Scientists support climate strike

27 Sep 2019

The national climate strike this afternoon in The Hague can also count on the support of scientists. For example, from Michiel in ’t Zandt (29), PhD student at the department of Microbiology. ‘There is overwhelming scientific proof that climate change is real.’

Under the name Scientists4Future NL, Dutch scientists drew up a declaration, in which they state that the lives of billions of people are at stake if our climate problems aren’t addressed. In two weeks’ time the declaration has been signed by more than 1700 scientists. Microbiologist In ’t Zand is one of the initiators.

What exactly is Scientists4Future?
‘We are a coalition of scientists who believe that we also have a role to play in the climate debate. There is overwhelming scientific proof that our climate is changing, and that this change is dangerous. We want scientists to convey that message more strongly. This declaration was drawn up by fifty researchers of different universities. We see it as a first step in activating scientists. We call all academics from all disciplines in the Netherlands to sign the declaration, from PhD student to professor.’

What is your goal?

Michiel in ’t Zandt. Photo: Stan van Pelt

‘We want to tell all climate strikers: you’re backed up by science. Many of us join the protest in The Hague. We don’t want to sit in the ivory tower and observe how the climate changes, we want our knowledge to be of use. I see this as one of the duties of scientists. Use our expertise, we want to help – that is our message to everyone who is worried about the climate. We believe that voice is currently not present enough.’

Why is that?
‘A lot of scientists are scared to speak up on their own, because they are afraid of personal attacks that could have a negative influence on their career. But together, we are stronger. Within the Netherlands our declaration is already the biggest scientific statement about climate change ever. And every day more people sign.’

Tomorrow the climate strike is over, what will you do then?
‘Scientists4Future NL is not a hype: we are here to stay. We want science, but also politics to wake up. The climate agreement is a good start, but we have to keep going.’

What do you mean?
‘I think the energy transition should be expanded further. Now we are transitioning from coal to CO2-free energy sources very slowly, by intermediate steps like gas and biomasses. Also I personally think nuclear energy should be considered as an alternative. We have to work together with other countries. The climate problem can’t do without global policy.’

Do you see the consequences of climate change in your own research?
‘Yes, definitely. I research permafrost (permanently frozen ground in Russia, Canada and Alaska, ed.). There’s a lot of methane stored in there, which is a greenhouse gas that is 34 times stronger than CO2. Now there’s a decent balance between methane producing and methane eating micro-organisms. But because the permafrost is melting more and more, the first group, that creates methane, is getting the upper hand because more food becomes available. That way the amount of methane in the atmosphere increases and that in turn causes an increase in temperature. That way you get a self-reinforcing effect.’

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