December 19, 2019

A Science-Based Approach to Dealing with Climate Change in Washington State

Sometimes I muse about it--if I were in control of Washington State's response to global warming, what would I do?  What would a rational, science-based approach look like, devoid of the hype and politics that is hindering progress today?

I would start by noting few principles:

1.  The implications of global warming for the Northwest is serious (more extreme rainfall, warmer temperatures, less mountain snowpack, rising sea level in place) but it won't be existential and changes will initially be relatively small, accelerating later in the century.

2.  Scientists and politicians must communicate the truth--the best estimates of our science.   Exaggeration and hyping impacts "to get people to do the right thing" is both unethical and counterproductive.  It produces unnecessary fear or turning away from the problem.

3.  The effort MUST be bipartisan.  Nothing major is ever accomplished by one party, something particularly true of our divided state and nation.  We must not mix political goals (e.g., social engineering) with dealing with what is essentially a scientific/technical problem (increasing concentrations of one gas).

Last presidential election.  Red is Republican.  Blue Democrat.

4.  Few people are willing to sacrifice today to stop global warming tomorrow (including climate scientists with huge travel-related carbon footprints).  Thus, all steps should provide benefits in the short run or not produce large additional costs.

5.  Global warming and its impacts will be solved with science and technology.

My Plan

My approach to the problem can be divided into three parts:

1.  A research program to better understand the implications of global warming for the region.
2.  Promoting resilience and adaptation
3.  Carbon emissions reduction (also known as mitigation)

1.  Research:  Understanding the implications of global warming for the Northwest

Global warming produced by increasing levels of CO2 is already influencing our area, although they are subtle at this point.   Since additional warming is inevitable, it is important that we understand the expected changes and the associated uncertainties.  This will give us the information we need for adaptation/resilience that will reduce impacts.

There has been some research by UW and NOAA scientists regarding the projected regional effects of global warming that provides a broad outline of expected changes, but MUCH more research is needed.  For example, we need to understand the uncertainties in current global model forecasts and run high-resolution climate models to better understand the local implications of global warming.   

I have been working quite a bit on this as part of my group's research, securing some support from Amazon to run many regional climate model simulations.  The results are fascinating with some surprises (see example below, which show drying in the lee of major mountains, but wetter everywhere else).  Much more needs to be done (and unfortunately the Amazon grant has ended).  Hopefully, we will find more support to do the analysis and continue such simulations (if you want to help, go here).

To summarize, task number one is to do the necessary research to gain a better idea of what will happen during the next century over the Northwest as the planet warms, and how this warming will vary with different emissions amounts.   Support of such research should be bipartisan.

2.  Adaptation and Resilience

As noted above, substantial warming of the planet and region is inevitable, with implications not only for  temperature, but precipitation, snowpack, and flooding as well.  The atmosphere hasn't caught up with the CO2 up there right now and global emissions are still rising rapidly.  And there are the associated problems of wildfires, air quality, water supply, and agriculture.   We need to take steps to protect our people and economy.

Importantly we are not adapted and resilient to our CURRENT climate.  Flooding has caused I-5 to close, a landslide has destroyed Oso, Washington, dry summers (e.g. 2015) have contributed in wildfires and agricultural losses, and minor rain events have resulted in massive sewer outflows in King County (there are many more examples).  To a great degree, by making ourselves resilient to current weather/climate threats, we will do much to protect ourselves from the impacts of climate change (and vice versa!).

Importantly, work on resilience can be bipartisan.  Some example include:

a.  Invest in the infrastructure to prevent sewage overflows during heavy rain events. In addition, treat more of the water draining off our roadways  This will also help improve the health of Puget Sound, and thus the survival of salmon and orcas.

b.  Begin a massive project to repair our overgrown east-side forests.  This will including thinning, removal of slash and debris, and bringing back fire (prescribed burns).  It is estimated that 2.5-3 million acres need attention and the costs will be in the billions.   Thinning/prescribed fire is the only way to restore the ecology of our dry-side forests and to prevent some of the huge catastrophic fires evident during the last decade.  What we have been doing the past decade is pittance compared to what is necessary.  A thinning/healthy forest program could also be an economic boon for eastern Washington, and will reduce the big smoke events.    A win-win for everyone.

c.  Building more reservoir capacity to serve agriculture in eastern Washington.  Global warming will increase annual precipitation in our area, but lessen snowpack that supplies water later in the summer; thus, water must be stored in winter in expanded reservoirs to deal with the problem.  Some efforts have been started in this direction with the Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.  A substantial effort to increase storage capacity is needed.

d.   A rational plan for selling/trading water rights is required, in contrast to the ineffective junior/senior rights approach of today that results in wasted water.  Furthermore, the crop mix in eastern WA must shift to agriculture that is less water intensive, and the leaky, poorly constructed water distribution infrastructure of eastern WA must be fixed.  Less hay.

e.   The state must begin moving people away from vulnerable locations susceptible to flooding and landslides, such as areas next to rivers or adjacent to potentially unstable slopes.  This will be costly, since property will need to be purchased.

Does Big Bend, Washington make sense?

f.  Development in fire-prone areas on the wildland/urban interface should be stopped, and isolated homes bought out.  Such areas should NOT have protective services that risk the lives of young firefighters.

This should not be encouraged.

g.  Crops should be developed that are more heat and drought resistantWashington State University is working on this approach actively.

3.  Mitigation:  Reduction of Emissions of CO2

     Mitigation is the most controversial aspect of the global warming problem, since CO2 knows no state or national boundary and costs can be immense for even small reductions in CO2 emissions.  Furthermore, Washington State, rich in hydrogeneration resources, is one of best states in the union for low-carbon electricity, so any improvements would be modest.   Transportation is our biggest source of carbon emissions, and our potential for solar and wind generation is limited by our cloudy northern climate and modest areas of consistent wind.  And folks rarely talk about the IMMENSE carbon footprints associated with our major industries, such as Boeing and Amazon.

Huge carbon footprint that politicians and others don't talk about

The population of our state is clearly cool carbon taxes and fees, with two voter initiatives defeated and the legislation unable to pass cap and trade legislation.  This is not going to change.  And even if we passed such measures, the impacts on global carbon emissions would be small at best.  That is not argument against them...everyone has to do their part if it makes sense.

With all that said, there is much that we can do that does makes economic sense and would provide multiple benefits immediately.

1.  More nuclear power.  Although hydropower is king in the Northwest, there is still substantial fossil fuel use, including coal (about 13% of electricity generation).  Adding an additional nuclear power facility could fill this gap.  Many environmental activists are against nuclear power, worried about safety and waste.  But new nuclear power plant designs are inherently safe and waste can be dealt with responsibly.  Consider France, where most of their power is from nuclear.  Turning against nuclear power is one of the great mistakes of the climate activist movement.

And there is something else:  fusion power, which does not have the waste problem, is probably only a decade or so away.  Dozens of companies are working the problem (including Helion here in the Northwest).  Don't believe that fusion will be available within 10 years?  Make it 30 years.  But once it is available the whole game changes.  We have an unlimited source of clean energy.  And with energy we can also pull CO2 out of the atmosphere.  Problem solved.

2.  Natural gas for marine applications.

Most marine traffic burns oil.  And not just any oil, but dirty bunker fuel, that is highly polluting.  You can see the smoke with your own eyes when one of the cruise ships comes into Seattle.    But there is a cost-effective option: liquified natural gas (LNG), which burns clean and produces less CO2 for the same energy.  So we need to move marine traffic to LNG, particularly for coastal applications (like Puget Sound).  Unfortunately, some climate advocacy groups like Seattle's are against LNG and doing what they can to prevent the LNG facility in Tacoma.  They are hurting our attempts to lessen local air pollution and to reduce CO2 emissions.

3.  Improved agricultural practices to restore carbon to our soils

There is tremendous potential to remove carbon from the atmosphere by restoring organic matter to our depleted soils. UW Professor David Montgomery has written several excellent books describing the potential of carbon addition to soils through improved agricultural practices, and a local company, Nori is working on such agricultural carbon removal using a market-based approach. A substantial amount of CO2 can be removed from the atmosphere this way, while improving our soils. Another win-win.

4.  Expand rail and mass transit much more quickly

Let me be blunt--the rate of expansion of rail transportation in the Northwest is pathetically slow and ineffective.   The very limited Sound Transit system won't be finished until around 2040.  Crazy slow.  Sounder trains to Tacoma and Everett are infrequent and unreliable, with even modest rain causing slides that close down rail traffic.  Light rail from Seattle to the airport is horrendously slow, with too many stops.  Our region needs to get serious about rail, with frequent service up and down the Sound, with more east-west routes.  We also need rail service into the mountains (imagine going skiing by rail as in Europe?)  What takes a decade in China takes 50 years in the Northwest... assuming it even gets done.

An obvious and powerful approach has been neglected--running commuter boats up and down the Sound and across Lake Washington.  Ironically, such service used to be available--the old mosquito fleet.  Now that our roads are locking up, marine transportation is needed more than ever.  Seattle can be the Venice of the U.S (without the flooding).


5.  Reduce traffic

The increasing traffic in our region has a huge carbon footprint, and there are immediate steps that could reduce it.  In Seattle and elsewhere, some municipalities have deliberately throttled traffic by reducing the number of lanes.  A huge mistake that has contributed to fuel-burning traffic jams.  Traffic light timing needs to optimized on more streets to foster better flow.  And then there are the increased number of accidents due to distracted drivers playing with their phones, food, and other distractions.  More effective steps are needed to deal with such distracted driving, which already illegal in most localities.  Better law enforcement, requirement that smartphone texting and other interactions will not work in moving vehicles.  We need creative solutions. Less traffic, lives saved, less carbon emission.   Cars are not going to disappear from our roads--they will simply go electric.

6.   Most important of all, science and technology development

Washington State is only a small part of the global warming problem through our direct emissions, with our indirect emissions (e.g., Boeing jets, Amazon worldwide transportation infrastructure) probably being larger.  If we are REALLY going to make a big contribution to reducing CO2 in the atmosphere, there is only one way to do so--to develop the technologies the will result in less emissions, from battery technology, to fusion, to better agriculture, to improved renewables, and more.  Developing the technology of sequestration (pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere will also be important.  In fact, I suspect the solution to the global warming problem will end up fusion power coupled with sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere, injecting it deep into the earth.

A local company, Carbon Engineering, is working on industrial size carbon capture facilities.

This blog is getting long, and there is many more things that could be done regarding mitigation.  There is much we can do, with some approaches having nearly immediate benefits (less traffic, more rail, less pollution).

The optimistic bottom line.  There are so many local politicians, media outlets, and activist groups that are painting a depressing, fearful picture of our future regarding global warming.  They are simply wrong.  There is so much that can be done to prepare and mitigate global warming, and the impacts will me more gradual than some are suggesting.  This is a scientific/technological problem that can be solved in a rational way, together.


  1. when mount bachelor is getting motor boated with snow right now at 10:42 am the flakes are massive about 2 inches in diameter that's just insane!!!

  2. lest hope stevesn pass gets a dump on the snow totals are going down at this point

  3. "In Seattle and elsewhere, some municipalities have deliberately throttled traffic by reducing the number of lanes"
    Deliberately throttling traffic is designed to encourage people in single occupancy vehicles to carpool, take public transportation, or just drive less, which reduces traffic. Adding lanes, on the other hand, has been proven again and again to not reduce traffic!

    1. You're missing his point, entirely. Try again.

    2. Road diets have significantly reduced injury and fatality accidents, at very little cost to traffic throughput. In many cases throughput is in fact increased, due to the introduction of dedicated turn lanes and the reduction of slowdowns in the wake of collisions.

      The theory that road diets have made traffic worse is pure myth:

    3. This is false and easily demonstrated as such.

      Every single weekday there is a large backup in the evening commute leaving Federal Way in to Tacoma. I'm riding along nicely in a bus with a mostly clear I-5 and then traffic comes to a dead stop in Milton/ Fife because the number of lanes changes from five down to three. This has been a problem for years. It is being addressed now, but it has taken many years to build new bridges over the Puyallup river and fix another lane drop as I-5 goes through Fife. By comparison, the Northbound lanes, which have already been expanded, move along just fine during the morning commute.

      Similarly there were backups crossing the Tacoma Narrows for more than a decade. When a new bridge was added, all traffic jams disappeared.

      More lanes and properly designed freeways and on/off-ramps do mitigate traffic. And the mass transit buses that move the vast number of people in/out of Seattle / Bellevue each day also use the Freeways. Fix the freeways and Bus Rapid Transit, a much cheaper and quicker to build option than slow billion dollar trains, can flourish.

  4. i agree with your assessment of taking practical steps to deal with climate change, and also focus on scientific research.

    Though, negatives with this practical approach which should also be acknowledged so that readers get a even more balanced view.

    1) the benefits of practical approach should be mediocre - e.g. its not going to stop China polluting our environment with Coal, plus more.

    2) are the scientists ever in our lifetime going to be able to get reliable scientific evidence to figure out climate change vs human caused global warming? and if it turns out to be due to human causes, is the evidence and the bi-partisan agreement going to come in time for technology to reverse the changes?

  5. Thanks for this post, Cliff. I've been frustrated in the past reading your criticisms of climate change policy ideas that didn't state what specific actions you think could be done differently. While I disagree with the level of urgency you feel on the matter, I'm happy to see you name check all three major sources of emissions with potential actions (industry, power, and transportation).

  6. "..people playing with their phones.." Metaphorically, that image pretty much sums up our future prospects perfectly.

  7. I'm skeptical of trying to capture CO2 and inject it underground. Besides requiring a lot of energy to do that, sooner or later it'll find its way back out. For example, an earthquake could cause a fault or split in the rocks and a pathway to the surface. Better to restore the ecosystem so the natural carbon dioxide sink- plants and phytoplankton- can do it for us.

  8. Interesting post, thanks Cliff for taking the time to write it all out. I agree that your item #6, "science and technology development" is by far the most important, and wish you had listed it as #1 (it's a long-ish post...). We will have a far greater impact, as individuals and as a region, by focusing on what capabilities we can provide to the entire world to address this than on anything we can actually do directly. Take your example of replacing the bunker fuel used in shipping with LNG. Now imagine if you could instead replace it with something with a much more benign environmental impact than LNG production - e.g. electric motors powered by hydrogen fuel cells supplied by hydrogen produced via solar cracking, stored in a high-adsorption engineered material. The development of the various components required to achieve that would have a massive global impact.

    I don't share your enthusiasm for fission-based nuclear energy, even with updated designs, nor do I share your optimism for the near-term potential of fusion-based nuclear energy. There are too many issues that need to be addressed (both technical and social) to view any kind of nuclear energy as a high-ROI investment. I also disagree with your dismissal of solar energy as a viable component to address our energy needs. We may have access to a lot less energy from the sun than some other regions, but it is still an impressively enormous amount. This is an area in which R&D has had, and will continue to have, an enormous impact, with both theoretical and practical gains being made at an impressive rate.

    Anyway, great post - thanks!

    1. Please explain in more detail exactly what the issues are regarding "technical and social" in discussing nuclear energy. Regarding your other comment on ROI investment, it's already happening on many fronts, including both governmental and private avenues. Additionally, your other proposed solution regarding LNG appears far more fanciful and light years away from reality compared to what's currently on the docks for next generation nuclear power.

    2. Concerning the role that LNG might play in serving our future energy needs, I note that our neighbors two states to the south in California will be closing their last nuclear plant by 2025 and are planning on going to 70% wind and solar for electric power by 2030, just ten years away.

      Can wind and solar backed by massively large grid-scale energy storage batteries supply the electricity shortfall?

      Californians have bought the renewable energy Kool Aid in million gallon quantities and will not be convinced otherwise until serious reliability problems begin to occur with their power grid. So too have the Oregonians.

      I hear talk through the grapevine that the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is well aware of the serious dangers presented to the state's electric service reliability performance by a nationally implemented Green New Deal program combined with California's own politically-driven renewable energy mandates.

      The staff at CAISO certainly ought to be aware of the danger, because if California's power supply starts experiencing an ever-increasing number of service interruptions as market penetration of wind and solar expands, CAISO will be getting the blame for it.

      I continue to believe that the oil and gas industry, the railroads, and the manufacturers of gas-fired peaker plants are waiting patiently for serious problems to emerge, probably by the early 2030's if not sooner.

      When the opportunity presents itself, they will be offering to save the day for California -- and possibly even for America if the GND is seriously pursued on a national scale -- by quickly installing gas-fired peaker plants wherever these can be easily serviced by rail-transported supplies of LNG.

      IMHO, the long-term profit making opportunities for installing and servicing these gas-fired LNG peaker plants will be considerable.

      Sure, the plants will be promoted as being a temporary measure until the technology and the economics of wind and solar backed by grid-scale energy storage can be figured out. But since the problems of wind and solar will never be figured out, these 'temporary' plants will become permanent fixtures of the energy landscape.


      Full Disclosure: I post as 'Beta Blocker' on WUWT and on Climate Etc. I've spent thirty-five years in nuclear construction and operations.

  9. Even if the climate doesn't change locally, climate refugees, domestic and international, are a big potential impact. Look at the population of Florida. Then, look at the population of Bangladesh.

  10. The environmental NGOs have done a great disservice to actual low- carbon energy initiatives. Their hysterical campaigns against fracking only prove that their efforts are solely about controlling everyone else's lives according to their own narrow dictates.
    Natural gas is an ideal transition energy source towards carbon neutral power such as nuclear. Which, as we've discussed repeatedly on this blog, they've effectively stymied for decades.

  11. Article makes some good points but seems to ignore the role of other greenhouse gases besides CO2, in particular the role of increased methane emissions as a result of fracking for LNG.

  12. Great post and so refreshing to focus on rationale solutions and not fear.

  13. really odd i live near lake roesiger we just got 8 inches of snow in less than 3 hours it was 42 outside then dropped to 31 after brief hail this is creepy can anyone explain to me how this is even possible just like this last winter we got 4 feet of snow and down 500 for feet only 1 foot i live someone really odd

    1. Upslope wind. At some point the air cools, the moisture comes out as snow and drops. Down 500 feet, it hadn't cooled so much and less snow dropped out.

  14. the water issue would benefit greatly from a paradigm shift in how we manage it. Take a look at this book. You can see the results of the implementation by satellite.

  15. The blog touches on this, use!!! Not only in terms of vulnerability to environmental hazards, but also ever increasing, unsustainable sprawl development on the periphery from Lake Stevens and Monroe to Puyallup, meanwhile retaining exclusionary single family zoning in areas that have grown up in to centralized parts of a major metropolis. This development pattern is not natural. It is forced directly as a matter of zoning policy and indirectly by state and Fed investment overwhelmingly in highways vs mass transit, walking, and biking. As practical as this may have seemed in mid-late 20th Century America, it is a form of social engineering in its own right. Irrespective of climate change, the current way of doing thing is not best for transportation, not efficient or resilient for city services and utilities, and imposes an undue hardship on the working class who are pushed further and further to the periphery.

  16. Light rail to the airport from the UW or downtown or Beacon Hill is not horrendously slow.

    1. It is 17.5 miles from Husky Stadium to SeaTac airport on the highway (a bit less if you took a more direct route). The scheduled duration for light rail for that trip is 44 minutes, or a bit less than 24 MPH, mostly because it stops 13 times in between. That doesn't include getting to the station, waiting for the next train, etc. I consider that horrendously slow relative to the distance.

      I have the same fear for the light rail going in from Redmond to downtown. The maps I've seen show a lot of stops (10 to be exact) between the end (original Microsoft campus in Redmond) and downtown, with no sign of sidetracks or other mechanisms to allow express trains, so I assume, just like the existing light rail, that every train will stop at every station. That will mean a very long ride to downtown Seattle.

    2. So driving is way faster? And parking at the airport is a breeze? Or, you have someone drop you off and then drive back home?

    3. I live 5 minutes from the Link station in Cap Hill and use the train every time I take a flight. I'd much rather take the train, especially on my way north, than wait for an Uber/Lyft in that horrendous parking garage at Seatac.

      On your comment re: East Link, it's going to take about 45 minutes on East Link to get from Redmond Technology Station to Intl. District station. That's comparable to my current ride home on a ST Express bus on SR 520, but the train has the massive advantage of not being vulnerable to bad drivers, weather conditions, Microsoft campus traffic, and bridge construction/closures.

      While I get that some of the outlying ST3 lines (do we really need another train connecting Tacoma to Seattle?) have a middling ROI, the traffic in & around Bellevue & Redmond is truly horrendous. Moving slowly (30 mph) is infinitely better than not moving at all.

  17. Keep it up Cliff,I like your approach to this.

  18. Good recommendations. I would add restoring science based decision process to government policy making, especially where it’s been undercut by the actions of corporate and other lobbyists seeking to obstruct climate change awareness and mitigation

  19. One area where I disagree is on adding more rail transit.

    The limited rail corridors we have are already overloaded with freight rail. Freight rail is an important component of reducing emissions, because we could also use LNG for locomotives, and that keeps more trucks off the road. But as you note, the light rail planned for connecting Tacoma and Everett by 2040 will do nothing to alleviate traffic because it is too slow and there are too many stops. It will be much faster for future commuters to either take the Sound Transit Express buses we have today, the Sounder Trains we have today, or stay in their cars.

    A far better solution is a tax incentive program for businesses and employees to distribute employees in hoteling arrangements and encourage shorter commutes, 4-10 work schedules with differing days off, and other flexible arrangements. There's no real difference for Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, T-Mobile, etc employees who work in a giant tower in downtown Seattle, Bellevue or Tacoma. For those who commute every day, large businesses could easily rent or build remote space in the medium sized cities surrounding Seattle and erase those long commutes by distributing work centers to other population centers. For the times where employees do occasionally need to meet in person, they could ride interoffice shuttles during non-commute hours. Businesses and employees could be offered incentives based on their zip code and proximity to their place of work. Think: If 80% of your employees live within 10 miles of their desk, then the business and employee get a tax break.

    Don't try to fix long commutes with slow multi billion dollar trains, instead eliminate them in the first place.

    1. Put the Choo Choo back under the tree

      I love almost everything about this article. However, as soon as you start talking about trains, it goes off the rails. Using circa 1800 technology to deal with modern problems can only be explained by well, it can't be explained... People who love trains just love trains. It’s as simple as that. People aren’t freight and our city doesn’t consist of 10 million people like New York or Tokyo. So keep that choo choo where it belongs, under the Christmas tree.

      The fact is that with widespread adoption of automated, electric, autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles 10 years away or less, the day you lay that last bit of Sounder track will also be the day you start tearing it up to make way for people to get where they need to go.

      Imagine if your body was fed by a train instead of individual cells; that’s called a tumor. It doesn’t work very well to keep the body healthy. Individual transportation will always be far superior and more efficient to mass collections of stuck bodies waiting in gridlock.

      The first priority for planners has to be to enable flow. If you want a bus lane, that bus lane needs to be kept at capacity during high volume hours. Volume is managed by velocity and bandwidth. If you want to move the volume you must have one or the other. Since bandwidth (the number of lanes) is a limiting factor, speed is the variable we can use. Merely cracking down (ticketing) on left lane fast, right lane slow would alleviate much of the volume. Having high speed lanes (90 mph) for through traffic would alleviate traffic. The experiment of forcing people to carpool has failed. Changing carpool lanes to high speed lanes with enforced minimum speeds would go a long way to solve the problem of congestion.

      Wanna use mass transit make the trip to Canada a 1 hour trip with almost no cost to the taxpayer? Change one lane on I-5 to 90 mph with a 70 mph minimum speed and enforce it. Problem solved. You could even charge a toll. People would happily pay it and you could raise govt. revenue.

      The light rail boondoggle, originally due for completion in 2020, now 2040, costing more than twice as much as was sold to the vote and now costing almost more than double Trumps wall; all with zero media fanfare, should be enough to stop the conversation in its tracks. The simple fact of the matter is people love their choo choo, so let’s give every one a choo choo for their tree and then get back to the serious issue of solving congestion.

    2. Sorry you're so misinformed, Anon! Don't confuse ST2 completion with ST3 completion dates, they are very different projects. Light Rail/mass transit is not going to be replaced by autonomous cars in 10 years, or even 20 years - there just isn't enough room on the roads, not to mention the cost of obtaining a new, autonomous vehicle (Teslas are pricey!), not everyone can afford to get one. Like it or not, Seattle is growing very quickly. Personal vehicles are just not going to be an option. Imagine if NYC didn't have the subway! Imagine 4 million more cars on the road in that city. That is what you're suggesting.

    3. As we continue into the next 10 and 20 years, the biggest cities will be the first (and they already are) to adopt commute options which look like a bee hive of activity. High velocity, high bandwidth trunk lines are always an important part of a healthy movement structure, so in cities with millions of people that were built around the 18th century technology you won't see the old technology directly abandoned, so much as first enhanced by and then morphed by the new technology as it gets integrated. Taking this route in Seattle, population 750k, would be like first insisting everyone install wired telephone service before moving to cell technology.

  20. Re: Smartphones / distracted driving. Again technology will come to the rescue. Using UWB which is already built in the the latest iPhones and future auto interlocks, it will be easy for Apple to add technology to prevent smartphones from being used while driving unless in Carplay mode or in the hands of a passenger. Apple will do this first in concert with the auto mfg's and then Google will follow with Android.

    It should be impossible to safely use your cell phone while driving. There are just too many idiots who attempt this and crash. I see it every single day on I-5. But rather than pass a law, which never gets enforced: when's the last time you saw a state trooper on I-5 during commute hours? Let's just build the technology in to cars and make it mandatory. Problem solved in a decade.

    1. Do you imagine a technical solution which can tell whether I'm a driver or a passenger in the same vehicle? Seems to me that any such solution would have to involve either extensive use of cameras and AI (which privacy-conscious users won't allow), or proximity sensing, which will be error prone and easily defeated.

      Out of the box, my iPhone thinks I'm driving when I'm on the bus, until I disable "do not disturb while driving".

  21. Another dark day in NW Bellingham today...only 6 hours of measurable daylight.

  22. I leased a BEV for 2 years and found it a mostly pleasant experience. It was not a drop in replacement for my previous vehicle but, I went in eyes wide open and was not completely disappointed. When a BEV or possibly a plug in hybrid is available that is a drop in replacement for both of my multi mission capable gas burning SUV's, I'll consider one again.

    As Dr. Mass has pointed out, fear mongering is having the exact opposite effect. Why not incentivize reduced energy usage instead of trying to scare everyone into making the required changes? Americans are such a competitive bunch, we should try playing that angle and see what happens. My family has chosen to incentivize ourselves with measurable success.

    Our household has made a challenge out of reducing our energy usage. Changing smart thermostat settings to stay as close to the outside temp as we can tolerate and altering the daily routine to support those changes. Planning trips to avoid traffic and taking the most efficient route by taking terrain and time of day into account. When replacing our BEV last year, we chose a small SUV that is FWD most of the time and only activates the rear axle when needed. Using Tier 1 gas in both vehicles has reduced our carbon footprint while keeping the cost per mile the same as burning cheap gas.

    Concerning public transportation: It has its place and I use it when I can. The fact is that my work and hobbies take me to places where trains and busses cannot go. This is why I have 2 off-road capable vehicles in my garage.

    Not everyone wants to live in a city with all of the disadvantages that come along with it and no amount of social engineering will ever change that. Every attempt to impose those values on someone that does not want them drives them further away from a solution we all can live with.

  23. Can you share any evidence to believe that fusion energy will happen in 10 to 30 years? I feel like I heard this 10 years ago. What reason do I have to be optimistic we will deal with the climate change because of undiscovered technology? You continue to be optimistic about future technologies as an argument for not strongly pursuing strong climate policies now. You also use it as your main reason "everybody should just calm down," and you parrot scientific solutions, but you have yet to provide any convincing evidence a technological breakthrough is on the horizon.

    LNG burns cleaner and more efficiently, but it also has a higher emissions footprint for production. The emissions vary depending on many factors but LNG production is very energy intensive. According to this article, in Australia it takes 1 million tons of CO2 emissions to produce about 14 million tons of coal, and 1 million tons of CO2 emissions to produce 1.2 million tons of LNG:

    This article is from 2011, so the tech may have improved those numbers, but I doubt by much.

    If LNG is only 10-20% more efficient from a carbon standpoint, the production emissions would easily outweigh and reductions from LNG fuel. Its certainly cleaner in other ways, but sulfer and nitrogen oxides arent the target climate change pollutant.

  24. I wish Cliff would stop framing AGW as if the relatively mild impacts, mitigated by the Pacific are not the same that will be felt in the vast majority of the US. His own estimates of temp rise in the next half century, would have our agriculture decimated in the vast majority of the. Again, I cannot help but critique Mr. Mass for this again. He surely believes he understand NW Weather. Apparently he cannot expand his context to embrace the globe. Your own predictions of up to 8C would decimate agriculture in the US. Please address that. Thank you.

    1. He can't the NRA and Koch Brothers will go after him and ruin his reputation.

    2. And yet another baseless smear from the alleged party of tolerance.

    3. Baseless.... because the NRA/Koch would NEVER do such a thing, right? SMH.

    4. Please provide evidence of this claim or admit you're just another nameless poseur engaging in character assasination.

  25. cliff stevens pass is getting hammered with snow do you think they will get more than just a foot?? anyone i need a answer to this comment

  26. The problem with moving people away or out of neighborhoods such as Big Bend is that they live there due to affordability. That was originally a recreational neighborhood but with the housing crunch it has become one of the few places left that is truly affordable for fixed income or low wage workers, and still close enough for a daily Seattle or Everett commute. Good luck getting anyone to provide housing that cheap in the core of the Seattle metro area.

  27. Great post. Before we can get to some additional nuclear, if we switch anything coal fired to natural gas, we will cut CO2 emissions by 50 to 60%. Your comments regarding thinning our forests are right on the mark.

    I am not too concerned about CO2 levels at this level. Most crop plants and forest tree species don't reach optimal CO2 levels until we reach 750 to 1000 ppm. Since the second half of Jule Charney's committee's theory of global warming appears to be faltering, I think time is on our side.

  28. This 'storm' is just as I expected. It can't get thru the sludge in the ocean so it gets all screwed up and we all get under an inch of rain out of it. It was real funny we had s few wind gusts that tried to ramp up but just puffed out.

  29. crystal has 17 inches already crytsal is getting it all i aint going to stevens for sure now

  30. Wow, Cliff!

    A lot of people will benefit from you taking the time to write out your informed perspective on climate change. Focusing on facts may allow people to disengage emotionally and focus on problem solving.

    Perhaps they will even start discovering ways to contribute more toward solutions in their lives giving them more of a feeling of control. Your writing with an informed background and practical approach puts it all into better perspective.

  31. Thanks, Cliff! Pragmatic thinking is what this is all about. This is almost like a double header today. Lots of weather and some climate talk too!

  32. Finally measured my first 40mph wind gust of the season today in NW Bellingham! This has been the least windy year in my record so far with a maximum gust of 49mph back in January. Other than 2019, all previous years have featured at least one wind gust ≥50mph. During my period of record, I've measured wind gusts of 40mph or more from October through April and gusts of 50 mph or more from November through March.

  33. The Yakima Basin integrated Plan is a massive public subsidy for farmers. If they pay for the true cost of water you won't have to worry about them growing hay (and they'll fix the leaks).

    1. So you want food prices to rise. Why not, when you're a rich Seattle "progressive?" So the working middle class suffers, but hey, you always hated them anyway.

  34. Cliff, give us evidence of how Nuclear Waste can be dealt with responsibly. We have been producing nuclear waste since the Manhattan Project during WW2 and I have yet to see any evidence of responsible long term storage. Instead the wastes accumulate and are stored in vulnerable Spent Fuel Pools or Steel Casks at the sites where this waste is produced.

    One thing for certain is that there will be no nukes sited west of the Cascades and in much of California anytime soon, due to the seismic risk. Any attempt to do so will get bogged down in courts for years, unless these are pushed through in an undemocratic process. We may not have the time to wait for that industry to get its crap together whereas we can install much solar and wind capacity now without much process.

    You might want to educate yourself about consequences of nuclear accidents, and the release of radionucleides into the environment. Kate Brown's book "Manual for Survival; A Chernobyl Guide to the Future" and her earlier book "Plutopia" are both excellent if hair-raising reading. These books also demonstrate the irresponsible handling of radiation by governments and I suspect our current one in DC would sweep a major nuclear accident under the rug and label it "fake news". PG&E, facing bankruptcy for the fires their poorly maintained equipment caused, is in charge of Diablo Canyon and my guess is that they are maintaining that reactor as effectively. A meltdown there would put much of the populations to the north and the south at risk, not to mention taint much of the agriculture nearby in the Salinas and Central Valleys. I am sure the Military wouldn't be too happy if they had to abandon Vandenberg AFB nearby. San Luis Obispo and the Madonna Inn would have to shut down, as would Hearst Castle.

    The Industry and the Government for years promised a solution to the wastes that was right around the corner, along with promised of power too cheap to meter. Instead they brought us the large municipal bond failure in history known as "WPPSS" (pronounced "Whoops!") and the wastes accumulate. The ones and the now decommission Trojan Nuclear Plant are still there in waste caskets stored outside. Anyone including a terrorist flying a freshly fueled airliner out of Seatac can find these easily on Google Earth.

    I suspect the Nuclear Power Industry is simply using Climate Change as a cynical way to justify its continued government bailout. I don't fall for their crap and its sad that you seem to.

    1. The next generation nuclear plants wont have the prior issues of spent rods, the spent fuel will be reusable and/or benign. Instead of admonishing an actual scientist to educate themselves, perhaps you should try to educate yourself first.

    2. According to whom? This sounds like another optimistic Industry talking point, similar to their "Too Cheap to Meter" promise. There is also the issue of mining and processing uranium which is dirty business. I don't know about Thorium but I also see no Thorium plants operating despite years of talk about it. We simply don't have the time left for these businesses to get their shit together - assuming that will ever happen - and we have other technologies which can be put into operation now without having to deal with issues of nuclear waste, improper citing of nuclear plants (for instance - did you know that Trojan was built right on top of a fault and that another exists right across the river?). Another idea which Cliff didn't mention at all is perhaps reducing our population by having fewer children. My daughter's generation already has a dsytopian view of the future thanks to Climate Change and the other messes we are leaving behind and many are choosing to have kids.

      I have educated myself - having been involved at times in fighting that industry since the 1970s. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are good examples of what the industry can bring us and the Hanford Nuclear Reservation is a good example of the long-term implications of these technologies. Also, if you aren't aware of it, check out the Price-Anderson Act. This is one of the largest bailouts in history. Should a disaster occur through negligence, stupidity or whatever, this act limits the liability of the industry to $50 million and taxpayers are stuck with the remaining balance. Fukushima's total costs will approach over a Trillion Dollars by the middle of the century. If a for-profit industry cannot find adequate insurance to cover its potential losses, it should simply not be in business.

  35. It does not matter!

    By reflecting 30% of the ISR the earth is cooler with an atmosphere not warmer.

    The non-radiative properties of the atmosphere render BB LWIR impossible.

    These two points alone refute RGHE theory.

    Zero RGHE + Zero GHG warming = Zero CAGW.

  36. Please read the Alice J. Friedemann book "When The Trucks Stop Running" for an informed discussion of the futility of relying on some kind of miraculous clean energy fix coming from fusion, more muclear, solar, wind, wave, battery storage, coal gasification, biomass to energy, and the reliance on electric vehicles. It is all about EROEI: Energy return on energy invested. It is all about the utility of oil. And at the rate that we are using it, oil will be gone by the end of the century. Then we will have no more worries about further fossil fuel based climate change. Perhaps the human race will survive the ensuing 500 to 1000 year plus period of climate disaster. The model that will work is practiced by the Amish and Mennonites. For those that do not have the religious bonds the much maligned hippy communes look pretty good.

    1. We've been hearing about Peak Oil for thirty years, we were supposed to run out of oil years ago. Estimated known reserves at present stretch decades into the future.

    2. Decades is a very short time frame. Decades is all that it will last. Then how do you make the cell phone that we are typing on?

  37. Hi Cliff,
    great post, but contrary to your previous post on this topic, almost none of these measures are market driven, and except for the last they are not really technology driven solutions. All of these efforts take government involvement and leadership to implement science based land use and water and carbon use decisions. Most rabid environmentalists would support almost everything here. I certainly do. Our opponent in all this is the denialists. Just as healthcare advocates push for single payer but are happy to get even Obamacare, environmentalists are pushing hard to get anything happening, just to get the ball rolling. The fight is against a massive disinformation campaign from the right, which weaponizes anti government feelings, highlighting the wackos on the left and distorting eh truth in every instance. We have seen this technique before in the cigarette campaigns, the rollout of the Iraq war, the 2016 elections.

  38. Bravo! A rare broad-based plan that deserves much broader distribution.

  39. "A Science-Based Approach"
    No "...that's just like, your opinion, man." No more than that. There's nothing scientific in this rant of yours. Calling something scientific doesn't make it so.

    Two giant red flares:

    1) Stating nuclear power has no problems - as someone who lived in the shadow of TVA power plants for much of his life, I completely disagree. And so does the nuclear waste, which remains radioactive for longer than the human race has had agriculture.

    2) saying this is a problem of one gas - what about methane, which doesn't even merit a mention in your ramblings?

    I think you need to stick to local weather forecasts.

  40. Cleaner electricity, and more electrified transportation. Sounder, for example, runs a fixed route that could easily be electrified.

  41. it is easy for science to claim to solve a problem that does not exist outside of the claim.

  42. This would be all fine and good if there was a problem to begin with. But there is no such problem. The Cult of Global Warming is half religion and half politics. There is no science. If there was, the cultists would have followed the scientific method and tossed the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis when it failed to live up to its predictions.

    As for the "overgrown forests" in Eastern Washington, well, I live in the Columbia Gorge, where in the past decade there have been two massive forest fires: one on Mt. Adams that burned 53,000 acres, and the other on the Oregon side when a 16-year-old juvenile delinquent set a 46,000-acre blaze. He was given a slap on the wrist by Hood River County's "progressive" DA.

    In any case, both of those conflagrations occurred in public forests. Where I live, we are surrounded by thousands of acres of privately-owned forests where logging takes places. No fires in this decade in those forests, except for small blazes that spread from public land and were quickly extinguished.

    The issue with "overgrown forests" comes from the same arrogant "progressive" Seattle "environmentalists" who pitch their global warming religion. Cliff Mass, you're a very good weather forecaster, and aren't as much of a lunatic as the rest of the weirdos at your university, but you have absolutely NOTHING to tell us about forests. You don't know anything about forestry, but like every other arrogant Seattle "progressive," not knowing a single thing doesn't stop you from lecturing about it.

    Bottom line: You can always tell a Seattle "progressive," but you can never, EVER tell a Seattle "progressive" a single thing. They think they know everything already, and they imagine that they are better and smarter than everyone else. And then they wonder why Trump's going to be re-elected.

  43. Regarding step 5: Reduce traffic.

    Faster traffic through more travel lanes and improved light timing is a myth. There's a phenomenon called Induced Demand, where efforts in various cities have demonstrated that if you build additional traffic capacity, people will drive more until the system is saturated. Removing traffic lanes is actually the right approach to reducing traffic - the level of traffic congestion will remain constant, but there will be less cars on the road (and incidentally, less deaths).

    The flip side is that to avoid inconveniencing people, and discriminating against poorer people, cities have to invest in public transport and make traveling by non-car options viable.

  44. I agree with, cliff on this one 100% Scaring people is NOT the way to handle this.

  45. On points 4 and 5, Uber and Lyft are certainly not helping here. Even though ridership is up on light is ridership with these gas guzzling services.

  46. Seattle has 750 thousand people and the average commute time is 50% greater than Kansas City, a city which has 2 million people in it. That's insane! Stop the ridiculous emphasis on getting people out of their cars (social engineering) and focus on traffic flow. Congestion isn't good for people or the environment!

  47. Hi Cliff, this is very a interesting article, however for my own information and to know what your opinion is, why there's no mention of solar power, or wind power, possibly using tide/marine power generation like in Sweden and Norway. It would be very interesting and informative to get your opinion on why these technologies are not an option for WA state or the PNW.


  48. I like the thoughts on fusion power. Also, it seems that LED lights are saving a tremendous amount of electricity and therefore Co2 emissions. My employer pays for bus fare, so instead of driving 27 miles to work I drive 7 miles to Federal Way and take a bus, saving 40 miles of driving and gasoline emissions. I do not want to pay a penny in taxes to reduce Co2. This needs to be solved by the private sector and technology.

  49. I agree with most everything Cliff says in this post, but then he spoils it at the end with his unbridled optimism by saying "the impacts will be more gradual than some are suggesting". If you talk to the biologists and oceanographers their view is that even this gradual change in temperature is to fast for it to adapt and change and is exacerbating the extinction crisis. We must act now, and with effort to save the world as we nknow it. I support all of Cliff's ideas to meet this crisis, and more. We must trade in our Trucks for a hybrid or EV. Transportation is
    among the highest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions, and that means you and me. Please drive less.

    1. @JohnSC, in your honor, I will leave my diesel truck idling all night. And I will be singing "Mind Your Own Business." Honest to God, what is it about you arrogant Seattle "progressives" wanting to tell everyone else how to live? Please confine yourselves to running your own lives, however pathetic they just might be.

      In the meantime, John, stop consuming anything that's been mechanically cultivated, mined, manufactured, shipped, or delivered, including that computer of yours that was assembled by happy Chinese slaves and sent over here on a diesel-powered boat. I'm sure you've stopped flying anywhere, and you've turned off the heating in your dwelling. You use no electricity, and you refuse to board a diesel bus.

      Oh, but wait! You're a Seattle "progressive." You won't actually live by the rules you proclaim for others, because you're better and immune from actually having to do what you tell others to do. Would that be about the size of it? By the way, your coffee is shipped here from elsewhere in the world, and I think it's about high time you did your eco-duty and stopped drinking it.

  50. Fusion power has always been 10 years away. I remember it being described that way when I was in college in the 1970s. And that's where it will stay. The problem is not in creating and sustaining a non-explosive reaction. We already know how to do that. The issue is in containing the radiation, which is FAR more intense than with fission reactors.

    No one has cracked that on anything remotely close to a commercial scale. Do some clicking, and you'll see that there's no manmade structure than can contain the radiation from a fusion reaction. All of the development has focused on plasma containment, and there's been no significant progress on that front.

    It very much reminds me of the millennialist claims surrounding tidal power. When I was in the investment business, I ran across numerous "wave power" claims. None of them has ever panned out on a meaningful commercial scale, nor will they. The minute someone starts blathering about fusion or tidal power, you know that they're just hyperventilating.

  51. Solar, batteries, wind, hydroelectric. All transportation will move to electric including planes.

  52. Unlikely without a major improvement in battery technology. Likely as, if not more, difficult than fusion power.

  53. good inputs in this post regarding transportation technology


Please make sure your comments are civil. Name calling and personal attacks are not appropriate.

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