Edition 30 August 2018, by Jeroen Spangenberg
Globally the temperature is rising, but the Netherlands has far outpaced the global trend at an alarming rate. The Dutch government organization CLO states the following: “The Netherlands has warmed more than twice as much as the rest of the world since 1950.” Bart van den Hurk from the KNMI, the Dutch meteorological organization, points out: “The temperature globally has increased by 0.8 degrees Celsius since 1900; however, in the Netherlands the temperature has increased by 1.7 degrees Celsius.”
“The area around the Mediterranean will most likely become increasingly dryer. This will affect the tourist industry, since tourists will flock to cooler areas.” The Netherlands could become increasingly popular as a tourist destination, according to Bart Strengers from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency. However, he also warns that if the earth’s warmth increases by four to six degrees, this will cause huge global disaster and this will also affect the Netherlands.
Problems that arise from global warming are numerous. Farmers in the Netherlands are struggling with the hot weather and the harvests of certain products are failing. Thus the consumer will eventually see increases in the price of certain agricultural products. Farmer Hans Eelderink is very worried, since he cultivates a variety of crops. He says potatoes stop growing if the temperature has reached 30 degrees Celsius. It remains to be seen if the crop starts growing again when it starts raining again. Some crops are more resilient than others. He says that, for example, the sugar beet is happy with just a few drops of rain. Hans Eelderink and other farmers are experiencing huge crop failures this summer due to the hot weather conditions. It is pretty evident that global warming will diminish food production and increase water shortages, thus causing climatechange- related migration to skyrocket. Without sufficient drinking water, many people will suffer, due to the basic fact that a person can live without water for only a few days.
In the Netherlands a shortage of drinking water is not imminent, although during this period of hot weather, people use more water. Therefore, the pressure in the water pipes changes, causing brown water to come out. The water company Vitens asked people from July 5 and onwards to use less water between 6 and 9 in the morning and in the evening until 10 PM, which are the peak hours. While a shortage of drinking water is not imminent according to water suppliers in the Netherlands, water pollution is a serious challenge in the Netherlands, affecting the quality of the Dutch drinking water. Both Evides and Vitens have to cope with the deteriorating quality of our drinking water. They have to use new techniques to maintain the same quality of drinking water for the consumer.
Harvard professor Niall Ferguson wrote in his book “Civilization”, about the ascendency of the West, why the West became so successful. One of the things he mentions is “consumption”: “there emerged a new model of civilization centered around not colonization but consumption. By 1945, it was time for the West to lay down its arms and pick up its shopping bags – to take off its uniform and put on its blue jeans. The ‘wage slave’ also went shopping; the lowliest proletarian had more than one shirt, and aspired to have more than two.” This ascendency of the West and its consumption society was emulated by the rest of the world. China greatly reduced poverty by creating a society of production, export and consumption. Economic growth, the consumption-based society and the desire to outperform last year’s GDP creates huge problems for the ecosystem and the environment. Today there are more than 7 billion people living on our planet; by 2030 the number is expected to be around 8.6 billion and in 2050 9.8 billion people. Half of the population growth will take place in India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, the United Republic of Tanzania, the United States of America, Uganda and Indonesia, according to the UN.
Bill Gates has discussed the equation of CO2 = People x Services per person x Energy per service x CO2 per unit energy. In his speech called Innovating to zero (CO2) at TED, he says about the P of people: “if we really do a good job on new vaccines, health care, reproductive health services, we can lower that by perhaps 10 or 15 percent”. China for a long time maintained the one child policy, resulting in state-enforced abortions. Ethical questions were raised about this policy, but it is clear that more people cause greater stress on natural resources and on CO2 emissions. Therefore, governments and businesses should stimulate family planning in areas with high population growth. Additionally, sustainable energy sources should be promoted and stimulated by the government. Coal plants, which are still used in the Netherlands and Germany for example, should be closed down. In the Netherlands the population is ageing, so it is expected not to rise very much. However, the melting ice caps in Greenland and the Arctic are causing sea levels to rise. Therefore, the Dutch might need to raise the dikes, since the Netherlands is far below sea level. Other countries that are below sea level but don’t have the money to invest in dikes will disappear, which is already happening and will continue. Furthermore, the Netherlands is experiencing problems with the dikes, since the extreme heat this summer is causing the dikes to dry out, causing cracks, which makes the dikes less stable and creates a risk of flooding. In the Netherlands the summers are getting warmer because of global warming caused by greenhouse gasses. Most greenhouse gasses are produced by the waste management industry, the oil industry, electricity companies and livestock farms. This is why the population should be educated more about the importance of separating waste. Furthermore, the government and waste management companies should offer the possibility for people to separate their waste as environmentally friendly as possible.
The oil industry produces oil because there is a demand for oil. We could reduce the amount of gasoline used by stimulating people to work from home and by stimulating efficient and affordable public transport. Trains are often more expensive than flights. Instead of making flying more expensive with taxation, trains should become cheaper. If you walk over the Erasmus bridge in Rotterdam you smell the pollution from cars. A carless Sunday in city centers would be a very good idea to help clean the air a bit. It also gives people the opportunity to enjoy a city without cars racing around the city center. More green space is promoted by city councils, such as green roofs in Rotterdam. Green roofs form a buffer to absorb excess rain water and filter dust particles from the atmosphere. The use of solar panels will also help our environment. King Willem-Alexander wanted to make the example last month by installing solar panels on his palace Huis ten Bosch. However, he was not allowed to do so, due to the law that restricts owners of listed buildings to adjust their property in a way that could harm the cultural heritage. Still, the king is not giving up and is putting the environment above culture – which is probably more urgent at this time. Legal hurdles for installing solar panels should be removed as much as possible. However, instead of putting them on a monumental roof, they could also be put into your English garden – if you have one. Pink slime in hamburgers, fipronil and chloride chickens, growth hormones injected in cows filled with antibiotics to combat cancerous cells. Just read that sentence and we see that food production is about saving costs and maximizing profit. Health concerns are not at the top of the list. Not only did food become something that could make you sick due hormones, pesticides and herbicides, food production is also harmful for the environment, because it contributes greatly to greenhouse gas emissions. “Farming livestock – cattle, sheep, goats, pigs and chickens – contributes around 6 billion tons of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide) to the atmosphere each year. While estimates vary, this could represent up to 18% of global emissions” writes Mario Herrero, Chief Research Scientist, Food Systems and the Environment at CSIRO. Dutch organization Rli recommends that we should start to eat less meat and that meat should be taxed higher in order to create a more ecofriendly system. The livestock industry according to Rli is responsible for 10 percent of Dutch greenhouse gas emissions.
Climate change is really endangering human civilization. ”This alarming trend endangers economies, livelihoods, food security and the quality of life of people everywhere,” IPBES warned. It might be fun to think that the summers are getting warmer in the Netherlands, but climate change is causing so many problems on a huge scale that action is necessary if we want to keep inhibiting this planet. Instead of a four-year political vision we need a national vision for the long term. While Mark Rutte once said, during a copy of the US correspondence dinner, that some people say he doesn’t have a vision, he joked that he really didn’t see that. Of course he and our government have a vision, since it is government policy to close down the coal plants that were built in 2015 and 2016. Almost miraculously these plants appeared in a climate that opposes coal as something that damages the planet. The plants will be closed in 2030, if everything goes according to plan.
Jay Leno joked that 85 percent of the people believe in climate change and the other 15 percent is working for the White House. This was a joke made during the Bush administration, but is also applicable to the Trump administration. While the Obama administration was promoting environmental policies, Trump’s EPA head Mr. Pruitt, who had to resign last month, was trying to reverse these policies in favor of polluting industries. A new head was appointed last month, Andrew Wheeler, who is a former coal lobbyist. Still, he does not support the pro-car pollution plans of Mr. Pruitt. It is obvious that if only the Netherlands is acting responsibly, and the biggest capitalist countries are not, it is not going to make such a big difference. Therefore, if the Netherlands wants to keep normal summers, we need to solve climate change not only nationally but also on a global scale.