Climate change denial is man-made


About a year ago I had a dinner with a very bright colleague of mine from the investment bank where I served as an intern. Initially our conversation was quite enjoyable and ranged from physics and mathematics to politics and philosophy. However, there was a topic that noticeably struck a chord with both of us and it was the legitimacy and importance of climate change. We had a prolonged and heated discussion where I made simple authoritarian but empirical arguments citing studies conducted by NASA, the American Chemical Society, the American Physical Society etc and he’d respond with varying degrees of skepticism to each of those claims. Initially he’d try to challenge the impartialness of the scientific community even though recent peer-reviewed studies show that between 97% (Stuart, 2016) and 99% (Powell, 2016) of over 11,000 scientific articles state that climate change is not only real but most definitely anthropogenic. Even worse than that is the proven corruption of right-wing politicians, especially Republicans in the US, and “think-tanks” from all around the world who receive direct financing from fossil fuel billionaires like the infamous Koch brothers to finance their political campaigns (Dunlap, 2011). As a matter of fact, a lot of climate change denial in public life is a function of a corrupt political system (see Citizen’s United) and grimly reminds me of the days the tobacco industry was buying politicians to do similar claims about the uncertainty of the scientific community about the danger from cigarettes. Corporate interest is far from the only reason, though. Amongst others we have to also count intellectual laziness, failure of the educational system, inflated ego and just typical human denial of responsibility. But that’s an entirely different topic.

Going back to the conversation, my colleague would start to progressively question the accuracy of glacier monitoring techniques (Karpilo Jr, 2009), global surface temperature reconstructions (Cowtan, 2014), sea level rise measurements (Parker, 1991) etc. even though all of those experiments are measured independently on an annual basis and in several different ways and statistical models with high predictive ability have been tested again and again. The fact he will quickly deny established facts without having any expertise or empirical counterarguments was a red flag for me hinting he might be a right-wing libertarian of a kind. At some point he went so far as to discard the entire scientific method and statistics in particular as a viable instrument for acquiring understanding of the surrounding world. The entire conversation then quickly left the realm of facts and summoned both of us into the dream world of epistemolog

y, ontology and metaphysics. The tipping point was reached when he had to resort to mathematical fictionalism and the Entscheidungsproblem, basically implying that we shouldn’t make any change to the status quo because we can’t ever be completely sure of what we know now. “Force your opponent to make a metaphysical argument and then you win”, as Quine (I believe) once said.

Finally, after he perhaps felt that there is no practical and convincing way of defending his position, he moved the goal posts and started diminishing the potential impact of a “hypothetical” climate change event. His thesis was that it is not economically sound to constrain the free market and risk capital losses for an event which we could potentially adapt to with just slight discomfort. He claimed that even if the catastrophic projections of scientists actually materialize, it would still pay off more to just stick to our way of life and develop technology which will enable us to continue living in this altered environment or perhaps on another planet altogether. This was the moment when I realized that the entire conversation is not about climate science, statistics or philosophy – it was an argument between people of opposing political and economic convictions where one of the sides refuses to consider authority of any kind – even scientific, even if there is hard data present. The last thing I asked him before I left the table was: If we thought of the planet in the same way in which the managing directors of this bank think of the company and a bunch of experts told them that there is 99% chance that the company is going bankrupt in 40 years how would they react? He said nothing.

It didn’t even make sense to point out that if just the predictions for a higher acidity of the oceans meets expectations, humanity will be in dire straits, because the ocean ecosystems will be altered with unpredictable long-term consequences (Hoegh-Guldberg, 2010) which will propagate everywhere on the planet. You see, if there is really no God (or Atlas shrugging), then there is no one who keeps the delicate and intricate environmental balance which underlies our existence. It is no one’s whim whether we survive or not. And yes, while we are nearly powerless and hopeless in predicting even the immediate future with certainty, these are the best instruments we have and it’s only rational that we apply them accordingly – to the best of our knowledge. If humanity really is a fluke in an absurd world just as if hundreds of monkeys are typing on typewriters endlessly and at some point they get Encyclopedia Britannica, then we don’t want to distract those monkeys. Messing with the balance of nature, as I like to say, is thus like fiddling with the engine of a motorbike while riding it with 200 km/h on the motorway trying to win a race that we invented for its own sake – a race of technology, money and power. While we speak, extreme heat waves, flooding and heavy downpours have already affected the world’s agriculture and infrastructure and those are visible throughout the U.S. and the Middle East. It is thus arrogant not to try to reduce our impact on nature and to instead think evolution will spare us even after we altered its fitness function that spawned us in the first place so profoundly.

In retrospect, it shouldn’t surprise me that the financial world is teeming with right-wing libertarians who proudly deny empiricism and base all of their beliefs on a single arbitrary axiom that doesn’t even make sense. After all, it’s just the world’s economy and thus the world’s fate that depends on them. And yes, I will say they are quasi-religious ideologues who refuse to update their assumptions with factual reality (this is why they are the laughing stock of academic circles). They see society as a function of individuals whereas an individual is clearly only possible as a result of cohesive social structures (see Robinson Crusoe). In my opinion, one has understood what individualism means, only after he has come to the realization how interdependent everything in the universe is. The most important principle of all is that humanity is apples on an apple tree and this apple tree is Earth and this Earth peoples in the same way the apple tree grows apples (see Gaia hypothesis). We have to understand that the bee cannot exist without the flower and thus can be thought of as one and the same thing. In the same way a man cannot exist without society and vice versa. Therefore we should start thinking of our habitat as we think of our streets and houses. We are part of nature and we are animals. Our cities are just complex bee hives. We are not disconnected from our surroundings, and we are not infinitely adaptable and immune to the consequences of o

ur own actions. We are not freaks of nature. We are it and we should start acting like it.


Cowtan, K. a. (2014). Coverage bias in the HadCRUT4 temperature series and its impact on recent temperature trends. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Dunlap, R. E. (2011). Organized climate change denial. The Oxford handbook of climate change and society, 144-160.

Hoegh-Guldberg, O. a. (2010). The Impact of Climate Change on the World’s Marine Ecosystems. American Association for the Advancement of Science, 328, 1523-1528.

Karpilo Jr, R. D. (2009). Glacier monitoring techniques. The Geological Society of America.

Parker, B. B. (1991). Sea Level as an Indicator of Climate and Global Change. Marine Technology Society.

Powell, J. L. (2016). Climate Scientists Virtually Unanimous: Anthropogenic Global Warming Is True. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society. doi:10.1177/0270467616634958

Stuart, J. C. (2016). Consensus on consensus: a synthesis of consensus estimates on human-caused global warming. Environmental Research Letters, 11(4). Retrieved from

About the author:

Picture Bogomil Todorov GospodinovBogomil Todorov Gospodinov (21) took part in our “My Europe” workshop in Sofia in 2012. He is currently studying Computer Science at the University of Southampton in England.



Climate-Refugees in the 21st Century

pohl climate refugees jpegAt the debate on “Refugees in the 21st century” on 26 November 2015, MEP Elmar Brok, stated clearly, that the terror of Paris must not be associated with the refugees. Instead, it should be clear that the refugees are the consequence of the terror and not the cause. After all, 90% of the victims of the terror are Muslims.

Moreover, he added that religion is not the main reason for conflict between people. Rather the cause of these conflicts can be found in proxy wars of the USA and Russia as well as Iran and Saudi Arabia. Brok emphasized that this issue cannot be resolved within Europe and that we must get to the root of the political problems that are at stake.

While Brok emphasised war and crisis as the main cause of refugees, Prof. Dr. Curtius explained the relationship between climate change and refugees in the 21st century. Curtius argued that natural disasters such as earthquakes, tsunamis, storms and floods over the next decades will result in a flow of refugees. Droughts and dry periods as well as shortages of drinking water will be factors that will force people to migrate. We must be prepared that a co-occurrence of multiple factors (e.g. earthquakes, storms, droughts etc.) can cause streams of refugees up to 50-100 million worldwide.

Compared to the stream of refugees today these are completely different dimensions with which the world will have to cope. It does not matter whether the amounts of rising sea levels due to emissions of greenhouse gases are two or five meters. Just the fact that the sea rises, should mobilise politics and business to take actions on a global level to ensure the safety of inhabitants of endangered areas.

Prof. Dr. Pohl, head of the Scientific Advisory Board of the think tank Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, anticipates that “Climate-refugees” will surpass anything seen before in the 21st century. He estimates that between 500 million – 1.5 billion people worldwide will lose their homes and will be forced to flee.

Thus, the members of the think tank Frankfurter Zukunftsrat demand that the protagonists at the climate summit in Paris do not only discuss the origins of climate change, but also make a plan to take immediate global action.

About the author:

MP1Prof. Dr. Manfred Pohl is the Founder and Chairman of Frankfurter Zukunftsrat, the think tank that organises “My Europe”. more…


Mother nature in danger


Climate change and Energy have always been the EU’s top priority to make a better and healthier world. The two subjects are extremely coherent with one another in addition to being vital in mankind’s survival. Overwhelming scientific consensus and real life impacts tell us that Global warming is real, is caused by human activity, and is a significant threat to our health, economy and environment. Shall we ever neglect the importance of either factors, humanity shall face its greatest threat, extinction.

However, when the situation is under the mighty of EU’s handle, the world may rest assured that the problem will definitely be solved. Who knows what sophisticated technological advancements we shall unravel in pursuit of saving energy and rescuing our climate?

It was a warm Sunday morning; Frank was enjoying a cup of coffee on the terrace enjoying the rays of beautiful sunlight with the garden nourishing in his backyard. Happy that the EU has made so much progress in the past 15 years, after the world was on the edge of a catastrophic climate back in 2015. Back then, Frank could not imagine a world where problems would decrease gradually. From global warming, to excessive energy consumption, such problems caused extreme controversy on whether humanity will survive in the upcoming years. It was an era where you’d look up to the sky and see nothing but depressing foggy clouds, where seeing sunlight was a bliss few people had the privilege to.

The world was facing so many problems in every aspect. All seemed to have a solution, but this problem needed work, work that only the European Countries combined together with their resources could handle.

When asked about our current climate issue, Kofi Annan, former secretary general of UN, clearly stated that the world is reaching the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible. If this happens, we risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable planet- the whole of humanity stands to lose.

“We risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable planet- the whole of humanity stands to lose.”

Some people were frustrated after hearing the statement from Annan, it seemed the world have had its full share of disasters. Right then, the adaptations to decrease the damage in the climate began to seem irrelevant and pointless, people lost faith in saving their own lives and some gave up and continued abusing the atmosphere through highly chemical toxic products. However, the European Union is still determined to fix this issue, hence it putting goals to reach by the year 2030, such as cutting in greenhouse gas emissions compared with 1990 by 40%, and increase energy efficiency to 27%. Alas, even governments need the help of the people, such plans include using less water, building flood defenses…etc.

“Nature’s love has been integrated within us from the moment we were born. She is our caring mother, our guardian, our very oxygen that we breathe and shivers down our lungs.”

Nature’s love has been integrated within us from the moment we were born. She is our caring mother, our guardian, our very oxygen that we breathe and shivers down our lungs. She has never been hostile towards her children who unfortunately are taking advantage of our sweet heart and abusing all the resources she has to offer. In the end it is nature that defines us and our culture. “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”- Albert Einstein


About the author:

Nadia El-Rafei is a 19-year old student at Ernst-Litfaß-Schule in Berlin. She participated in the “My Europe” Workshop in Germany in 2015. In her free time, Nadia enjoys reading, writing and drawing.

“For me, Europe means freedom and success.”



Pull Power from Pollution

Coastline with industry, Spotlight Europe
Convert pollution into new energy. (Flickr: Kees de Voss/licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Never had a phone call made such an impact on her. It was like an electroshock. After a restless night, she still felt dizzy from the news she had heard. She pinched herself and smiled; « This is not a dream » she thought, « this is for real! ». She still hadn’t swallowed the fact that she, Helena Stavriokis, had won the Nobel Prize.

Helena felt uneasy as she climbed the stairs to her plane for Stockholm: a plane all to herself. Never had she been indulged in such a luxury; « Am I that important? » she wondered. She sat at the window of her plane, watching the clouds invade the view as the hum of the reactors was soothing her. She could picture herself five years ago, the 5th of May 2025, doubtful and uncertain at the launching of her project; an invention called « Pull Power from Pollution ». The PPP was a small-scale device that was placed on buildings to convert the CO2 sucked from the common air into energy.

“The PPP was definitely overshadowing all the other sustainable energy industries.”

The PPP was definitely overshadowing all the other sustainable energy industries. Beyond the fuss that was generated by this new competitor, they could all sleep on both ears as they knew that it wasn’t going to be a long lasting product. The use of the device would decline at the same rate as the pollution would. « In 50 years’ time, the PPP will eradicate any hint of pollution » had speculated a renowned German researcher.  Nobody was really concerned about the future disappearing of the PPP; new viable sources of energy would emerge as the competitiveness within Europe kept growing. Something more important stood out: pollution was not going to jeopardize the future of our children anymore.

With the smashing success of her invention after only five years’ time, she realized how silly it was of her for having been so doubtful at the beginning. Europe had reached, two years beforehand, the goals set for 2030: diminish by 40% the Green Gas Emission, and boost by 27% the Energy Efficiency and the Renewable Sources. Helena was lucid, she knew it wasn’t only by virtue of the PPP; Europe had made huge improvements on the energy field since the launching of the Energy Union in 2020. Eco-friendly energy technologies had developed massively and our dependence on mineral oil imports were steadily reduced. Energy became safer, more affordable and sustainable; Europe had become the world energy leader, Europe had become even more united!

“With the PPP, Greece had gained back its former recognition on the international level.”

The clamorous noise reminding her to fasten her belt shoved her out of her thoughts. The plane was landing in only twenty minutes. Helena glanced through the window and noticed the beauty of the city covered in snow. « This will change me from Greece » she told herself enthusiastically. But then, she felt a twinge of sadness thinking about her parents who had never witnessed a single snowfall. Her family got struck really hard by the crisis back in 2008, and as they put their daughter’s will to study before their own needs, they never got the chance to travel. The consequences of the crisis were such that after 6 years, Greece lost a quarter of its GDP. Greece was in debt to its ears and this situation started to build conflicts within Europe as nobody was willing to lend more money. It was dreadful to the point that, silently, Europe was struggling to know if it would end up with a”divorce”. But now, eleven and fifteen years after Helena’s parents’ death, things are different. The Energy Union had driven the creation of jobs across the continent and accordingly unemployment had lowered. Tourism in Greece has been strongly revaluated and the economy went inexorably, but slowly, on the rise. With the PPP, Greece had gained back its former recognition on the international level.

« The Nobel Prize of Physics for the invention that has enabled to transform pollution into energy goes out to Helena Stavrionikis ».  « Helena Stavrionikis », her name was resonating inside her head. There was a floating moment where no one moved, nothing happened. She was motionless. All the sacrifices that her parents had suffered from, that made it possible for her to be here, was the only thing she could think about. Helena couldn’t rely on the reassuring gaze of anyone in the audience: she had chosen sciences over the building of a family. Imagining the pride that her parents would have felt seeing her today gave her the strength to get up and receive the honors. How overjoyed they would have been to see a Europe that could rely on Greece, a unified Europe.

About the author:
Alexandra Cogels, Spotlight Europe
Alexandra – Author at Spotlight Europe

Alexandra (17) participated at our workshop in Brussels in February 2015. She is a student at the Collège Saint-Michel in Brussels, Belgium.


Sundowner at sea, Spotlight Europe
A nice sea – so it seems at first sight. Though the real fact is that tons of microplastics are floating in the oceans. (Flickr: Nathan Rupert /licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

As members of the working group on environment, we would like to give you some important information about microplastics. We believe that most people are not aware of the severe problems that microplastics can cause, because they only think of larger plastic fragments that can easily be seen.

What are microplastics?

Microplastics are defined as pieces of plastic less than 5 mm in size. They can arise from either primary or secondary sources: Primary microplastics are produced for direct use, such as industrial abrasives, exfoliants or cosmetics. Secondary microplastics are inadvertently produced by the breakdown of larger pieces of plastic into smaller fragments, by physical, chemical or biological degradation in the ocean, but also by the shedding of synthetic fibres by washing clothes.

Where can microplastics be found?

As already mentioned, microplastics can be found in clothes, but also in some body scrubs and foundations. They are even in some toothpaste! So check your cosmetics, next time you buy some!

Impact on oceans and sea life:
“Plastic takes a long time to decompose.”

One big problem is that plastic takes a long time to decompose. Because of that, microplastics end up in marine environment where they can be eaten by a range of organisms and can even be transferred straight to our plates through the food web!

Moreover, some sand samples were analysed from shorelines across the world – and scientists discovered that they all contained traces of plastic.

We don’t need to say any more to make you aware of how serious the actual situation is and how plastic is dangerous to humankind and the Earth. Therefore, you pass this information on to other people! Altogether we can make a difference!

About the author:
Picture Paulina Lewitsch, Spotlight Europe
Paulina – Author at Spotlight Europe

Paulina (19) engages in the Youth Council for the Future. She participated in the “My Europe” workshop in Austria in 2013.

How the chemicals industry is combatting world hunger

According to the 2013 Global Hunger Index, around 842 million people in the world are starving. The figure may have declined by approximately 160 million since the early 1990s, but one person in eight still goes hungry. Every year, more people die of starvation than of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis put together.

In the face of such dramatic evidence, every single one of us has a responsibility to do what we can. The reasons for hunger are as diverse as the solutions need to be. The chemical industry, for example, can help reconcile the conflict that sometimes exists between food and bio-fuel production, and better protect food in transit by developing smart packaging and shipment solutions. Specialty chemicals can play a key role in minimizing crop loss and maximizing crop yield. Let me highlight a few examples.
Lost crops present a very real threat to world food supplies. Did you know that without pesticides, just 32 percent of harvested produce would be viable? But with the help of crop-protection products, this rises to 68 percent? On the flip side, however, these chemicals impact our environment – so we need to deploy them as efficiently as possible. Specialty chemicals can help. For example, our highly-effective, sustainable adjuvant Synergen® OS, made from renewable resources, is biodegradable and highly eco-friendly. It is extremely effective at combatting drift, even when used in low dosages. As a result, less of the pesticide reaches the surrounding area, and the distance to neighboring fields and bodies of water can be significantly reduced, improving land utilization. Moreover, the product’s active penetrates leaves faster, meaning less pesticide is required. So farmers can conserve actives, water and energy, and also reduce effort.

A further example is food transportation. To help people at risk of starvation, large quantities of food must reach their destination intact. In 2011 alone, more than 5.3 million tons of grain were distributed to 76 developing countries. Typically, these commodities are shipped in containers by sea, rail and road, and take several weeks to arrive. During the long journey, the goods are often subjected to extreme environmental conditions. Condensation forms easily in the steel containers, rendering contents susceptible to mold, decay and decomposition. According to the Save Food Initiative, up to 40 percent of the total volume of food produced in the world is rendered inedible during transportation and distribution in developing countries. Our product Container DRI® II provides a solution. This granulated desiccant is highly absorbent, and can be effectively deployed at all temperatures and humidity levels. It can absorb three times its weight in moisture from ambient air, and ensures foodstuffs arrive undamaged where they are so urgently needed.

No discussion of world hunger would be complete without mentioning fertilizers – which brings me to my final example. Of all the plant nutrients, nitrogen is the most effective, and is considered to be a real driver of growth. Annual global demand for fertilizers is around 180 million tons. By 2008, around half of the world’s population was eating produce grown using nitrogen-based mineral fertilizers. Ammonia is an essential component of nitrogen production – in fact, 80 percent of industrially produced ammonia is destined for nitrogen fertilizers. For the past 100 years, the key large-scale production process for ammonia has been the Haber-Bosch method. Its downside is that it is extremely energy-intensive. In fact, this process is responsible for almost two percent of global energy consumption. To save energy and improve the efficiency of the process, we developed AmoMax®-10, a highly reactive catalyst. Its unique design is based on the mineral wustite, which contains iron oxide, and enhanced promoters meaning it increases efficiency by 40 percent compared to magnetite-based catalysts. Thanks to faster activation times and higher efficiency at lower temperature and pressure, AmoMax®-10 delivers significant energy savings and simplifies ammonia production.

These examples underline the key role of the chemical industry in combatting world hunger. Of course, this is not the only problem facing humanity, and in social discourse, we have defined a multitude of megatrends currently affecting the planet. I am absolutely certain that without the chemical industry, mankind would not be able to even scratch the surface of these challenges.

About the author:

Flims Event CLARIANT 2012Dr. Hariolf Kottmann is Chief Executive Officer of the Swiss speciality chemicals company Clariant International Ltd. and a member of EC and Board at the European Chemical Industry Council (Cefic) since 2012. more…


PS: Dr Kottmann will gladly answer all questions you might have. However, due to time constraints, he cannot do so regularly. We will collect your questions and comments that have been submitted until and including October 27, 2014, and will pass them on to him. For all questions submitted after that, we cannot guarantee an answer.