Cliff Mass Isn’t a Climate Denier—But Deniers Sure Love Him

Cliff Mass denier contrarian climateBy Max Wilbert

In 2015, I wrote a story alleging that Cliff Mass, a Professor in the Atmospheric Sciences Department at the University of Washington and something of a regional weather celebrity, is “a dangerous new breed of climate skeptic.”

In the article, I wrote that:

“Cliff Mass is convinced that anthropogenic global warming is not a big problem, at least not now. He has made a theme of downplaying the role of global warming in extreme weather events, and in exposing what he calls “overzealousness” in the scientific, media, and activist community.”

I highly recommend reading the original article, which picked up a good deal of steam. It was widely read regionally, and referenced in later articles by The Stranger (which concluded: “Cliff Mass is not a climate denier, but he is their ally, which is as good as being a climate denier”) and other publications.

The sage continued on December 12th, when Judith Curry, a prominent climate contrarian, published an article titled “Cliff Mass: victim of academic political bullying.” In the post, she references our blog and a spate of other attacks on Mass for his opposition to I-1631, the Carbon Tax law in Washington State, which was voted down in November.

Curry’s blog has since been taken up and reposted on other right wing and climate contrarian websites, includes Watts Up With That?—the most prominent climate denier website on the internet. Watts Up With That has included bullshit from authors like Christopher Monckton and Fred Singer, among other well-paid idiots. (I won’t link to these sites, as we don’t provide platforms for counter-revolutionaries).

In his post, Watts Up With That creator Anthony Watts asks readers to send “calm, on point, and polite” letters in support of Cliff Mass to the University of Washington President, Dean of the College and Environment, and Secretary of the UW Faculty.

Ironically, Cliff Mass—who says he isn’t a climate denier (and who isn’t, technically speaking)—is now being supported by climate deniers across the internet. He may not support them, but they support him.

This fact is proving the point from our original article: that Cliff Mass is not a climate denier, but rather a dangerous new breed of climate skeptic who will constantly downplay the importance and severity of global warming. As acceptance of climate science and basic global warming literacy grows, this sort of skepticism is what climate deniers will look to as the next frontier.

A few additional side points. First, right wingers make a mistake by lumping us in with those who attack Mass for his vapid climate views. We don’t see Carbon Taxation as a solution, because we are a revolutionary organization. A carbon tax is simply a way to monetize the atmosphere; to create a new market for capitalism through taxing one form of industry and using it to pay another (largely “green” energy industries). Many of the world’s largest polluters support some sort of carbon trading system, which should tell you all you need to know. Frankly, we don’t really care about initiatives that simply rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic. We need to dismantle capitalism and industrial empire to have a chance of stopping global warming. Minor tax changes will not do a damn thing.

But we absolutely do agree that Mass’s use of the image of pigs at a trough to refer to what he called “special interest groups” like tribal nations was racist and stupid.

In the last few days, dozens of comments from right-wing climate deniers, doubtlessly led to our site by links from Watts Up With That and other sites, have left comments in support of Cliff Mass on our site, calling him an “excellent and very factual scientist.”

Here’s one of the funniest comments, for the sake of entertainment (grammar and spelling mistakes have been corrected): “If you truly seek to understand reality, we all know: particles moving “up” in a gravitational field slow down, i.e.: cool; those moving down speed up, i.e.: heat… [this] explains the temperature profiles of all planets whatever their atmosphere.”

Any scientist who studies climate is laughing at that one. (If you don’t know the basic science of how global warming works, you can learn here).

Cliff Mass is a meteorologist. When he speaks about weather, it’s sometimes worth listening; he knows what he is talking about. When he speaks about climate, politics, and other issues, there is no reason to pay any attention to him.

As we move further into late stage capitalism, neoliberals like Cliff Mass represent a major threat. Like most of the Seattle political elite (and the liberal political elite nationwide), Cliff Mass wants us to go dancing merrily to our doom via business as usual. He denies reality and invites us to join him. It’s a popular position to take in a world on the brink. But we need sober reality, not reassuring fantasies.

Rather than listening to hacks like this, revolutionaries should look for political leadership to individuals and groups with critical analysis of capitalism, the state, patriarchy, and other systems of power, and which have legitimate strategies to defeat these systems.

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