September 10, 2023

The Seattle Times Pushes Climate Anxiety

Yesterday's print edition of the Seattle Times features a letter to the Editor from a local psychologist describing the acute fear of climate change that has become widespread among her patients.  Dr. Schweigler stated:

 In my psychotherapy practice of 30-plus years, I have not seen such a common theme of existential anxiety created not by individual psychodynamics but by profound fear about the state of the Earth.

Might the Seattle Times be fostering climate anxiety and fear?   The answer was on THE SAME PAGE as yesterday's paper, with a cartoon by David Horsey, showing a climate-caused fire devil burning homes and destroying powerlines.

It was telling that the editors of the Seattle Times did not think about the juxtaposition of a letter bemoaning a plague of climate fear with a scary cartoon designed to promote such fear.  

Fear that is substantially unfounded (e.g., climate change plays only a small role, if any, regarding major wildfires such as the Maui fire).

The Editors of the Seattle Times should sit down and consider their major role in encouraging climate fear among the most vulnerable.  Their cartoonist David Horsey is one of the most provocative and irresponsible among the ST staff.

Here is another recent cartoon with the same climate change devil.

Or his holiday special about climate change coming to town.

To make sure that we are sufficiently scared, he notes that the Native Americans will have to run, storms will get huge, and coastlines will sink.   Much of this is simply wrong.  For example, there is no evidence that storms "will get huge" under climate change.

And Mr. Horsey suggests climate change buzz saw will but us to pieces when our clothes are off!

"Conveniently" the Seattle Times does not allow comments on Mr. Horsey's cartoons because prior comments have been critical.  This is often true of other climate articles.

To make sure the editorial position of the Seattle Times is sufficiently clear, Alex Freyer, the Seattle Times opinion columnist, wrote a long screed on how he wakes up at 3 AM almost every night,  gripped with fear about climate change.  He states that the "world as we know it is coming to an end."   

Mr. Freyer is so terrified of climate change that his mental health is being undermined.  Perhaps he should make an appointment with Dr. Schweigler.  Or he could stop by my office and I could tell him what the best science suggests (slow warming we can deal with).

Seattle Times editors maintain a steady stream of fearful letters to the editor, many of them factually in error (like the one below on the Maui wildifre).

And day after day the Seattle Times has bold type headlines about one climate terror after another

Climate change threatens hydropower!

Climate change heatwaves are killing older women and violating their rights!

Climate change is causing ticks to spread into the Northwest and threatening women's health!

Climate change is worsening BOTH floods and droughts!  

And yes, climate change will turn Colorado into Arizona!

I could easily give you another dozen examples of the most fear-inducing, hyper-exaggerated headlines in the Times.   But you get the point.

The Seattle Times and its ilk are being highly irresponsible.   They are undermining the mental health of vulnerable people.  Causing fear and anxiety.  And much of what they are hyperventilated about about is simply untrue.   Easily proven to be false.

It is time for the Seattle Times to look itself carefully in the mirror.   They might not be comfortable with what they see.


  1. i can confirm via my kids that most of their peers are gripped by the same anxiety. They are pushing this in schools to the point where kids are terrified and convinced their futures are gone.

  2. With all the baloney the St is putting out, I wonder if their readership is declining. Do they do this in desperation to sell their junk?

  3. It's people like Horsey who push this stuff that need a psychologist's help. These people have serious problems.

  4. Cliff, don't forget to add that anyone disagreeing with this horrendous insanity is immediately branded among the following: Nazi, Racist, Misongynist and the all - encompossing Denialist.

  5. There is no single, authoritative source for this topic and point/counterpoint discussion here about The Seattle Times' reporting is a good one. I have always been a fan of David Horsey - this is not the same as agreeing with his positions, but I like his ability to convey an issue. Unlike most editorial cartoonists, David Horsey also has a commentary that puts his drawings in some context. IMHO, the caricature he chooses to employ for climate change should not give one any additional fear or anxiety when compared to many other editorial cartoonists out there. The image catches my attention and I read his commentary - then it becomes just one additional piece of information (including this blog) that is part of the process for formulating opinions.

  6. "It is time for the Seattle Times to look itself carefully in the mirror. They might not be comfortable with what they see." Don't underestimate them. The only discomfort they might see is fear that they are not pushing the agenda hard enough.

  7. While the Seattle Times may be at fault for scaring people here, I haven't been sufficiently reassured by Cliff's recent writings on climate change. Why does Cliff think that anthropogenic climate change is something that can be solved by technology when these technologies don't yet exist (e.g., fusion and scaleable carbon capture)?

    1. don't have to wait for fusion (which I think will happen relatively soon).....we have fission right now. Safe designs that can produce huge amounts of carbon-free energy. And don't underestimate our ability to adapt to modest amounts of global warming. There is no unsolvable problems here no reason to recklessly invoke fear as done by the Seattle Times...cliff

    2. No, Cliff, nuclear power is hardly ready:
      1) nuclear waste – its danger lasts for centuries - even longer than one of your diatribes against the Seattle Times - and there’s no safe way to store it, transport it, or any state that wants to be a dump for this dangerous material.
      2) runaway nuclear reactions – our states nuclear reactor is of the same design as Fukuchima. And nothing has been done there to provide for a loss of electricity to lower active fuel into cooing water in an emergency. We’re sitting ducks for this disaster in waiting, as are all current operating nuclear plants.
      3) terrorism – blow up a wind mill and you have a pile of rubble. Blow up a nuclear plant and you have a radioactive tea kettle spewing radiation which ever way the wind blows, and tunneling down into the groundwater, contaminating everything for centuries.
      4) nuclear fuel – where does this come from Cliff? Other countries, as the USA doesn’t have enough source. We would be trading dependency on foreign sources of oil, for foreign sources of nuclear fuel, and be in the same sad state we are in now.
      5) humans run these plants - we are known to make mistakes, sometimes deadly mistakes, and with nuclear mistakes there is no forgiveness

    3. willforestwater..... nuclear is far safer than fossil fuel. France has gotten most of its electricity from nuclear for a half-century. No problems. Fossil fuels have demonstrated dangers and pollution. ..cliff

    4. As long as there is concrete, asphalt, roads, trucks, pick-ups, and heavy equipment, we will need fossil fuels. Society will need to collapse as we know it if we want to eliminate fossil fuels, which of course, is the goal of the WEF, Inslee, and the likes.

      Gotta love my 49cc bike engine to scoot around town on ;), gets triple-digit mpg.

    5. @willforestwater - check out new nuclear reactor designs. They are extremely safe and self-extinguishing. Idiots like Bill Gates are heavily investing - so you may be right...... That said, we do need to develop local fuel sources. Company in Ohio now has funding and is building out capacity to provide fuel for the new reactor designs (HALEU - High assay low enriched uranium). And these new reactors can recycle over 90% of the spent fuel, greatly reducing the cost and risk of storing spent fuel. Until fusion becomes feasible - and then commercially available - which will be maybe 50 years (I hope!!!), nuclear is our best option.

    6. Gates funded reactors are already way over budget and using sodium as a coolant is not a safe option. Other mini reactors based on conventional designs have enough backup coolant for three days! That is not "safe".
      . France has made it work by standardizing the designs and setting up rigorous training for operators - socialism at work. Our free market system has resulted in custom designs, huge cost overruns, and inconsistent training, with predictable problems like three mile island.

    7. Way over budget - I don't know. But why does it matter in the scope of a discussion about safety and climate change? Sodium is not safe - why? Have you looked at the reactor design? Why is sodium not safe? Sound bites without context or backing.... sounds like our mass media.... don't tell me what. tell me why and how? Do you know what a breeder reactor is? Do you know why the new designs are self-extinguishing? Do you know about fuel recycling and the advantages of the new reactors? How much of their nuclear fuel is France recycling? Did you know that France has dumped the vast majority of their nuclear waste in the Atlantic ocean? It's amazing the amount of content without any information or context that appears in almost all 'information' communicated today. Do not compare France to anything going on with nuclear technology or policy in the US today. You only expose your ignorance.

    8. I worked in the nuclear industry for a decade. Chemistry 101 had a chunk of sodium exposed to water, it explodes both in the water and in the air (humidity). Any cooling system will leak eventually. Industry doesn't talk about it but it has been quite common. Self extinguising reactors are a joke. They have enough extra water above that can gravity into the core for three days. Think Fukishima. The only real self extinguishing reactor design is the pebble bed which is good idea and hopefully will be the ones used.
      France recycles fuel both for fuel and weapons. France dumped waste way back in the 60s, so did the US , UK, and Russia. Presently France buries waste in deep depositories in stable rock, much better than the US which never could come up with a depository and stores it above ground in water tanks, not a good solution.

    9. Thank you! I now understand your comment about sodium. I understand and agree about the danger of exposing sodium to water or air. And is any plumber will tell you every pipe leaks eventually. Only a matter of when and how. I will be definitely interested in understanding and learning more about how Terra power is going to overcome the risks around sodium as a coolant and heat transfer medium. And obviously you have much more knowledge than me but my limited understanding of the new breeder reactors is that if they're not actively being fed they self-extinguish. What am I missing?

  8. Funny thing is that posting the actual amount of heat and energy we release on a daily basis into the atmosphere and the oceans, is far more frightening than anything the Seattle Times can come up with.

    1. Michael...What specific heat release are you talking about?..cliff

    2. Let's see.. we release X amount of heat every day and X feels like a lot to you, so you are frightened by the value of X. What value for X would feel OK?

    3. michael... ocesn heat content is not "energy we release on a daily basis". Ocean heat content can change with no human intervention by the way. In any case, additional CO2 can warm the planet without humans releasing any heat ..cliff

  9. If Alex Fryer is awake at night worrying about climate change, how does he ever fall asleep when the PNW is overdue for a catastrophic magnitude 9.0 earthquake along the Cascadia Subduction Zone? Or, for Seattle Metro area, an equally catastrophic 7.0 earthquake along the Seattle Fault (or its many neighbors under Puget Sound)? The earthquake scenarios are sudden, violent events unleashing death and destruction for those closest to the epicenter (e.g. Morocco 2023, Turkey/Syria 2023, Japan 2011, Indonesia 2004). But how would Alex and his family cope with a fast moving catastrophic global event like a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun with no more energy than the 1859 Carrington Event (which we are now well into the recurrence window for)? If the ST enlisted the help of Alex Fryer and David Horsey preparing the region for events that bring sudden devastation, perhaps we could turn this despair we hear about into useful action on readily available mitigation strategies. And at the same time provide additional resilience against whatever the always changing climate throws at us.

    1. Exactly (though a 9.0 has a likelihood of about 0.000015/year here in Seattle). Most people live in their own existential dread and they apply that dread to whatever is in proximity or has their attention. We must follow the existentialism of Kierkegaard rather than Sartre.

  10. Sadly, what we've learned over the past few years is that people will CHOOSE to NOT wake up from falsehoods, when it has the potential to upend their view of reality. They choose instead to live within the lie of their primary group and friends. But they are grasping on an ephemeral vapor. Of course, eventually they will wake up. The longer it takes, the more painful it becomes.

    1. This. Is the hard lesson of the sucker to the con man: "I would never be so ignorant as to fall for such a stupid lie**, therefore this bigger lie MUST be true."

      Or as Kipling put it:
      As it will be in the future, it was at the birth of Man—
      There are only four things certain since Social Progress began:—
      That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
      And the burnt Fool's bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
      (The Gods of The Copybook Headings)

      **Please note that there is truth in every lie - this is what draws the audience in. As Cliff has pointed out well in the past, the earth is on a warming trend - it is just not the level of existential crisis that ST pushes. I suspect our friends at ST do this for personal or political gain.

  11. My first realization of weather (that I remember) was during a summer in the mid-1950s. There was a week of hot weather when we were intending to be outside playing. Too hot. Sleep? Too hot.
    The climate hasn't changed enough for me to notice. Maybe "in my next 30 years".
    [Phil Vassar – Tim McGraw]

  12. In my time (b.1949) it the promise of nuclear annihilation, later compounded by an impending ice age and (more immediately) the certainty of a population explosion, a global famine and the subsequent fall of civilizations. (Now those were tough times.)
    How many people know the name, Norman Boulaug? How many people have heard of the Green Revolution? Why aren't we telling our children these stories?

  13. We should probably put _The Seattle Times_ in the same category as a video game with excessive violence, and ask some hard questions about the kind of people that read it excessively.

  14. The Seattle Times and many similar news outlets are engaged in a campaign where they terrorize their readers day after day for years with the same doom and gloom narrative.

    I've seen this before. This isn't science. It's fundamentalist religion. It's the same fear of hellfire that terrified me as a small child growing up in a Church of Christ family.

    I left the Midwest decades ago to get away from Jerry Falwell Moral Majority types and enjoy a more secular existence. Little did I know that a different kind of fundamentalism would come to seize the PNW in its iron grip.

  15. Cliff, please screen out non-serious comments such as the one from Macrobius. Such a time waster.

    1. Macrobius is actually correct. The new is about fear mongering. Readers/viewers are death rubberneckers and the people in power know it. They make big cash on those people.

  16. Political cartoons and satire aside, these sensationalized headlines are followed up by content that is informed by experts within the field of climate science. If these articles are sensationalized, then the ST is misrepresenting their works or misquoting them. I have not seen a whole lot of redactions or restatements following these types or articles, so is it the climate scientists that they are using as sources that are incorrect? And if so, is the prevailing science that may/may not be in alignment with those scientists called into question?

  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  18. It is a shame that so many these days focus only on climate change, when climate change is just one of many symptoms of ecological overshoot. Unfortunately, most people have never heard of ecological overshoot (despite William Catton's fabulous 1982 book about it) and the relentless focus on climate obscures the root problem. I email Seattle Times journalists frequently about it when they publish articles about climate change and utterly fail to explain ecological overshoot to readers, but I've yet to see any of them actually address it. The thing about climate change is that corporations have figured out how to monetize it. Monetizing ecological overshoot is impossible (not even covering the entire Earth with solar panels and batteries will help prevent wildlife losses, extinctions, pollution, soil erosion, or the many other impacts of ecological overshoot--indeed the "solutions" proposed by climate change activists will just make it much worse), so everyone just ignores it. In a corporatocracy like ours, if you can't profit off something, just ignore it and maybe it will go away, right? :-)

  19. Regardless of if you think this is scare tactics or not this is devastating news and these kind of events are happening more.

    1. MJO...there is no evidence that such events are happening more. Do you have any objective information to support your claim?..cliff

    2. The US EPA had this data from the East Coast as one example:
      "Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Every site measured has experienced an increase in coastal flooding since the 1950s (see Figure 1). The rate of increase is accelerating at most locations along the East and Gulf Coasts (see Figure 2).
      The East Coast suffers the most frequent coastal flooding and has generally experienced the largest increases in the number of flood days. Since 2011, Boston, Massachusetts, has exceeded the flood threshold most often—an average of 13 days per year—followed by Bar Harbor, Maine, and Sandy Hook, New Jersey. At more than half of the locations shown, floods are now at least five times more common than they were in the 1950s.
      Flooding has increased less dramatically in places where relative sea level has not risen as quickly as it has elsewhere in the United States (for example, Hawaii and the West Coast, as shown by the Sea Level indicator).",the%20number%20of%20flood%20days.

    3. I wonder if the EPA looks at this site?

  20. So this post is saying that the Seattle Times is causing all sorts of climate anxiety, while your previous post talks about the "interesting" weather ahead due to the developing El Nino. Well that might cause anxiety too - especially if one is aware what that might do to our local seastar population.

    The newspapers hype anxiety in all sorts of topics, not just global warming. Anxiety sells and the bottom line for these companies is the almighty dollar. In years past it was the Red Scare.

    I for one do not mind. If people could be scared out of voting against their best interests and vote for politicians who might actually make a difference on the topic of climate change, well then I am all for it. The Sky Is Falling.

    1. Kenna.... I think it is both unethical and wrong to lie to people to get them "to do the right thing". You don't trust people with the truth?...cliff mass

    2. Kenna-

      It is alarming that you can't distinguish between Cliff speaking about a current and provable weather phenomenon, versus sensationalistic headlines and predictions of doom, which are clearly driven by the appetite for more clicks/advertising dollars. If you really think these two things are the same, then I don't know what to tell you. By your logic, should the National Weather Service or news outlets not report on impending hurricanes and other strong storms, for fear that we might upset somebody and make them lose sleep? Give me a break.

  21. If not the Seattle Times (and by extension I suppose the rest of the mainstream media), then who, Cliff? Fox news and the other Murdoch franchises are an obvious alternative. Do you endorse that group, and if so only for climate change news or the full range of their news reporting and opinions? And if not them, then who?

    1. Well, I would not get my news from Fox. Why would you think they are better? Seattle Times has terrible climate coverage. But the NY Times, WA Post, and LA Times are no better. Quite honestly, most of the media is failing. A real problem.

  22. Well, Cliff, it seems that the northwest will get off lightly over the next 50 years, but when you look at the cumulative effects of civilization, of which climate change is one of the largest, you may wish that there was a more concerted effort at forward thinking. The bus is heading towards the cliff, but only a small percentage of the passengers are noticing.
    A brief summary of some major issues we here in our bubble of relative stability should be aware of:

    Climate Issues
    No real decrease in fossil fuel and CO2 production in sight
    Well funded (petrochemical) doubt groups still slowing reasonable responses and swaying public opinion against real action.
    Rate of change of multiple climate and world health factors is unprecedented.

    Warming across many areas has started to be felt
    Potential rapid cooling of North Europe (AMOC disruption) in the next 50 years
    More extreme climate events become more common especially outside the northwest
    Sea level rise will soon be effecting infrastructure and populations. Downtown Miami is underwater with a moderate storm surge.
    Massive Infrastructure loss and reinvestment as part of increased extreme weather and sea level rise – just the amount of money the corps of engineers is putting into moving flood water around is incredible.
    Within US, plan for future population movements out of SE coastal areas (no longer insurable for weather events in some states)
    Ocean acidification – rapidly increasing with the rise in atmospheric CO2 – will impact every part of the food chain
    Fresh water quality and availability changing globally causing cross border resource conflicts and global health

    Food chain
    Insect abundance loss approximately 9% per decade -effecting numerous species above them in the food chain
    Ocean food chain break down due to massive over harvesting and zero controls, impacts from acidification and warming
    Massive terrestrial species loss eg - “anthropocene era” due to habitat loss, pollution.

    Soil Health
    Over reliance on fertilizers and industrial farming -serious degradation to soil health on a global level
    Pollution impacts - too numerous to count, just look at research on changes to male fertility, female fertility,

    General political impacts as a result of above:
    Increase in authoritarianism across the world (fast answer to difficult problems)
    Increase in regional conflicts due to above
    Immigration/refugee increase pressure at national borders feeding more authoritarianism

    Solution is not to pretend that everything is alright or that we are doomed, but to each do our part to help address these issues in our personal lives, and to vote in people who will help address the full range of issues.


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

Rain without Clouds, the Upcoming Cooling, and Strong Leeside Winds: All in My New Podcast

The radar image this morning at 5:30 AM showed rain...some heavy... offshore. As shown in the satellite image at the same time, much of that...