L'affaire Cliff Mass

Following my acclaimed defence of Cory Gardner, and my detailed investigation into Peter Ridd and Katherine Hayhoe, it would appear that I also need to consider Cliff Mass, via WUWT (sorry) and la Curry (also sorry, but don't worry, they are ideologically clean archives, not bare links).

First some basics: it would appear that CM is in favour of the (sadly defeated) proposition I-732, and against I-1631. Since that's exactly my position, I find it hard to believe he is too far off track. But, la Curry would have us believe he is being labelled a denialist. On what evidence?

I think it starts The most recent ‘denier’ claims are associated with Cliff’s statements about the causes of the recent California fires: Cliff Mass: Climate change is real but . . . Since that article begins Is Cliff Mass, something of a Seattle celebrity weather guru, a climate change denier? No ... Mass, a University of Washington atmospheric sciences professor, believes that human-caused climate change is real and is influencing the world we live in today I think JC is on pretty thin ice there. But! That's not all the evidence she's got: Sarah Myhre tweeted "This. Is. Propaganda" at CM. ZOMG, no human being should be expected to cope with  that; show some decency.

But things get more amusing at If You Worry About Climate Change and Care About the Environment, Vote No on I-1631, wherein CM wrote: The initiative hardwires money to certain special interest groups–the left-leaning supporters of the measure... (see the picture below). La Curry tactfully notes [The picture was pigs at a trough.]. Perhaps that wasn't the wisest thing to say - I speak as a man well versed in wisdom and the dispensing thereof - and my link is to an archive; the up-to-date version has been whitewashed with a picture of money changing hands instead. As it happens I didn't strongly emphasise this element in my review of 1631, but I entirely agree with CM on his point.

So, meh, you write stuff like that you're going to get some rough-n-tumble; but la Curry is deeply upset: A number of University of Washington graduate students have taken a vocal stance against Cliff Mass, particularly on twitter. These same activist students that were so upset about the pig picture participated in online character assassination, calling Mass every name in the book... accused him of deception, being on the payroll of oil companies, purposely obfuscating with multiple twitter accounts, racism, misogyny, tokenism, Trumpism. And so on. Though oddly she provides not one example; and I for one am not taking Curry's word for this kind of stuff. Off Twatter, she finds one graduate student in particular gets a ‘dishonorable’ mention here: Alex Lenferna1... wrote a blog post that is basically a ‘hit-job’. Meh; read it; it isn't very exciting. I've had worse.

Conclusion: man up, nutters2.


1. Alex Lenferna: Aspiring climate justice advocate & practical philosopher.
2. I should perhaps clarify that this comment is not addressed to CM. And this is probably a place to repeat what I've said before but can't be bothered to find: becoming so sectarian that everyone who disagrees with you and you Great Justice on any point is a "denier" is to become so narrow that you can't succeed.


New Carbon Fee Initiative Drafted with More Color and Less White Supremacy - one for RS perhaps; I didn't get past the headline (he took the bait).
Academics Should Not Be Activists - Thomas R. Wells
Is Global Warming an Existential Threat? Probably Not, But Still a Serious Issue - Cliff Mass, 2019.
* The University of Washington Should Not Censor Faculty Social Media - more from CM


Phil said...

I voted for both, as a carbon tax is a reasonable idea.

Even if revenue negative, as was Initiative 732. Even if a significant fraction of the proceeds might be spent on liberal objectives rather than on conservative objectives, as in Initiative 1631.

Macron used carbon tax to offset tax cuts to the wealthy. That doesn't seem to be playing out so well...But is very conservative goal to cut taxes on the wealthy.

However, there are other reasonable ideas. A carbon tax doesn't replace all other ways of reducing carbon releases, it complements them. If all you see is a hammer, then everything else is going to look like nails. This isn't just an economic problem.

William M. Connolley said...

Yeees, but that's an arguement that we've had often before with no resolution, and isn't the topic of the post. The topic is Cliff Mass and how he should be labelled, and the desireability or effectiveness of labelling people (who accept the problems of GW but happen not to agree with you on every point) as denialists.

David Appell said...

I think it's difficult to know what goes on behind the scenes of any academic department. There's lots there we don't know about and never get to see, and frankly I don't trust anyone's account of it unless they're in the middle of it, esp Judith Curry's.

Cliff Mass blogs any commenter on his blog who challenges him. That's a big strike against him right there.

Phil said...

Cliff Mass is a cool weatherman. He is not a great climate source. As for politics, much as I disagree with your carbon tax stance, I disagree with his.

Dr Mass: "Climate 101. You would never see me say one event means that we've seen climate change. That's a very rigorous approach. One event does not tell you anything. If you're looking to learn about climate change, it's the trend that counts because there's always extreme events. There were extreme events 50 years ago or 100 years ago. One extreme event proves nothing. It is only the trend that makes a difference."

This is at least slightly misleading. As the climate warms, the distribution of events shifts as well. An extreme event that might happen once every 100 years might start happening every 50 years. Or every year.


With a tiny amount of climate change, the shift in climate will only cause a subtle shift in probability, and a large number of extreme events would be needed to show statistically that the climate has changed.

With more climate change, fewer extreme events are needed. Sure, there is a chance of a six sigma or larger event without climate change, but enough of them provide evidence of climate change. For example (and not peer reviewed):


Is eight sigma high enough? Or do we need nine sigma? How about twelve sigma?

With enough climate change, we will experience events that would exceed any statistical threshold you want to propose. So one of these single events would tell us that climate change has happened beyond any reasonable doubt.

I also have an allergy to the word proof. I've listened to too many Creationists, and they just love the word. Science provides evidence. Mathematics and logic does proofs (except for fuzzy logic of course). If Dr Mass had said something like 'the trend provides more robust evidence of climate change than extreme events' I would agree.

Tom said...

I can sympathize with Maas, as someone who has been labeled a denier quite frequently. He joins a long list of people ranging from Lindzen and Christy to Curry who are screamed at for denying a science that in fact they have worked to help create.

But in the past two years it has become obvious that their thought crime actually concerns policy, not science. When Obama and Andrew Revkin are labeled deniers, it is pretty clear that it has nothing to do with science.

I will note that Maas doesn't seem to have learned much from the scourgings other received.

Old_salt said...

Lindzen proposed a strong negative tropical feedback to keep ECS low, around the turn of the century. When the data didn't support it, he did not revise his opinion. That is why he is considered a denier. Curry has a woefully simplistic idea of uncertainty and is absolutely certain that the uncertainty only biases climate models high. She is not revising her opinions based on the science, and earns the epithet. Christy fails in a similar manner.

Mass seems to be studying a tree rather than the whole forest, so is somewhat right in the individual case but is pointed in the wrong direction.