Scientists are often enraged at the quality of the public debate, Appy Sluijs, climate scientist at Utrecht University writes. But that debate is about more than just facts.
'A tweet with utter nonsense. Anyone more rubbish to add?' This is how Gerrit Hiemstra responded on Twitter to Thierry Baudet's claims about climate change. A rather fanatical twitter storm followed. The readers' replies were far from mild, with support for both sides expressed in 140-character phrases.
You might know Hiemstra as the NOS public broadcasting company's weatherman. He also owns a company that makes weather forecasts and has ties to Wageningen University. Baudet is a politician and leader of the Forum voor Democratie [Forum for Democracy]. Hiemstra's area of expertise, meteorology, is clearly closer to the theme of climate change than Baudet’s. That is obvious. Yet it is doubtful as to whether Hiemstra has changed anyone's opinion. Has something gone wrong here?
The parties that loom large in the public debate on climate are, on the one hand, the extremist environmental movements and, on the other, so-called climate change deniers, whether or not fed by a professional lobby. The first believe that the Netherlands will be flooded in 20 years' time. The second are convinced that CO2 has a minimal impact on climate change. Both ignore the data collected internationally over decades, the subsequent scientific debate, and the resulting facts about human impact on climate.