Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

Climate Change skeptics now fight windmills

19 Dec 2014

Don Quichote fighting a windmill

I visited Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and its famous climate scientist Dr. Ben Santer last week. He has been honored many times for his 30 years of statistical analysis that led to the finding that human activity contributes to global warming. He was a lead author of the second assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) of the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Program. The most recent IPCC report, the organization’s fifth such report, found that global warming is “extremely likely” caused by human activity.

Scientists, leading businesses, NGOs and governments agree that immediate action is needed to keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius. One solution has to be a global agreement among the countries that make up the United Nations. Although that process proves to be slow and partly noncommittal, the outlook for such an agreement in Paris 2015 is not negative. Groups of important countries have already voluntarily limited their CO2 emission by 20 percent. Furthermore, bottom-up initiatives of companies, cities and others are promising. Energy efficiency, renewable energy, and CO2 capture and storage are showing remarkable results thanks to innovations.

At the same time, Dr. Santer has been the victim of malicious attacks by the fossil-fuel lobby. This lobby supported publicists who, without relevant scientific facts, exclaimed global warming is just a natural phenomenon or not a big disaster for humanity. It also organized misinformation for the media. The IPCC improved its procedures to test criticism, but its final conclusions did not change.

Critics misinform the public on the value of windmills

Meanwhile, this same lobby has started targeting windmills. Like Don Quixote attacked 40 windmills explaining to Sancho Panza that they were ferocious giants, the fossil-fuel lobby claims windmills absorb taxpayer money without any CO2 gain. Again, it succeeds to misinform the public. It purposely leaves out the first stepping stone of energy efficiency, the second stepping stone of the mix with other renewable energies (hydro, solar, thermo, bio), and the third stepping stone of better storage of CO2 in vegetation, for example. Similar scientifically dishonest information is spread about electric cars. They are said to use more gas indirectly due to transportation of their batteries, than they save in gas.

What is the purpose of the fossil-fuel lobby? To raise destabilizing questions and request for more research in order to delay decisions to phase out the profitable market of coal, oil and gas. I’m sure the political leaders who are assembling in Lima, Peru, to prepare Paris will prove this lobby will fail.


This blog was posted earlier in Hugo’s Weekly.

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  • 19 Dec 2014, 8:00
  • Posted in Climate
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About the author

Hugo Von Meijenfeldt
Written by Hugo Von Meijenfeldt

Consul-General in San Francisco

Hugo von Meijenfeldt was appointed as representative for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 13 westernmost United States in August 2013.

Prior to his current position, Hugo was Deputy Director General at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. He also served as Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2009 until 2013. In this capacity, he led Dutch participation in global diplomatic activities to reach a climate agreement.

Previously, Hugo was Director for Soil, Water and Rural Environment. For several years he held the position of Deputy Director for International Affairs, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Policy of UN-ECE Geneva, and Head of the European Policy Division (including the EU Presidency in 1997). From 1982 until 1991, he was Legal Counsel to the soil clean-up division.

Hugo earned his Masters in Public Law and Policy at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1981. He is member of the WorldConnectors and the Sustainability Challenge Foundation.