Widespread support or widespread ignorance?


On November 20, the Dutch State got sued for not doing enough to avert dangerous climate change. Some weeks ago I downloaded the “draft version 7” of the summons, but in the meanwhile the final version (in Dutch) became available. There is quite some difference between the versions, but what stood out were two paragraphs that disappeared (translated from Dutch):

  1. This lawsuit further provides the opportunity to drag the discussion about climate change out of the domain of the one liners and emotions. The court room provides, maybe even as only public space in The Netherlands, the possibility to have the climate discussion on the basis of facts, evidence and nuanced position changes. A judicial decision and the considerations underlying it will, regardless of the outcome of the procedure, give the Dutch public better insight in the climate debate into how the evidence and the dangers should be valued.
  2. Plaintiffs also see it as a necessity because the Dutch public, at least a substantial part of it, doesn’t know much of for example the degree of warming which can not be avoided anymore, of the climatic and social causes that underlie these changes and of the unavoidable consequences and risks of that warming, or of for example, the nature, severity, duration and extent of the damage that is likely even greater in the case of dangerous climate change. In the absence of active information and warnings from the government, they don’t realize the risk. For the uninformed public the danger is once again not known because there is a delay of decades between cause and effect, therefor the damage is already done but not yet suffered (due later). These conditions contribute to the dangerous situation that was created, this is why one of the claims against the State focused on its obligation to inform the society and to warn of climate threat, so it gets clear what is at stake in The Netherlands if no adequate climate action is taken and supportive action from society can emerge.

Discussions on basis of facts and evidence, what’s not to like? To be honest, when I first read these paragraphs I was a bit surprised to find this in there. First, if there is one country in the world open for debate, it surely is The Netherlands. No courtroom necessary for having a debate there. Even (sparse) skeptic voices can be heard in the media. Second, it seems to me that the skeptics tend to focus more on the facts and the evidence than the alarmists. Last, but not least, it doesn’t fit in a “crowd” pleading action. They see the court summons as a democratic action, so it doesn’t sound good when stating that a substantial part of the Dutch doesn’t know much about it and still has to be “educated”. That is probably the reason why these two paragraphs didn’t survive the cut.

Subsequently, of the three demands to the judge the last one didn’t survive either (translated from Dutch):

To demand the State to inquire the Dutch population about the scientific knowledge and insights about the effects of the current global CO2 emissions on the climate and the associated risks.;

Probably ousted for the same reason. Yet, on their website that demand still stands. That is a bit schizophrenic. On the one hand they want to show the judge they have a widespread support among the Dutch people, yet on the other hand they show that a substantial part of the Dutch people still need to be convinced. Do they want to hide this fact from the judge? While admitting to the public that a substantial part of the public are ignorant and need to be informed?

What frightens me in these paragraphs (and also in general in the summons) is the incredible certainty in which a highly uncertain process is proclaimed. It makes me wonder if they really want a debate of just want to persuade people into the (one-sided) absolute truth they are declaring?

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