by Michael Bastasch
Climate scientist Cliff Mass is speaking out against “academic political bullying” from University of Washington faculty and students, stemming from Mass’s rejection of a carbon tax initiative favored by activists.
“Science can only flourish when there is tolerance for a diversity of viewpoints and ideas,” Mass told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Name calling and politicization of science are toxic to the scientific enterprise, and undermines our credibility in the general community.”
“I am hopeful that the exposure of such intolerance will lead to an improved working environment in my department and among others in my discipline,” Mass said via email Wednesday.
Climate scientist Judith Curry detailed in a blog post Wednesday the actions UW and student activists have taken against Mass in recent months. Curry said Mass was a “victim of academic political bullying.”
There are clearly UW faculty “that don’t like Cliff Mass,” including, his department chair, and “most fundamentally, they seem to dislike that his blog is getting in the way of their own political advocacy,” Curry wrote.
Mass joined UW’s Atmospheric Sciences Department in 1982 where he specializes in numerical weather modeling and weather patterns in the Pacific Northwest. Mass also publishes a science blog and has a popular weekly radio show.
Mass is no global warming “denier” as many critics try to label him. Mass has repeatedly called global warming a serious threat and supported policies, including carbon taxes, to cut carbon dioxide emissions.
Despite his agreement with the climate consensus, Mass has increasingly come under fire from activists for not toeing the alarmist line when it comes to blaming extreme weather events on global warming.
What seems to have driven Mass’s critics over the edge this time was the atmospheric scientist’s public opposition to a Washington state carbon tax ballot initiative, called I-1631. In particular, critics went after a blog post Mass wrote in mid-October detailing why he opposed I-1631. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the carbon tax measure in November, despite support from Gov. Jay Inslee and other Democrats.
“I-1631 will be a trough of billions of dollars of cash for left-leaning social action and ‘progressive’ groups, and dealing with climate change will be a secondary priority,” Mass wrote in a blog post with a picture of pigs feeding at a trough. The picture has since been removed.
The imagery of pigs feeding at a trough has long been used to describe special interest groups trying to syphon off government spending. State spending seen as wasteful or geared toward a special interest is often called “pork” or “pork barrel” spending. However, UW students and climate activists claimed it was “racist.”
I-1631 campaigner Izzy Goodman tweeted in October that “this alone proves that he is a blatant racist (which is probably why his climate policies are too!).” She later added, “UW you going to stand for this?”
When Mass tried to reason with her, UW philosophy Ph.D. candidate Alex Lenferna tweeted, “Calling you racist for saying racist things is not name calling, it’s an accurate description.”
The post showed Mass’s “small government, racist, anti-working class view,” tweeted Lenferna, who also campaigned for I-1631.
Student activists didn’t stop at Twitter insults. Curry, who spoke at length with Mass about the events, wrote, “The attacks ramped up when a group of students complained to the Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.”
Curry said the students accused Mass of “deception, being on the payroll of oil companies, purposely obfuscating with multiple twitter accounts, racism, misogyny, tokenism, Trumpism.”
“Rather than meet with Cliff Mass to discuss, the Assistant Dean sent a mass email to the faculty of the Atmospheric Sciences Department” echoing student complaints,” Curry wrote. The assistant dean’s email claimed the blog had “imagery and text that was racially insensitive and caused offense to a significant number of members in the departmental community.”
The assistant dean made no attempt to contact Mass or try to “understand that there was no racism evident or intended, and that the image in question was quickly removed from the blog post,” Curry wrote.
The matter didn’t end there, however, and Atmospheric Sciences Department Chair Dale Durran “sent a mass email to the Department faculty including the link to Lenferna’s post, and voicing concern about Mass’ behavior and racism,” Curry noted.
Durran held a faculty-wide meeting on Dec. 4. Durran reportedly took control of the meeting and even prevented Mass from finishing his opening remarks.
Durran “hectored Mass throughout the meeting,” Curry wrote. “The activist students were true to form, hurling all kinds of insulting, personal and inappropriate remarks” as Mass sat through the inquisition.
Duran was an ardent supporter of I-1631. Durran got 21 of his colleagues to sign a public letter, published in The Seattle Times in late October, endorsing the carbon tax ballot measure.
“Now is the time to take a big step to kick our carbon habit,” Durran and his colleagues wrote. However, Curry reported that “several faculty members felt uncomfortable signing this,” including one who told her they actually voted against the measure.
Durran did not respond to TheDCNF’s request for comment.