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Cliff Mass: No need for Everett to declare climate emergency

Students participating in a September 2019 Climate Strike at Islander Middle School. (Rebecca de Broglio)

While the City of Everett considers declaring a climate emergency and adopting a Climate Action Plan, University of Washington Atmospheric Sciences Professor Cliff Mass, who runs the popular Cliff Mass Weather Blog, assures the public there is no need to panic.

“Climate change is something that is serious. We certainly think that there will be substantial changes by the end of this century if we don’t do anything about what we’re putting in the atmosphere,” Mass said to KIRO Radio’s Dori Monson. “But, in terms of being an emergency — which implies that something is going to happen very suddenly and unexpectedly, very rapidly — that’s not correct.”

In the Puget Sound, Mass said, average temperatures will go up little by little for the next hundred years, most significantly after 2040 and 2050. Snowpack will decline by perhaps 40 percent, but there will be few other noticeable changes, he said.

“There is no existential threat to us here, so it’s kind of surprising that people use that language,” he said.

Cliff Mass: Climate anxiety producing the opposite effect on energy reduction

In the last half-century, Mass said, the temperature has increased 1 to 2 degrees Fahrenheit.

While Governor Jay Inslee has pointed to the state’s increased wildfires as a dangerous sign of a climate emergency, Mass said there is little connection between the forest fires and climate change.

“Most of our wildfires are not clearly associated with warming, but rather invasive grasses, mismanagement of our forests, people starting fires, and people living where they didn’t live before,” he said.

Inslee and other climate activists have also spoken of increasing droughts as a dire future consequence of climate change.

“They’re misinformed — there is no evidence from any of the climate models that there will be increasing drought in the Northwest,” Mass said. “In fact, the models suggest just the opposite — that we’re going to tend to get more moist as we get later in the century.”

Everett, he said, gets the majority of its water from Spada Lake, a reservoir that will still have “plenty of water” at the end of the century.

“Here in the Northwest, we can deal with the water situation, because even with less snowpack, all we have to do is add more reservoir capacity, which we have decades to do,” he said.

Ultimately, Mass said, climate change is a “technical problem” that can be easily mitigated in the  coming years by making greener decisions, like switching over to electric cars and clean energy to heat homes. He also believes there will one day be a way to remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

“Global warming is serious enough; we are rapidly increasing Co2 in the atmosphere, and all our models, all our technology, indicate that there is going to be a response,” Mass said. “But it’s not existential — that it’s going to destroy mankind — nor will it be sudden. So we have time to change … and we don’t need to change our politics to deal with it.”

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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