On May 12, 2016, a total of 17 wildfires... burning in the vicinity of Fort McMurray, Canada.
"On May 12, 2016, a total of 17 wildfires... burning in the vicinity of Fort McMurray, Canada." NASA

Some of the reasons Cliff Mass gives for not alarming people about the real and ever-growing climate crisis: "Psychological Stress on the Population," "Truth Telling Opens Hearts," and "Exaggeration and Hype can be Counterproductive." He compares those who are warning the public about the climate crisis to those who, during Bush's administration, warned that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Mass even says conservatives who, like Trump, claim Islamic terrorism is a great threat are exaggerating just like climate alarmists. Here, we can see he is trying to be on the left, while pushing or aiding an agenda that's on the right (a game he loves to play). But in truth, there are no similarities between exaggerations made for war and the American death machines, and alarms that are loudly rung in the hope of saving human and non-human lives.

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As I pointed out in my post on the new documentary Chasing Coral—which screened on June 9 at the Seattle International Film Festival, and focuses on the bleaching of coral reefs—climate change is about life as a whole, and it's happening at a very fast pace. There is a real need for alarm. Watch the movie and see for yourself. The scale of the bleaching, which is caused by warming oceans, is mind-boggling in its speed and scale. And the consequences of the decline and loss of these massive living systems, which interact with other life-processes in the sea and on the land, will be enormous.

But if you are unable to listen to me—a writer who merely studied art history, literature, and philosophy in college—then listen to this local, friendly, untenured, female academic (who preferred to remain unnamed)...

There is so much wrong with Cliff’s positions in this piece—it is just a firehose of unsubstantiated and unconstrained claims. All in the name of “data”!

Here is some data that I would like Cliff to reckon with. Twenty thousand years ago, in the middle of the last ice age, there was a glacier on top of Seattle. Ocean circulation offshore of Washington (i.e., the system that moves salt, heat, and nutrients around the planet) was fundamentally different. Pleistocene goddamn megafauna roamed North America. The planet was different—it was a glacial planet.

So, why is the planet not in a glacial state right now? Because Earth’s climate is actually tied to the changing relationship between the Earth and the Sun—the geometric wobbles of both Earth’s orbit and rotation around the sun. The earth warmed and deglaciated between 18,000-10,000 years ago because of changes between the Earth and the Sun (importantly, there are big complicated feedbacks within this, so take this as a big-picture mechanism).

You know what was also different during the recent Ice Age? Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations (the concentration of CO2 gas in parts per million by volume, ppmv). The glacial atmosphere had 190 ppmv of CO2. After deglacial warming, the atmosphere had 280 ppmv. You know what the atmospheric CO2 concentration is, as of June 18th 2017? 408.74 fucking ppmv.

So, in summary:
Change between ice ages and interglacials: ~90 ppm of CO2. Change between the interglacials and the modern, human influenced atmosphere: ~128 ppm of CO2.

Why is this important?

We are changing the planet (by way of the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere) at a scale that is on-par with changing the geometric relationship between the Earth and the Sun. This is an enormous fucking problem. We can argue about the attribution of individual events (tree death, snowpack, oysters) in the Pacific Northwest—but it frankly doesn’t matter. We, as in the Earth science community, look at the risk of unmitigated climate change through a fundamentally different lens, other than—hey, we can’t attribute this individual event to anthropogenic climate change! Also, now that I’m at it, poverty should be illegal!

It is dangerous to misconstrue the planetary scale of consequence and risk that we are courting as a global society—this is basic science and public service 101. And, this isn’t partisan. It’s about data. Just not Cliff’s data.

Cliff Mass is not a climate denier, but he is their ally, which is as good as being a climate denier. And if you are looking for a metaphor for climate denialism, read about the developments that led to the fiery destruction of the London tower. I hope the image of the burned building alarms you.