Article Summary

The patterns during the climate crisis are very similar to those of the coronavirus crisis and have characteristics of religious wars. But there are also important differences that make the situation even more dire now.

Read the full article: The worrying similarities between the climate crisis and the coronavirus crisis

time to read: 5 minutes

Climate/Nitrogen Crisis

Two tables about questions asked via during the investigation of the PS2023 results show a pattern that reminds me a lot of the situation during the coronavirus crisis. With far more serious consequences, I’m afraid, than what happened during the Corona crisis.

Let me start with the results of those two questions. He was referring to the question in which year did people think that nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands should have decreased by 50% (2030, 2035 or later) and the question of how people assessed the climate situation. The response pattern was almost identical, so I’ll stick to the last question. They were given six answer options and it turned out that the electorate was divided into three main groups:

  1. with the answers: “it is 12 and 5” / “it is 12 to 1”
  2. with the answers: “the measures taken are sufficient”/”the concerns are exaggerated
  3. with the answers: “it is going in the wrong direction, the measures have little effect” / “human behavior does not influence the climate”

The middle group comprises around 40% of the electorate and the other two groups around 30% each.

If you look at the voters of the different parties, you will see that in each party a large proportion of the voters belong to only one of the three groups. This is the photo of group 1.

The worrying similarities between the Climate Crisis and the Corona Crisis - 62540

Below are again those three groups and the parties, of which more than 40% of the voters belong to that group.

  1. GroenLinks, PvdD, D66 and Volt (almost 90% are in this group), PvdA (79%), SP (50%)
  2. VVD (69%), 50PLUS (67%), CDA (63%), SGP (55%), ChristenUnie (53%), BBB (52%), JA21 (48%), BVNL (46%)
  3. FVD (75%), PVV (62%), BVNL (51%), JA21 (49%), BBB (43%)

So the vast majority of voters for GroenLinks, PvdD, D66, Volt, and PvdA believe it’s either 1-12 or 5-12 weather-wise. These are the same parties whose voters overwhelmingly believe that the year of the halving of nitrogen deposition should be brought forward to 2030. These 5 parties received more than 30% of the vote in the last election.

Voters for VVD, CDA and 50PLUS are mainly in the middle group. The voters of FVD and PVV are mainly in the third group and those of BBB, JA21 and BVNL are divided into groups 2 and 3.

The strong similarities with the Corona crisis

Now, I have often come across wide differences in views between voters of different parties on issues, but on the “Climate/Nitrogen” issue, the differences in views seem to be irreconcilable. Voters who think it is (almost) too late to do anything about the climate already find the view that “concerns are being exaggerated” unacceptable.

An insurmountability that we also see in the cabinet, D66 is in group 1 and CDA is in group 2. Those parties are on a collision course, with adverse electoral effects for the other two coalition partners.

I recognize the same patterns that I observed between 2020 and now with the Corona crisis (here you see a series of articles in which I described it. With this article from early 2021 as the core. (“We live in a “model dictatorship”)

“Intelligibility between different groups with their own views, which show strong similarities, with those between the orthodoxies of different religions, which have taken us back centuries in time, so to speak”

We saw this during the Corona crisis and we see it again:

dominant narrative

There is only room for a reading of what is happening and how the dangers should be combated. There is no room for a debate with others (including scientists) with different analyzes and findings. Preferably, those others are ignored or belittled. They claim to tell the only true story, stating that “almost all scientists agree that…”.

One-sided analysis

During the Corona crisis, I thoroughly studied the available data and published studies. I found that many misused that data and research to support beliefs they already held or goals they had committed to. In doing so, they violated the basic rules of research and statistics. I have devoted many articles to it on this site. Regarding weather and nitrogen, I haven’t gone that deep yet, partly because I quickly got discouraged, because I recognized the same patterns.

Abuse of models and scenarios

With a model you can make a translation of how things work in reality and on that basis also calculate the effect of certain interventions or certain developments. But it is the translation of those model makers and is not automatically a good representation of reality. It was significant how little transparency RIVM had about its models during the Corona crisis and how little room there was to make improvements with the input of many experts. Even an evaluation of the actual impact of a measure has not been achieved, while the previous evaluation of that measure has been the basis of unprecedented interventions before 2020.

Various scenarios were calculated based on the models. Usually, the bleakest ones were put as the basis for decisions, without taking into account the low probability of that scenario happening. And when communicating with the population, that scenario was also presented as if it were the most likely course of events.

This pattern is also clearly visible when it comes to climate and nitrogen related developments.

the big difference

What we now see again with the problem of climate and nitrogen is a process very similar to what we see with religions. A strong belief in a particular vision (at both ends of the spectrum) to which everything is subject. Without critical analysis of data, studies, models and scenarios. Everything is subordinated to one’s own faith, to one’s conviction.

We have returned to the pre-Enlightenment era, where life is ruled by faith. And deviants are considered heretics, who should be avoided like the plague and also had a chance to end up at the stake.

However, there is a big difference. As a result, the polarization around climate and nitrogen seems to have more serious consequences. During the Corona crisis, the figures between the different groups with views were not 30%, 40% and 30%. But the group that followed the dominant narrative was much larger. I estimate the numbers back then were more like 60%, 30%, 10%.

The explanation for the much larger group that followed the dominant narrative at the time lies in the fact that a successful policy was put in place to make people very afraid of their own health situation or that of their loved ones (parents/grandparents ). Something that does not happen with climate and nitrogen issues to that extent. The threats described there are long-term and/or more indirect.

But among the 30% of the first group when it comes to climate and nitrogen, there are many who feel such a threat and consider the urgency of the measures very high.

In two ways, therefore, we are in a much more complex and unsolvable situation than during the corona crisis.

  1. The size of the group that does not submit to the dominant narrative is much larger, so the polarization has a much more profound impact just because of its size. (It was unthinkable that a cabinet would fall on Corona during the Corona crisis, while that is highly conceivable during the Nitrogen crisis.)
  2. The Corona crisis eventually died down because the virus mutations greatly reduced the actual danger to people (and often vaccinated people had gained a sense of security). With regard to the climate crisis, something similar is not expected to happen.

You would expect leading figures in politics and social organizations to recognize the dangers threatening our society due to this polarization around climate and nitrogen. Let them come together in a binding and reassuring approach. But I don’t think this will happen, because many of them are just the high priests of their own religion. Which makes them unable/unwilling to give up the symbols of that religion. And continue to testify in their own right. Just as we have experienced for centuries in the many religious wars that have plagued our societies. With all the important adverse consequences that this entails.