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"Call me crazy, but conservatives should probably conserve" - Paul Douglas' religious Republican approach to climate change

Longtime tv meteorologist Paul Douglas speaks on climate change science Friday inside the sanctuary at Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood, as part of the Lakes Area Unlimited Learning lecture series. Zach Kayser/Brainerd Dispatch

DEERWOOD—Longtime TV meteorologist Paul Douglas laid out the case as a Christian and a Republican for accepting climate change science Friday.

Douglas spoke to a large crowd of mostly seniors inside the sanctuary at Salem Lutheran Church in Deerwood, as part of the Lakes Area Unlimited Learning lecture series.

His realization that climate change was happening came not from Al Gore, but simply observing the new extremes of weather, Douglas said. It made sense to him both from the capitalist and Christian perspectives to work to combat climate change. Teddy Roosevelt launched the National Park Service, and Richard Nixon, the Environmental Protection Agency. Ronald Reagan once said the government had a duty to protect against the environmental damages of industrial development, Douglas pointed out.

Douglas said it was inherent that Republican ideals align with environmental protection.

"Call me crazy, but I think conservatives should probably conserve," he said. "Otherwise, change your name."

An entrepreneur who created several weather-related businesses, Douglas used business as one of the first of many metaphors to help drive home his position.

"As a businessman, if you ignore data, if you ignore things that leave you uncomfortable, you will go out of business," he said.

The data is clear: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel are causing climate change. According to natural, ancient cycles of climate change, the planet should be gradually entering an ice age right now, Douglas said. But since the contemporary climate change isn't natural, the Earth is instead getting hotter. To the people who would dismiss climate change as just the Earth getting a few degrees hotter than normal, Douglas rhetorically asked this: what would you do if your child's body temperature was a few degrees off normal?

In addition to simple temperature increase, another symptom of climate change is increasing weather extremes. Weather patterns are slowing down, thereby increasing the severity of storms. The rain in the summer is falling harder, and a higher percentage of the U.S. geographic area is either under drought or flood conditions, Douglas said.

"What we're seeing is weather on steroids," he said.

Climate change includes economic pitfalls. Those Minnesota snowbirds who moved to Florida would come streaming back, Douglas prophesied—coastal flooding and lack of fresh water would spur them to move north.

"Mark my words, at some point, they're going to be coming for our water," he said. "I hope I'm wrong."

However, he was optimistic that America would move toward renewables because it would be cheaper than fossil fuels. He advocated removing government subsidies to the energy industry categorically—both to fossil fuel companies and to renewable energy companies. That way the government would be completely out of the mix, and the market itself would determine the winner between the two industries.

The pure economics favor renewable energy, Douglas said: 187,000 American jobs are in the coal, oil and natural gas sectors combined while 374,000 jobs are in solar energy alone.

Continuing down the path of blithely ignoring climate change was both immoral and ungodly, Douglas said. A Christian desire for environmental conservation doesn't require a worship of Creation, but rather the Creator, he said.

Douglas said that God gave man "big, beautiful brains" and free will to make good decisions. Just because God has dominion over all on Earth doesn't mean humans are free from consequences and personal responsibility for their actions, Douglas said.

He quoted several Bible verses to reinforce his point, including Luke 16:2.

"Man has been appointed as a steward for the management of God's property, and ultimately he will give account for his stewardship," the verse reads.

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