Prof Guus Berkhout: Stop The Doom-And-Gloom Mongering

  • Date: 29/01/19
  • JAS Foundation, Holland

Professor Guus Berkhout is setting up a new international climate institute in the Netherlands.

Jan van Friesland interview with Guus Berkhout

Professor Guus Berkhout is considered an energetic optimist. After an impressive scientific career in geophysics, science does not let him go. And certainly not when it comes to the Earth’s climate. According to him, climate research is much more than just making computer models. He emphasizes utilization of the Earth’s climate history being hidden in the geological and archaeological archives as well as the absolute necessity to differentiate between climate change and environmental degradation. 

Q: What do you show there? 

Well look, this is an email from a grandchild that was sent to me by his grandfather. Just a child in high school. This shows how negative teachers think about CO2. It also reveals the strength of the indoctrination of the climate movement in education. I do get more of these alarming messages. With that misleading knowledge, children start protesting on the streets … ‘ 


Children are abused to spread the CO2 apocalypse 

Q: Two camps seem to be emerging, with both parties presenting each other with a doom scenario: if the climate plans are not implemented, things will go wrong! And if the climate plans are implemented, things will also go wrong. Where does this division come from? 

If you are prepared to listen carefully, you will notice that the two camps are broadly in agreement: yes, the Earth is warming up! And yes, CO2 is a warming factor! And yes, we need to prepare for a new energy system. ‘

Q: So, everything is fine you would think?

Well, at first there was a constructive conversation indeed. But the problems arose when the climate movement started to exaggerate. Terrifying doom stories were spread and human CO2 was the only culprit. That also happened in a very aggressive way. Think of the apocalyptic films of Al Gore. One disaster after another would hit us. The general public was shocked by all these terrifying stories. ‘

As a counter-reaction, the climate movement insulted dissenters as ‘deniers’, a very bad framing that refers to the holocaust deniers. ‘ 

Q: Hasn’t there been criticism of this fallacy right from the start?

Yes, a number of renowned scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, quickly put the brakes on by reassuring society with a clear disapproval. Their message was that the terrestrial climate system is incredibly complicated and that we do not yet have the knowledge to draw such extreme conclusions with such certainty. It’s really not five to twelve! Those scientists were fiercely blamed for that dissent. ’ 

Counter arguments are not tolerated 

Q: People didn’t hear a positive story anymore? 

Indeed, the doomsday scenario became a kind of religion. When the scientific criticism from outside the climate movement became broader and more extensive, and cost calculations also showed that implementing the extremely expensive climate measures could seriously disrupt society economically, things really went wrong. As a counter-reaction, the climate movement called dissenters ‘deniers’, a very bad framing that refers to the holocaust deniers. ‘

Q: But true scientists will not be stopped, will they?

Unfortunately, it did at first. Their critical articles were no longer welcome and, even worse, their research was excluded from funding. For these dissidents a cordon sanitaire was laid by official bodies and mainstream media. The only sound that the general public has heard in recent decades was: ‘human CO2 heats up the Earth! ’.

Q: You hear it all around, do you?

Sure, that message was and is being rammed into the audience. The discussion is no longer about climate change, but about CO2 reduction. A sad narrowing down of a very complex issue. Fortunately, we now see a tipping point on the horizon. Because science can measure better and better, we find out that the predictions of climate models do not match measurements. That is scientifically unacceptable. And we also see that the costs are definitely going to pass bearing. Everything suggests that costs will exceed many hundreds of billions in The Netherlands alone. And hardworking citizens are now rightly asking themselves: ‘But what are the benefits of this billion-dollar circus?

Q: Why does one CO2 camp find more support in left-wing politics and another more support in right-wing politics? 

Left-wing politics has always been committed to a better environment. But in recent years, the environmental movement has been step by step exploited by the climate movement. In this way, climate and environment were presented as one and the same theme and climate change also became a favourite with the Left. The mixing of both movements now causes a lot of confusion. Many people who say they are very concerned about climate change actually mean that they are very concerned about the natural environment, such as air pollution. ’

I regularly give lectures on climate and environment and before the beginning there are always people coming to me with vicious remarks such as: “So, you are the one who wants to screw-up our Earth”.

The cutting down of forests and the subsequent production, transport and incineration of wood pellets are issues that go against everything the environmental movement stands for.

Q: You could also say: there is a common front?

Indeed, they thought they were making a smart strategic move with it. But the combination of the two movements has been a very unfortunate development for everyone. After all, in the case of climate change it is still very uncertain exactly what and how much the influence of mankind is, but in the case of the environment, the influence is absolutely clear. Human activity is becoming increasingly dominant and is polluting the natural environment, depleting natural resources and threatening biodiversity. These three are the classic concerns of the environmental movement and are more topical than ever in this day and age! But unfortunately, these noble concerns have now been completely overshadowed by the monomaniacal CO2 measures. The environmental movement is now beginning to realise that they made a cardinal mistake.

Burning bio-mass is even worse than burning coal

The first clear controversy now plays and is about the role of biomass. The cutting-down of forests and the subsequent production, transport and incineration of wood pellets are issues that go against everything the environmental movement stands for. There are even business models on the drawing board that want to cut down forests for pellets and then place solar panels on the vacant bare ground. This way a double business model is created.……… . How have environmental organisations been able to get this far from their mission? ’

Q: Where do you stand in all this?

I am a geophysicist and in my research I make the history of the Earth’s climate visible, which is called ‘geo-imaging’. After all, to understand the present you need to know the past. The geological archive contains rich climate information and tells us the primeval story of climate change: it is of all times. The archive shows very nicely that hot and cold periods have alternated regularly. This happened in fits and starts, two steps forward and then one step backward. For an illustration, we really do not have to go back to the great ice ages.

In the Middle Ages, around 800, we had the Middle-age Warm Period. Then there was plenty of agriculture in Greenland! And in the Dutch golden age, around 1600, we were in the middle of the Little Ice Age. The Dutch great painters show beautiful scenes from that cold period. From the end of that small ice age, around 1850, we are in a warming up period, of course again with fits and starts. Nothing special, I say. These are the natural movements in the climate system. Soon it will go down again. ’

 Q: We are getting harsh winters again?

It’s not about whether, but about when. As a geophysicist, I warn that it is highly unlikely that the natural movements would have stopped abruptly after 1850. And that since then only mankind would be responsible for this warming. However, this extreme message is exactly what the IPCC has made clear with great emphasis in its latest report SR 1.5. According to the report, nature’s contribution is marginal and will remain marginal in the future. The IPCC derives all these certainties purely from its theoretical model! ‘

There are still many essential questions that need to be answered. For example, why is the amount of ice at the South Pole increasing?’

Q: Is a misleading image created?

Yes, because reality tells IPCC people to be less arrogant. You can’t stop climate change by simply turning a CO2 button. Until today nobody knows exactly what the complex interactions are between the radiation of the sun, the dynamic cloud cover, the inhomogeneous Earth surface, the energy-rich gulf stream and the water-vapour rich atmosphere. Note that IPCC is referring to the greatest details in the atmosphere, but they should not forget that the heat capacity of oceans is a factor 1000 higher than that of the atmosphere! The amount of heat that the gulf stream in the oceans drag from the equator to the poles is gigantic compared to the modest amount of heat in the atmosphere. With this in mind, can we ask the question whether the ice cap at the North Pole melts now due to the higher temperature in the atmosphere or due to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream? And why is the amount of ice at the South Pole increasing? There are still many essential questions that need to be answered. The great certainties that the IPCC wants us to believe, with a certainty of even > 95%, cannot be maintained. Bertrand Russell once said: ‘The fools are self-confident and the wise are filled with doubt. ’ ‘I like to say it in my own way: ‘Through criticism of the content, science is where it is now and I am the scientist I have become.’

In the last 20 years the CO2 increase has thundered on, but the observed temperature does not show any increase anymore. That is an important indication that there must be much more going on than CO2 warming. 

Q: Which group do you belong to? 

(Laughing) In short, my message is as follows (Berkhout counts).

One:  Since the small ice age, the LIA, the Earth has been warming up again with fits and starts, nothing new in the Earth’s climate history. In the past 150 years, we can distinguish six different climate periods.

Secondly: The general public is rightly asking the climate movement for hard evidence that after the small ice age Mother Nature suddenly has no effect whatsoever on the Earth’s climate. They also ask the climate movement what according their wisdom the correct temperature of the Earth should be?

And, very important, number three: CO2 certainly has a warming effect, but how much exactly is still very uncertain. This is also evident from the enormous margin in the warming factor that the IPCC itself maintains: 1.5-4.5 degrees. That’s 300%!

Four: In the past century the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere has steadily increased, but in none of the natural disasters do we see that an increase has taken place. On the contrary, we are even at a time period we often observe a downward trend.

Five: Within the last 20 years the CO2 increase has thundered on, but the observed temperature does not show any increase anymore. This is an important indication that much more is happening than CO2 warming.

And then last but not least, six: The Dutch climate plans cost many hundreds of billions. We will soon come up with the real figures, but the benefits of all these Dutch plans for the planet are nil, about 0.0003 degrees, and for the Dutch citizen they are very negative. The latter also applies to the business climate in our country. So why are we going to carry out these plans anyway? And don’t forget that CO2 is also an indispensable building block for all life on Earth. My advice to administrators is therefore: You should not put billions into CO2 reduction, but billions into a much better protection of the natural environment: ‘good stewardship’. I hope to come back to that later in this interview. ’

Q: But if we reduce CO2, don’t we also reduce air pollution? 

That is certainly true, but if we want to combat a rat infestation, we will not start catching mice, will we? Reducing CO2 is an extremely difficult and expensive task, while the benefits are very uncertain. Air pollution – think of soot particles, fine dust, SOx and NOx compounds, etc. – is not only much more targeted to combat, it also guarantees high benefits for man and nature.’

Q: Doesn’t science start with measurements?

The difference between science and religion is that scientific statements must always be verifiable with observations. Theoretical models should therefore always be validated by critically comparing model results with real measurements. If that has not happened, you may not apply theoretical models. The more complex the issue, the more important it is to make measurements. Information in the measurements shows the way how further develop these models. The history of science shows time and again that major theoretical breakthroughs were inspired by breakthroughs in measuring instrumentation.

The climate system is so complex that it is pre-eminently in climate science that measurements must show the way. But so far, theoretical models have played far too big a role in climate research. The course has to change now. Large-scale funding should be provided for scientific projects to drastically accelerate the development of new measuring instruments and measurement facilities.

How is it possible that IPCC never felt the need to invest in experimental facilities to thoroughly validate the warming theory of CO2 with measurements? ‘

By constantly telling that 97% of scientists confirm the story of the climate movement, the general public thinks it is the truth. The opposite is true.

Q: These poorly validated computer models describe a dreamworld. Yet, these climate models have an enormous impact, is’t that right?

The power of the climate movement is the simple message: ‘Human CO2 is the cause of warming; warming is causing a catastrophe; if we turn the CO2 button everything will be fine again’. I said it before, that message is being hammered into the public. Not knowledge but fear is used as an emotional driver.

What they have also smartly done is to regularly use climate change as a scapegoat. For example, the cause of much misery in Africa is attributed to climate change, even though the problems are of an ethnic, religious and political nature. But unfortunately that is not all. By constantly telling that 97% of scientists confirm the story of the climate movement, the general public thinks it is the truth. However, the opposite is true.

This consensus strategy is not new. For example, in the start to the financial crisis in 2007, everyone told everyone that the economy could grow indefinitely if everyone was making debts. If you didn’t agree with that message, you would be called a fool. Of course, nobody wanted to be judged as such. Even if you didn’t understand anything about the theory of ‘growth by making debts’. They just parroted each other. Even the solid Dutch Rabobank, at that time the only bank in the world with a triple A rating, bought debt securities. At the time, the consensus was almost complete: if you want to grow, you have to get into debt! But we know how it ended.

Now we are in the same situation with the earth’s climate. When I ask critical questions, it turns out that very few people know anything about the climate system. Everyone parrots everyone. Conclusion is that history shows time and again: ‘Beware of people who use consensus as a truth argument’. The same also applies to activists who put small children forward.

Q: How do we move forward? The Netherlands would like to be an example country, wouldn’t it?

First of all, be positive! Stop doom thinking and give way to the many opportunities that climate change also offers the world. And during realization, considering this extremely complex issue, you don’t focus on just one solution. With all the great uncertainties until today, we just cannot afford this. National governments never must take the risk of following the CO2 scenario only, especially since it involves such extremely high costs. So stop all these urgent CO2 reduction measures! My advice is that countries base their climate policy on three scenarios:

Scenario 1: Climate adaptation

If Mother Nature alone is responsible for climate change, mankind has only one thing to do: adapt to change.  Life on Earth has always been confronted with changes in the natural system. Darwin’s theory of evolution shows that inventive adaptation is the best answer and has also led to ever-higher forms of life. This applies not only to plants and animals, but also to humans. Wanting to stop natural change is not only arrogant and naive, it is also negatively charged and it sets the clock back. Adaptation challenges give positive energy and stimulate innovation.

The Netherlands is champion in adaptation. Through the centuries we have fought against the water. And the Netherlands is also a global leader in adapting crops to new natural conditions. ‘

Wanting to be the best boy in the class by closing the relatively clean power plants in The Netherlands is downright stupidity. If politics does not stop this policy, it is the citizens’ turn to take action! ’

Scenario 2: CO2 reduction

If only human CO2 were responsible for terrestrial climate change, then humans would have to implement sensible CO2 reduction measures. The top priority in this scenario is to ban wood burning and close the most polluting coal-fired power plants in the world. Coal-fired power plants are still being built all over the world, particularly in developing countries. Starting to close the relatively clean power stations in The Netherlands is downright stupidity. It costs the Dutch citizen an extremely large amount of money and it is of no benefit to the climate.

Scenario 3: decomposition

If we are dealing with a complex mixture of natural forces and human influences, then we must first determine which part is caused by Mother Nature and which part is caused by humanity (decomposition). However, today we do not yet have this knowledge at all. So, in this scenario we must acquire this knowledge with high priority. If it turns out that both causes have a comparable influence, it should lead to a mixed adaptation-reduction policy.

Looking at everything we know today, the Netherlands should not become a leading country in CO2 reduction. That has no measurable influence (0.0003 degrees). Instead, it should invest in both climate adaptation and good stewardship. ’

Political and commercial interests are becoming an increasingly important part of scientific research. Today, many scientists have lost their independent position in society.

Q: And what role do you expect science to play in this?

The greatest value of a scientist is his or her independent position in society. During my 40-year career as a professor I have seen that young scientists became more and more financially dependent on government and industry. Political and commercial interests have become an increasingly important part of their research. Many scientists have thus lost their independence. For this reason, I could not acquire young professors in my critical climate team. Only pensioners were and are still available. Only they can afford to think different from the main stream. That is extremely worrying. Are there still independent scientists to be found today? ’

Q: it seems nobody cares about?

The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) is the guardian of integer scientific practices in our country. Particularly this organization should know that history of science tells us time and again that scientific progress never came about through consensus, but through stubborn scientists who dared to question existing concepts. It is in the interests of both science and humanity that these very dissidential thinkers are not silenced, as is currently being done by the IPCC, public media and commercial lobby clubs.

Academies of Sciences, we want to know what the real truth is, don’t we? Moreoever, if politics misuses scientific results – with major consequences for society – then science should sound the alarm bell, should it not?

Doubt is the basis of all scientific progress. Scientists who have no doubt and are convinced that they are right, do not ask questions but look for a row. That is why we do not make any progress in the climate debate. ’

Q: Despite everything, are you still optimistic for the future?

Yes, but then we have to start all over again. Far away from the political UN with its nonsensical, polluting and costly climate conferences. These conferences are nothing more than a travelling CO2 circus with bureaucratic climate clowns talking about everything except the climate system. They forget in their ignorance that politicians are also bound by the universal laws of nature. And UN’s IPCC has completely screwed it up. It has degenerated into a political clique, full of manipulation and certainly not looking for the truth. That can never be put right again. The role of the IPCC can be seen as a dark period in the history of climate science. Stop it now! ’

In connection with this, you probably may know the beautiful musical Jesus Christ Superstar, in which after the death of Jesus his followers sadly wonder: ‘Could we start again, please?’ A touching moment in the musical. That is also how I see it in climate research. We need to start all over again, with a whole new approach in a whole new organisation. In this new organisation, we will be organising climate research in a much broader way. No more exclusive shows of mathematical model makers. They are far too one-sided for solving the comprehensive climate problem. The IPCC has therefore made little progress in recent decades. Hardly any new insights have been added. To put that behind us, we need scientists from many more fields of science. ’

We just founded the Climate Intelligence Foundation

Q: What are your ideas about involving scientific areas?

Think especially of astronomers who have knowledge about the influences of the universe on planet Earth, especially the solar activity, the cosmic radiation and the gravitational forces. Think also of geologists who, together with geophysicists, map the properties of the deeper earth layers and who can reconstruct the climate history of the Earth from them. And also think of archaeologists who can derive climate information about the past thousands of years from the remains of human activities in the shallow surface layers. And certainly also think of oceanographers who can translate the physical and biological properties of oceans into heat flows. Bringing together solutions from many fields of science with totally different data sources together may provide an accurate picture of the Earth’s climate. We call that ‘consilience‘. That is what I call true climate research.

Q: Will you contribute to this yourself? 

(Cheerful) “Yes, I have interesting news about that. We just founded the Climate Intelligence Foundation! Based on our current activities, the first major financier has come forward and we expect this to be the beginning of a new era. We are working on an ambitious plan that may bring about a turnaround in the polarising debate between activists and dissidents. After all, as I mentioned earlier, dissidents can hardly tell their story so far and are excluded from financing. That is now coming to an end.

Q: That sounds very interesting. Can you reveal anything more?

Climate Intelligence is a completely independent, non-profit organisation. It will extensively inform the general public about what is really going on in the Earth’s climate. In its activities, it identifies the spread of one-sided information, warns against over-optimistic cost calculations, spotlights important new insights, stimulates the development of measuring instruments and, together with young researchers, also applies intelligent algorithms to climate data. Analysis of large data files combined with artificial intelligence (‘big data science’) is an indispensable tool in understanding complex systems. How is it possible that the IPCC still comes up with grotesque statements based on poorly validated computer models? 

Even more exciting, there are plans to marginalize IPCC’s scientifical influence by establishing with renowned critical scientists the Global Institute for Climate Intelligence, which will operate independently, with an open mind, with broad interdisciplinary teams and with emphasis on a large diversity of multidisciplinary measurements. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? ‘

Full interview (in Dutch)

see also: Guus Berkhout: Climate Thinking. Broadening The Horizons


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