Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Frits Böttcher

Roots of Dutch climate skepticism series, part 5
Next in the history of Dutch climate skeptics series is a man with an extraordinary CV : Carl Johan Friedrich (Frits) Böttcher.

After WW2, Böttcher (1915-2008) was a professor at Leiden University where he was teaching the remarkable combination of Chemistry and Graphology.

He had to give up the latter though around 1960 because by then the pressure of the academic world, considering graphology to be pseudo-scientific nonsense, became too big.

Somewhere in the 50's Böttcher also found the time to become a part-time scientific advisor for Shell. A position he'd keep for the next 30 years.

European Science and Environement Forum Frits Böttcher
European Science and Environment Forum
The Club of Rome
In 1963 Böttcher, having professional contacts with the Dutch ministry of education, told them he was surprised there was so little interest in the forthcoming conference of the just found OECD. This ultimately resulted in the ministry asking him to lead the delegation.

By that time he also became the first president of the Dutch Advisory Board for Science-Policy. In this position, he and some delegation- leaders from other countries were invited by the OECD to a conference on the results of population growth.

As a result of this involvement, Böttcher would become one of the founding fathers of the resulting Club of Rome, which in 1972 would publish the famous Limiths to Growth report.

It's considered to be one of the world's first expressions of a serious ecological concerns towards the future. It would also be one of the first to be attacked by environmental skeptics :-)

The quote
When his membership of the Dutch scientific board ended (1976), Böttcher started The Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources. The financial resources for the institute were Shell and the automobile industry.

In the beginning of the 90's, Böttcher became a vocal climate skeptic. After a TV-debate in which Böttcher declared there's no CO2-problem, Lucas Reijnders said to Frits Böttcher : "You know very well yourself what you said is incorrect" to which Böttcher gave the legendary answer "yeah i know, but i'm against nuclear energy"

Big Tobacco Lobby
In 1994 (at age 79 !) Böttcher started the European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF), together with Roger Bate and John Emsley. ESEF declared that, in order to remain independent, it would only accept funding from the sales of its publications. Two years later, Roger Bate would ask Philip Morris for a £50,000 grant.

ESEF is linked, via shared staff (Julian Morris and Roger Bate) and a shared web server, to the International Policy Network and the Sustainable Development Network.

ESEF can be considered as a European version of Steve Milloy's The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC). The aim of the now defunct ESEF was to bring tobacco advocacy into a larger field of environmental issues, like the ban on growth hormone for livestock (in Europe, it's illegal), restrictions on pesticides, etc.

In 1998, the academic members of lobby tool ESEF contained a lot of well known climate skeptics. Read and weep : Sallie Baliunas, Robert C. Balling, Sherwood Idso, Patrick J. Michaels, Harry N.A. Priem, Michel Salomon (the author of the Heidelberg appeal), S. Fred Singer, Willie Soon, Gerd-Rainer Weber, while Richard S. Courtney was listed as a bussiness member.

Böttcher in his turn would become a member of the advisory board of S. Fred Singers Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Böittcher would publish two books on the subject of climate change :

  • Science and fiction of the greenhouse effect and carbon dioxide, The Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources, 1992,
  • CO2, Klimabedrohung oder Politik? (in English : CO2, climate fraud or politics?), samen met H. Metzner, Paul Haupt, 1994
Böttcher called global warming a conspiracy involving a few hundreds of scientists and politicians.

The Heidelberg Appeal
It is in this environment of Big Tobacco lobbygroups like ESEF & TASSC that the Heidelberg Appeal would arise. Which is material for the next episode in the series.

The Heidelberg Appeal would lead into a Dutch division called Stichting Heidelberg Appeal Nederland (stichting HAN) which would become one of Hollands prominent anti-environmental groups.

HAN soon start to coöperate with Böttchers aforementioned private tool The Global Institute for the Study of Natural Resources and in 1997 they would start the Science and Society Forum (SSF). In a 2007 interview Böttcher stated the global institute still existed on it's own with one employee.

Frits Böttcher passed away on november 23, 2008.