Climate politics and climate modeling

Last year two Dutch left-wing parties, the socialist PvdA and the green GroenLinks, started work on a climate act that aims to reduce Dutch CO2 emissions by 55% in 2030 and at least 95% in 2050, compared to 1990. Meanwhile work is continuing on a national climate and energy agreement. Over the past months doubts started to creep in as to the costs, feasibility and scientific basis of this act. In this post I will present the view of one of the most reasonable sounding sceptics, Prof. Dr. Kees de Lange, professor emeritus in chemical physics. The overview is very concise to forestall reader confusion or disinterest. A longer version (in Dutch) can be accessed here. I will refrain from asking certain questions or drawing any conclusions .

Temperature measurement      Climate politics rests on the assumption that the increase of atmospheric CO2 by human activity causes global warming. According to De Lange we lack reliable data to prove a significant and steady rise of the average global temperature. Conventional measurement of the average global temperature is very difficult. However, the highly reliable UAH satellite dataset of the global lower atmosphere (1979- sept.2018) shows that the temperature rise over the past 20 years has halted at about 0.2 deg. C. above the 1981-2010 average.

Carbon dioxide        It is assumed by many that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is a key driver of global warming. Therefore some people speak of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Many natural scientists, including geologists, doubt this hypothesis. They point to the ‘inconvenient truth’ that geologically there is hardly any correlation between CO2 and global temperature. Water in its three phases of vapor, water and ice is a much more important driver than CO2.

Climate modelling       Climate modelling is incredibly complex. We lack the necessary reliable data over a sufficiently long period and we lack a whole range of scientific insights necessary to be able to build reliable models. Science progresses so it cannot be excluded that one among the 100 models we have now is able to predict future climates reliably. However, we won’t know that until after a century has passed. Climate models will have to be very precise and reliable to be able to separate out the effect of CO2 from other natural factors, including the role of water and solar activity.

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor knob climate change cartoon

Cartoon downloaded from  (watch the CO2 “control” knob!!!)

Climate politics       The main worry of climate change for The Netherlands is sea level rise. The country is notoriously vulnerable and the sea has always been its main enemy (and friend). Work is underway to secure the country against a rise of 1 m by 2100, so we won’t see an immediate threat very soon. During ‘recent’ ice ages the sea level was often 80 m lower than it is at present. The main assumption behind climate politics is that we can regulate the sea level and average global temperature in a very controlled way. This is what the people are promised, sometimes without saying as much. Supposedly, the main knob is CO2. However, this assumption is unproven.

Energy policies       Modern societies depend on a reliable source of electricity supply. Without it they come to a halt. In an age of globalization this means that electricity supply – as well as a host of other production factors – are as cheap and reliable as possible. Global prediction show that coal, natural gas and oil will produce about 75% of the world’s electricity in 2040. The remainder is mostly atomic and hydro energy. There is hardly any scope for the latter in The Netherlands, but nuclear power could be an option. In the latest climate agreement, the Netherlands will reduce fossil energy production to only 5% in 2050, a wide difference indeed, especially if one considers that the difference is to be made up mostly by renewables such as wind and solar power (in the IEA prediction no more than 1%). These seem to lack the necessary reliability, especially in the Dutch climate zone, hence the need for cost-efficient nuclear power, even in the short term, especially if the hitherto uncertain AGW hypothesis  can be shown to be correct.  The costs of the proposed energy transition are enormous, although there may be gains too. The effect on the sea level rise will be minimal, except in the highly unlikely event that the IEA predictions are way off.


About Sjon van ’t Hof

Development professional who worked in rural development, tropical agriculture, and irrigation development in Chad, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Mauritania, Israel, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Netherlands in capacities ranging from project design and management to information management. Conducted missions to India, China, Kenya, and Bangladesh. Experience in the development and delivery of trainings in irrigation equipment selection, information literacy, Internet searching and database searching. Explores systems thinking in relation to international development, education, and management, with an ever stronger focus on the systems approach of C. West Churchman. Knowledgeable in tropical agriculture, project design and development economics, agricultural mechanization, irrigation, plant pathology, environmental degradation and protection, rural development. Co-authored "Wicked Solutions: a systems approach to complex problems", a book written by Bob Williams and Sjon van 't Hof. It was published in June 2014 and provides a practical way of dealing with wicked problems. Wicked problems are complex, ill-structured, human problem situations. This book will help you design an inquiry and intervention in such messy, wicked situations. It does so by guiding you through the steps and stages of a systemic process that addresses your own wicked problem. For more information, see or
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