Climate hype is profoundly damaging the environment and society; the evidence for this is compelling and discussed in this blog.
I have always been an environmentalist, worried about the protection of our natural environment. And I am concerned about global warming and its effects on humanity and the health of the planet.
Thus, I have become increasingly apprehensive about apocalyptic climate change hype, which is profoundly damaging the environment of our region and undermining the well-being of many.
Picture courtesy of Cristian Ibarra Santillan
Damage to the Northwest Environment from Climate Change Hype
There is substantial damage being done to the Northwest environment from the unfounded hype found in the media, some politicians, and several activist groups. Consider a few examples:
Wildfires and Lack of Forest Management.
Prominent politicians in our state and some media/activist groups have stated that climate change (a term used to mean human-caused global warming) is the predominant cause of the increase in regional fires and smoke.
This is simply not true. Regional forest experts (e.g., here and here) are emphatic that the key problems are unhealthy dry side forests, overgrown and explosive after decades of fire suppression, the invasion of flammable invasive grasses, and increasing fire ignitions by the rapidly growing population of our region. Some knowledgeable local environmental leaders (e.g., Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz) have said the same thing.
To deal with the dangerously flammable forests, we must thin them and bring back fire (e.g., proscribed fires). Their ecological health DEPENDS on fire. We must also work to reduce invasive grasses, limit human expansion into wildland areas, and take steps to limit fire ignition (e.g., improved powerline infrastructure).
But with many politicians and advocacy groups pushing the dominance of climate change for increasing wildfires, only very limited and totally inadequate attention has gone into restoring our eastside wildlands to a more natural and ecologically healthy state. And human ignition on the western side has not received acutely needed attention.
The bottom line: Climate hype has given us bigger fires, more smoke, and more danger to our citizens.
Disturbed and Degraded Shorelines from Shellfish “Farms”– Protected By Climate Hype
A very large shellfish industry has grown in our region and it has had profoundly negative effects on our coastal environment. Our ecologically critical coastal areas have been physically disturbed to “farm” non-native species, such as the Pacific oyster. Herbicides have been sprayed to kill native eelgrass and pesticides distributed to kill native sand shrimp because native grasses and shrimp got in the way of the shellfish aquaculture industry. In addition, the shellfish industry has been responsible for extensive plastic pollution. Some information here and here.
This ecological degradation has been tolerated, if not supported, by the State and some media/activist groups, because the shellfish growers claimed that increasing CO2 was acidifying local waters and killing shellfish, and thus they came under the “green mantle”, with some major WA state politicians publicly supporting shellfish industry claims.
As I have noted in earlier blogs, the science is clear; increasing CO2 concentrations from human emissions were never the problem for the oysters, but rather, the culprits were mistakes in using high-CO2 upwelled water in commercial oyster nurseries. The Seattle Times was particularly active in pushing a false narrative in their series, Sea Change, and certain local climate advocacy politicians have a close relationship with the industry. The Seattle Times never forgave me for pointing this out in this blog.
Air and Water Pollution over Puget Sound
Much of the marine traffic in Puget Sound uses dirty bunker fuel or diesel, which produces substantial particle pollution that is potentially harmful to local residents. An alternative exists: Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), which not only burns much cleaner but also puts less greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere. Furthermore, bunker oil and diesel can spill when ships dock at the fueling barges. Puget Sound Energy (PSE) is planning a LNG terminal in Tacoma to help clean the air and reduce global warming, but a number of local climate activist groups (e.g., 350Seattle) and politicians (e.g., our Governor) are opposing the facility because it involves a fossil fuel.
This is a disturbing example of unrealistic, naive climate advocacy opposing a provable good (clean air, less greenhouse gas emissions) and serves as a potent example of a climate change movement losing its bearings.
Picture Courtesy of Seattle City Council
Undermining Our Civil Society And Democratic Freedoms
The groups and individuals hyping climate change are so sure of their noble cause that they are willing to undermine essential foundations of our society, such as freedom of speech and rule of law.
I experienced this myself at KNKX. A local climate “justice” group 350Seattle was unhappy with my discussion of climate (peer-reviewed material by the way) and started a petition to get me kicked off the station. The management of the station, unwilling to defend science or freedom of speech, rapidly surrendered to the activists, agreeing to have my science evaluated–and even appointed one of the group’s members to oversee it.
Of course, they did not find anything wrong with my science, but nevertheless, the station head, Joey Cohn, told me that would have fired me, except there would be a lot of complaints. As soon as they had some cover (my blog opposing violent rioting in Seattle) KNKX terminated my segment. The climate activists got their wish… silencing of someone they disagreed with–and you can read their gloating on Twitter.
Local climate activist groups such 350Seattle do not believe in freedom of speech or the importance of diversity of viewpoint. They do not believe in the scientific process. They are certain that they possess the truth and anyone with a different viewpoint must be silenced.
One of the most prodigious name-callers in the local media is Charles Mudede of the Seattle Stranger, who viciously attacks individuals who differ from him on climate change. He proposed using a “strong hand” to force people to follow his vision of climate action. Charles Mudedd doesn’t hide his undemocratic views, calling himself a “green Mussolini.”
Reprinted from the SeattleStranger
Another potent example of anti-democratic climate actors is the decision of Governor Inslee to veto key sections of the Clean Fuel act that were approved by the legislature. This may well be illegal and even many Democrats were furious. He did not feel it necessary to honor precedent, legislature authority, or State law: the portions of the climate change bill he and activists were interested in were more important.
The climate hypesters have used climate change as a cudgel to attack those with differing political views, such as conservatives and Republicans, undermining the potential for bipartisan climate action. And let’s be clear, many Republicans and conservatives are committed environmentalists, including youthful conservatives in the American Climate Coalition to a recent Republican gubernatorial candidate (Bill Bryant) and the current minority leader of the Washington State house of Representatives (J.T. Wilcox). I have talked to all of them and they are determined to deal with climate change and to protect the environment.
When there was a real chance to act in a bipartisan way on climate (Initiative 732, a revenue-neutral carbon tax in WA state), the environmental hypesters were against it–a tragedy for both the environment and bipartisan climate action.
Power Outages and Inequity: A Major Product of Climate Hype
Climate activists have pushed for draconian steps like the immediate cessation of using natural gas in new buildings, phasing out natural gas in standing structures, the legislated termination of gas powered-car sales, and a precipitous increase in solar and wind power. They have also opposed nuclear energy.
The trouble is that they have not thought through the energy problem, nor have come up with a viable plan.
The move to end sales of gas-powered cars will demand massive new electric power sources, and there is no way that renewables can provide it. Plus, renewables are intermittent, so huge storage is required. Nuclear could play a critical role, but the climate justice community is against it.
So they are pushing people to give up fossil fuels but have not figured out where to get the power from. Not unlike defunding the police without getting something else in place. You end up with more crime and homeless camps. But in this case, you end up with power outages and rapidly escalating prices.
We have a prime example of what will happen because California is ahead of us in effecting the new energy approach, leading to frequent power outages and rising electricity rates. High power rates hurt low-income folks the most and lead them to less use of life-saving air conditioners. In short, the activist green agenda undermines equity. But the green elite doesn’t care.
California has the highest and most rapidly rising electricity prices in the western U.S. Our future?
Psychological Damage And Anxiety
The endless apocalyptic statements in the media and elsewhere have induced considerable climate fear and anxiety in the population. This is something I have learned about firsthand, as fearful people call me to ask about the coming climate “crisis”. One woman was afraid to move to southern CA to care for her sick mother because her kids would be exposed to extreme heat and drought. Others ask me whether they should have kids. Several colleges, like UW Bothell, have climate anxiety classes, and NPR did a recent segment on climate fears that are spreading through the population.
For several decades, major media has featured increasingly end-the-world headlines. If something is not done in ten years, two years, or six months, the world will face a non-reversible slide into climate disaster. The Seattle Times is particularly guilty of this.
The truth is that global warming will slowly unfold and that many weather extremes will be unaffected or become less extreme (e.g.. cold waves), something stated explicitly in the recent UN/IPCC report. Adaptation (e.g, more AC, additional reservoirs, better use of water, restoring forests) can help greatly, and better weather prediction affords great protection from extremes. There is a reason that deaths from environmental extremes are down precipitously around the world.
Climate activists are trying to scare people with unrealistic scary scenarios to “get them to do the right thing.” They don’t care about the harm they are doing to people’s psyches, and particularly the most psychologically vulnerable. Scaring people also makes folks turn off to the issue and less likely to take coherent, science-guided steps.
Science as Victim
One of the most serious victims of the “climate crisis” hype is science itself.
When the apocalyptic predictions don’t come true, people realize they were deceived. 15 years ago, activists predicted the catastrophic loss of Cascade snow, but it hasn’t happened. Ten years ago, there was talk of ocean acidification causing immense loss of shellfish harvests, but harvests are now fine, with oyster nurseries now avoiding the use of untempered upwelled water.
Some scientists and science reporters have clearly crossed into political and policy advocacy (e.g, the climate attribution industry), and people can sense something is wrong. And the hypocritical actions of the “climate elite”, who enjoy high-carbon lifestyles, are noted by the general population. (revelation: climate scientists are notoriously for their carbon-intensive lifestyles–lots of travel, vacation homes, etc.)
Climate change has morphed from an area of science to one of a quasi-religion.
One is asked whether you “believe” in climate change (are you ever asked that about gravity?). Those with differing views are called “deniers.” Individuals with less extreme views are attacked in a very personal way, as if they are bad people. Climate “adherents” note that their beliefs are the same as the “consensus” of 97% of climate scientists (this is total nonsense, but something I can discuss in a future blog). The science is “settled” and thus can not be debated (science is not science without debate, by the way).
Science doesn’t work this way
And like most religions, there is a future apocalypse that can only be avoided or survived by having the “right” views. Particular anger is directed at apostate priests (e.g., climate scientists with alternative takes on implications of the science), like the writer of this blog.
An apocalyptic future looms before us, but it has little to do with increasing greenhouse gases.
A future with catastrophically burning forests, of media providing increasingly apocalyptic warnings, of polluted coastal areas and poisoned shorelines, weakened democracy, attenuated and undermined science, omnipresent fear of the future, increasing power blackouts, and decreased equity in society.
But we do not have to have this future.
But to do so will require that we honor diversity of viewpoint and refrain from demonizing folks with different ideas or political backgrounds. That we stop politicizing science and use the best science to guide our adaptation and mitigation activities. That we stop pushing a false apocalyptic vision to encourage the “unanointed” to do the right thing. That we support technological research and considering the value of nuclear power as part of the energy mix. And that the media, such as KNKX and the Seattle Times, move from advocacy to providing coverage that is both factually correct and representative of the diversity of ideas in the real world.
I am convinced that global warming is a technical problem that will be solved with technical innovation. And that using it as a wedge issue to promote political and ideological goals will not only fail, but undermines our society in profound ways.