Guus Berkhout.

By Guus Berkhout.

Dear Prime Minister,

Faith in the future is a principal source of happiness. That’s why many of my generation have fond memories of the 60s. Although prosperity was much less than today, we firmly believed in continuous human progress. Everything in the future was expected to be better.

How different is that today! Prosperity now is much higher than it was back then, but our faith in the future seems to have vanished from altogether. Today’s generation is constantly bombarded with pronouncements by climate prophets who advocate doom and gloom about the future of our planet. For many years they have been told that hundreds of billions are required  in our country alone!  to prevent catastrophic climate disasters. According to the climate activists, it’s five to twelve! But is it?

Dear Prime Minister, 

I know that you would like our country to be in the vanguard of the fight against climate change. But are you aware that you have been consistently misinformed? Do you realize that reality is very different from the gloomy image that has been presented to you? Are you also aware that would all those costly climate plans envisaged today be implemented, the increase in global temperature at the end of this century will only be 0.00030 C less than if we would have done nothing at all? This temperature increment is so small that it can’t even be measured! Shouldn’t we better spend public money on issues of more immediate importance?

In my letter, I would like to present to you five de facto mistakes in the arguments that make up your proposed climate policy:

  1. The claim that 97% of climate scientists are convinced that global warming is caused by mankind (AGW) is a truly manipulated claim. Of the 11.944 papers on climate change that were investigated, only 41 articles explicitly endorsed the man-made global warming hypothesis (only 41 out of 11.944!) and the remaining papers expressed doubts or did not express an opinion at all. But even if the 97% would be true, Prime Minister, please bare in mind that scientific progress was never the result of a consensus, but always resulted from original thinkers outside the mainstream. 
  2. Climate change follows incredibly complex processes and the underlying science is far from settled. In particular, little is known about the major effects of clouds (water vapour) and the dominant influence of oceans. In addition, the latest scientific results and measurement show that the impact of CO2 on the atmospheric temperature is significantly smaller than previously estimated.
    It appears therefore that the temperature predictions of climate models have always been far too high, resulting from this underestimated complexity. Consequently, the related doom stories are not based on facts but largely on fiction.
     
  3. Climate research has been marred by dubious scientific behaviour. Temperatures from earlier warm periods were adjusted downwards, with the result that today’s high temperatures seem unique in history. They are not! Moreover, recent temperature measurements haven been adjusted upwards, with the result that measurements and modelling results seem to match. But they do not! Why are these deceptive actions taken in the name of science?
  4. The potential energy to be harvested from sun and wind is by far not enough to cater for the needs of our economy. This is partly due to technological constraints, partly because of lack of sunshine and wind speed. The Netherlands experiences not much sunshine and wind, the supply of which is also affected by large swings. Moreover, our country is wealthy and therefore uses a lot of energy. As one of the most densely populated countries in the world, it is not an appealing prospect to cover our territory with wind farms and solar panels. But the reality is even more problematic. We will, in addition, also have to keep an expensive fossil–fuelled electricity generating back-up system operational to supply the country with energy on days of little sunshine and wind. 
  5. Burning biomass has often been mentioned as an option. But it is significantly worse than burning coal. Green hydrogen, than? Unfortunately, hydrogen is a rare gas in nature. Man himself must therefore produce hydrogen, and for that, cheap green electricity is needed. But we just don’t have this type of electricity.

In conclusion, the climate science is far cry from being settled. The natural phenomena ‘sun plus wind’ will never be able to provide the required amount of energy in our country (certainly not in a reliable affordable way), the burning of biomass is worse than the burning of coal and green hydrogen is only an option when sufficient green energy to produce it is available.

But what should really concern you is the fact that our society is subject to an ever-increasing polarization. More and more citizens do not want to see the Netherlands turn into a jungle of subsidized wind turbines and solar panels. They are increasingly realizing that the positive effect of all proposed actions and investments on the climate is marginal, but the negative effect on their income is huge.

That is why, Prime Minister, my compelling message to you is that the Dutch approach to establish a climate policy must change. It is of utmost importance to separate and disconnect the environmental and climate policies, stop extensive logging for wood burning, temporize the prohibitively expensive energy transition and provide citizens with honest information on national costs involved.

The latest scientific findings show that we have plenty of time to include the knowledge of critical experts, who until now have not been allowed to sit at the climate roundtables and participate in the discussions that solemnly affect our future. Let us draw up a much stronger national plan, based on a dual strategy: adapting to matters over which man has no control (‘adaptation’) and preventing matters over which man can exert influence (‘mitigation’). Let us forget the doom and gloom stories of the past and let us restore faith in the future.

 

P.S. In a formal reaction to the book ‘Hundred authors against Einstein (1931)’, Einstein responded: “Why hundred? If I were wrong, one would have been enough.”

***

Professor Guus Berkhout is a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), The Netherlands Academy of Engineering (AcTI), honorary member of the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) as well as honorary member of the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers (EAGE). He is recipient of the Royal Decoration ‘Officier in de Orde van Oranje-Nassau’.

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