Cliff Mass Blows Smoke about Wildfires

In this article, Cliff Mass claims the recent spate of wildfires (and wildfire smoke) in this region doesn’t have much to do with climate change, and that we’re merely returning to normal, smoky summers. Cited as evidence are statistics for area burned in Oregon and historical anecdotes about fires and smoke in Washington.

Missing is virtually any mention of fires in British Columbia. That’s highly significant, for two reasons:

  1. Most of the wildfire smoke the Seattle region has experienced in the last two summers has been from fires in BC, and
  2. In BC, unlike Oregon, the area burned is setting all-time records. This happened both last year and this year, in fact: 2017 set an all-time record for the province, and then 2018 bested 2017’s record.

It gets worse: there is plenty of evidence that the unprecedented size and severity of BC’s fires is related to global warming. The worst fires in BC are in the interior, in areas of lodgepole pine forest. Those forests are burning because they are full of diseased and dying trees. So many trees are diseased and dying because the population of pine beetles has exploded. The population of beetles has exploded because winters no longer have the extremes of cold that they used to.

Winters with fewer extremes of cold are precisely the sort of thing one would expect in a warming climate. Winter cold waves originate in the arctic and move south, and it is the regions closer to the poles whose temperature changes the most as global average temperatures change.

Yet despite all the above, British Columbia is almost completely absent from Mass’s blog post. I find this highly curious, to the point that I find it difficult to understand how it could be a chance accidental oversight.

Mass prides himself on being a political centrist, and I believe he has just illustrated how centrism is an ideology like any other, and centrists are subject to their political biases blinding them to obvious realities, just like those to the left and the right of the center.

The biggest problem with centrism is that if one side claims 2 + 2 = 4, and the other claims 2 + 2 = 5, you do not arrive at a correct answer by averaging the two and concluding that 2 + 2 = 4.5.

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