When we saw the massive banner in the Theil Building advertising the debate and the presence of Thierry Baudet, we were astonished. How does the invitation of a climate change denier to discuss energy transition not provoke unrest at the university or among the students? As many of our friends, you might think it is important to invite the winner of the last elections to debate the countries’ energy transition – yet we don’t share this view.
Last year, Baudet tweeted about the ‘awesome effects’ that the rise of CO2 has on the growth of plants. In reality, while CO2 is essential for photosynthesis, climate change has a detrimental impact on plant growth such as loss of soil humidity, which cannot outweigh the positive effects put forward by Baudet. In the same tweet, he mentioned that the climate “warms slower than is always shown” and that “the smog in India has nothing to do with CO2 emissions”. If one man is capable of spreading three lies in a single tweet, how many can he share during a debate?
Among scientists, the degree of confidence in human-induced climate change is higher than 99 per cent. Thus, preventing Baudet and other climate change deniers from joining such debates is not about restraining the plurality of voices and freedom of speech, but about preventing the denial of scientific evidence. Narratives like Baudet’s contribute to the growing gap between climate science and political action, as seen similarly in Brazil or the USA.
Debates can and should happen between those who agree with science. We are now facing various challenges concerning our energy transition, and we must discuss how we can make it happen, not whether we should start it. Acting on climate change is urgent: the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (lPCC) report states that national governments have 12 years left to act to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees by 2100. To avoid irreversible changes and ecosystem losses, we must begin ‘rapid and far-reaching transitions’ in the energy sector, among others. Such a transition has not yet happened in the Netherlands, showcased by the fact that it is the EU country with the second lowest share of renewable energy. Baudet claims that the Netherlands is acting in a ‘climate hysteria’. This is not the case with the country failing to meet the Paris agreement, leaving a lot of room for improvement.
Universities should be a place of education and fruitful debates based on scientific knowledge and academic rigour, not a place where politicians, guided by demagogy, ignorance or denial, can spread dangerous lies. This is why climate deniers should not be invited to debate.
Max Dörr (21) is a second-year student of Management of International Social Challenges and Anaëlle Perrin (20) is a second-year International Bachelor of Communication and Media student.