Meet Eric Holthaus, the Rebel Nerd of Meteorology
Last fall, meteorologist Eric Holthaus was waiting for a plane in San Francisco when he made a life-changing decision. He’d just finished pitching Silicon Valley on an app that would bring quality forecasts to underdeveloped countries suffering from climate change-related storms. Investors were less than enthused. “These are the people controlling the world’s forward-thinking economy, and they don’t get we have to take drastic action on climate change,” he says. So Holthaus made a bold stance to forever reduce his own carbon emissions: The flight home to Wisconsin would be the last time he’d ever get on a plane.
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Holthaus, 32, has made a name for himself (“the Rosa Parks of climate change,” according to one fan, or as the Awl put it, “America’s weather-predicting boyfriend“) through a lively Twitter feed and even livelier articles for Slate. He covers everything from super typhoons in Hong Kong to walking conditions in Atlanta, tying it all back to the warming planet – which is something many of his colleagues refuse to do. Amazingly, according to one study, nearly half of all US meteorologists don’t believe that humans are the cause of climate change. Holthaus has met this contingent at conferences. “The crowd is like 1980s military uniform-type people,” he says. “They’re prominently conservative Republicans in positions of power, and they want to push the message they believe, politically.”
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Growing up in Kansas, Holthaus was a weather nerd, measuring rainfall, cloud coverage and sun patterns on his own. As a teen he sought out extreme climates like Death Valley and the Hoh Rainforest in Washington State, and took his passion global – he’s advised everyone from subsistence farmers in Ethiopia to Indian military officials on how to deal with changing weather. So quitting the sky, he says, “is partly to assuage my own guilt. I’ve flown a lot in the past.”
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But he also admits that his new lifestyle will be tough. “It’s not going to be fun,” he says “I’m taking a 28 hour bus ride this week.”
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While some of his 16 thousand twitter followers have joined his #nofly pledge, others have seen it as an attack. “People were like, ‘I’m gonna fly twice as much just because you’re stopping,'” he says. “It’s like, how did we get to this point?”