Cliff Mass: ‘Ascribing climate change to every weather event is very dangerous’

21 August 2023

With wildfires from Eastern Washington and Canada flanking the rest of the state, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who spoke at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Senior Officials’ and Ministerial meetings last week, continues to claim fighting climate change can simultaneously provide a boost to the economy.

“The largest transition of the world economy is going to be taking place in the next few decades — since the development of the steam engine,” Inslee told Forbes earlier this summer. “That is decarbonizing our economy and this is an enormous economic opportunity for my state and the nation.”

More on climate change: Cliff Mass claims Maui fires ‘had nothing to do with climate change, like zero’

Decarbonization is the process of reducing the amount of carbon, mainly Carbon Dioxide (CO2), sent into the atmosphere. Its objective is to achieve a low-emission global economy to attain climate neutrality via the energy transition. Inslee ran on a similar “decarbonize the economy” platform during his 2020 presidential campaign.

But, as fires throughout the Pacific Northwest have caused unhealthy air quality levels throughout the Puget Sound region, University of Washington (UW) Atmospheric Sciences Professor Cliff Mass believes Inslee’s plan would have little benefit to residents.

“Whatever we do, decarbonizing or not, it will have virtually no effect. Zero,” Mass said. “Basically, grasses dry out very, very rapidly. And all you need is a little bit of wind and warm, dry conditions, and they’re dry enough to burn the summer. The big thing is whether we’re going to get the wind and whether somebody’s going to ignite it. Neither of these things has anything to do with climate change.”

If states or the nation embrace the transition to net-zero emissions by 2050, oil and gas production volumes would be 55% and 70% lower, respectively, than they are currently while coal production for energy use would be practically 0% by 2050, according to a McKinsey Sustainability report published in 2022. By 2050, Inslee has goals for the state to emit just 5% of the greenhouse gas emissions the state emitted in 1990.

The Seattle City Council unanimously passed a bill last week that will increase the number of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations in Seattle.

The legislation, sponsored by Councilmember Sara Nelson, will now allow Seattle City Light to lease private property to install and operate city-owned public EV charging stations. The bill will also allow private companies to lease City Light-owned property to install and operate EV charging stations.

According to data from the state of Washington, there are more than 75,000 electric vehicles on the road in King County alone. By 2030, two out of every three new cars being sold in the state must be zero-emission vehicles.

More on Cliff Mass: August heatwave ‘is the last major heat event for Puget Sound’

More than 80% of Washington voters said they “are sure climate change is occurring” while 62% of voters said they believe it’s caused mostly by human activities, according to a poll from the Washington Business Alliance.

“Let’s be careful, let’s not use the word believe. No one should believe in climate change,” Mass said. “No one believes in gravity. You acknowledge. They’re scientific facts that we think we know. Scientists, when we have meetings, no one says I believe in anything. That’s religion. The problem is that over-ascribing climate change to every single weather event is very dangerous because it prevents us from dealing with some of the problems that we have.”

“We have forests that have been overgrown and have not been taken care of properly, and they have a tendency to burn catastrophically,” Mass continued. “When we blame climate change on that, we’re not going to deal with the real problems, which are mismanaged bars and invasive grasses.”

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