Do you smell carbon dioxide?

Things have come to an unpleasantly stormy pass when the mainstream press is referring to meteorologists by political affiliation.

The New York Times‘s Dot Earth blog, with Andrew C. Revkin’s “A Republican Meteorologist Tries to Remove Liberal Label from Climate Concern,” has just one of many references to the tale of famously GOP meteorologist and global-warming believer Paul Douglas.

Putting aside the specific issue of climate change, and never mind the specifics of what Douglas has to say, the mere existence of a phrase like “Republican meteorologist” makes me cringe. Their field of study may be interdisciplinary, and they sometimes work for TV stations, but meteorologists are scientists, and science, which has always been (rightly) uncomfortable with politics, ought to stand apart from it.

It usually does. When was the last time you heard about a “Democratic microbiologist” or a “Libertarian astronomer”? A Google search will typically find such references only in heated comments, not articles. Yet when it comes to atmospheric science, our polarized discourse is requiring us to politically label this scientist in everyday discussion, because in this case the scientist feels he has to make his political views public in order to make his scientific point strongly enough.

Revkin says that Douglas’s views “deeply echo those of Kerry Emanuel, the Republican climatologist [my emphasis] from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…” So there’s one of those out there too. Good to know. Who knows – maybe Republican scientists predict the weather better.