied up in climate change and how humanity can react to it, Douglas is optimistic that good changes will be made. One reason for his optimism is most people want to save money and many green and renewable energy sources and materials are becoming less expensive to buy, use and maintain.
"There is a return on investment and all of you businessmen and businesswoman understand a return on investment," Douglas said.
Another reason for confidence is the younger generations growing up in the current volatile climate and weather.
"Their eyes are wide open. They are inheriting this world," Douglas said.
Douglas asked those in the audience, even if they don't necessarily believe in climate change, to keep an open mind.
"Do yourself, your kids, your grandkids a favor. Believe your own eyes, keep your eyes wide open," Douglas said. "It doesn't have to be a political football. I think we can all unite around solutions."