‘Climate change will lead to war’

Scientists are complaining about American president Donald Trump hiding climate change data. ‘Unbelievable. He’s killing our future,’ Maarten Loonen at the RUG wrote on Twitter. Loonen is one of the most famous polar researchers in the Netherlands.
By Leoni von Ristok / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

Scientists are complaining that Trump is making scientific data inaccessible. What is going on?

‘The complaints concern websites the White House has used to inform the general public about climate change. Since Trump was elected, much scientific data has disappeared. They made a political decision to stop the White House informing the general public about these things.’

How does that affect science as a whole?

‘Scientists are very worried. There’s a lot of uncertainty. Budgets are no longer safe. Trump has made Scott Pruit, a man who denies climate change, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. There are no clear-cut examples of scientific cover-ups just yet, but people are very worried. The future is very uncertain.’

Scientists are very worried. There is a lot of uncertainty

How do you feel about governments removing scientific facts from a public website?

‘It’s absurd. It’s also just incredible that in this day and age there are still people able to deny that mankind is influencing the climate. It’s just so obvious. There is simply no doubt that there is a link between our CO2 emissions and climate change.’

A world leader using scientific data to serve his own political and economic means is also very symbolic. What effect is this having on the international community?

‘I think the effects will be far-reaching. America’s power is palpable at international summits. All their efforts are on a huge scale and very effective. When Obama started his campaign against climate change, it resulted in so much great research data. There were more scientists working on them and they were given sufficient funds and time to do their research. If America deems something important, the entire world benefits. That’s my personal experience, anyway. I have seen it happen. But now that Trump is in power, those benefits will disappear.’

Critics say the climate has always been changing.

‘Yes, there have always been variations in temperature. In that sense it is the normal state of the earth, yes. But that gives rise to the question of whether mankind even belongs on this earth. During those temperature variations, there were times where the oceans reached Limburg, and times where the entire North Sea bed was dry.’

But the question is whether mankind even belongs on this earth

‘And the critics… It’s difficult to not start calling them names. They’re just so stupid. I’ve never come across a properly supported argument that disproves climate change, apart from short-term financial gain. It is simply undeniable, as is mankind’s role in it. It’s already happening so much faster than we ever thought. Even if we do survive climate change, the question is whether we’ll be able to handle what comes after. If we have to flee the Netherlands because the rising sea levels have made it impossible for us to stay, who will take us in?’

Is there any way for us to stop these changes?

‘If we do something right now, if we decrease our CO2 emissions right now. The Paris accords should enable us to do something about it. And if we don’t do something right now, it will just cost more money, at least at first. But at some point, climate change will lead to war.’


‘Even the Dutch Chief of Defence, Tom Middendorp, has said that climate change can lead to the kinds of tensions that result in war. The war in Syria was partially caused by a long period of drought. People from rural areas left for the cities. But once there they were unable to find work, and their religious views clashed with the city dwellers’ views of the world. That caused the tension that ultimately led to the war in Syria. That’s what ultimately led to that enormous influx of refugees. It’s been predicted that these kinds of situations will happen again.’

I think part of the world is hiding behind Trump

Do you think the rest of the world will abide by the Paris climate accords, in spite of Trump’s policies?

‘I think part of the world is hiding behind Trump and will not deal with climate change in a timely manner. If America and China want to effect changes, the Netherlands will follow them. But if America doesn’t do anything, there are powerful forces in the Netherlands that will deny climate change as well. We’re basically just a bunch of yes-men.’

Did you join the March for Science?

‘Because of all my travels I’ve decided not to join this one, but to organise my own. But I’ve also shared many ‘polar marches’ on social media. It may be a small contribution, but I didn’t have much time.’

Photo in article: Elise Biersma. Front page photo: Cecilia Sandström



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