On April 10, the Delft Technical University published on her website the document TU Delft position on Climate Action, where it is argued why and how the university defines much of her activities by standards of what we will here call the climate paradigm: the idea that modern man is significantly responsible for any climate change that occurs and that this should govern the activities: for the universities this would involve the development of CO2 reducing technologies in support of mitigation and to some extent also adaptation.

We at GRK consider this as a very important document since this constitutes a justification, an explicit argumentation which must be valid if this theme is to be appropriate as a guide for the university agenda. In contrast to goals and themes from the past, where several more reasonably objective and evident United Nations goals such as adequate water supply and food production prevailed as guidelines, now an entire programme depends on an alleged climate dependence on human-caused “greenhouse gas emission”.

Therefore, we analyse in this article step by step the points from this brochure and are particularly keen on identifying vague and ambiguous language as well as half-truths that can be in the way of truth-seeking. What matters is facts and agreement with observations. Correlation is necessary, but causation is essential, while at the same time recognising lack of knowledge where appropriate. Please use the comment section for providing your opinion about the argumentation.

Our comments are in the right-hand column and we will adjust them to our progress of analysis, also due to any input you may provide for which we thank you in advance.

This a first step emerges in a debate. We do hope that both form and content will appeal to a wide audience.

Klimaat actieplan TU Delft
Klimaat actieplan TU Delft

Points from the “Climate Action Plan”

GRK Analysis

  1. The Earth is warming. There are numerous measurements, from weather stations around the world, from weather balloons, ocean buoys, and, more recently, from satellites, which show this.
  2. Emissions of greenhouse gases, mostly due to the use of fossil fuels, have risen sharply during the last decades..
  3. The observed increase of the mean global temperature since pre-industrial times has been robustly attributed to the increase of greenhouse gases. Other phenomena, such as variations in solar radiation, or the concentration of dust particles in the atmosphere, have a much smaller effect. Geological and orbital variations are too slow to explain the current rapid temperature increase.
  4. The warming is also apparent from other signals than increases in atmospheric and ocean temperatures. Sea level is increasingly rising, glaciers are retreating and the amount of polar ice is quickly decreasing. Regional rainfall patterns are changing, and also weather extremes such as heatwaves are increasing.
  5. To reduce global warming, it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to CO2 (carbon dioxide), this includes CH4 (methane), N2O (nitrous oxide), and hydrofluorocarbons.
  1. In order to limit the warming to a maximum of 2°C, it is necessary to reduce the worldwide net CO2 emissions to zero in the second half of this century. If we want to limit the emissions to a 1.5°C warming, this must be the case in the middle of this century.
  2. In order to make statements about the future, climate models are needed, in combination with scenarios for developments of, among other things, the global economy, population growth, technological development, policies, lifestyle and standard of living.
  3. The current climate models, as presented by the IPCC, the United Nations platform for climate scientists from all over the world, are capable of reproducing the globally observed temperature trends and can be used as a basis for climate policy.
  4. Complying with the Paris Agreement is a necessary action to protect our societies from adverse consequences of global warming. However, the plans might not be sufficient to limit the warming to 2°C. While it is possible to reduce global warming to safer levels through the Paris Agreement and eventual additional policies, we need to prepare for global adaptation to the effects of climate change as well.
  5. The Paris Agreement also implies that negative emissions – the removal of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere – are necessary. Intense work in this area is needed as the available techniques are still insufficiently developed for large-scale application, and also new techniques need to be developed.
  6. If at any time in the future the effects of climate change prove to be extreme, new techniques should be available that, as a safety valve, can temporarily cool the earth. The required techniques for this still need to be developed, and the risks versus benefits thoroughly assessed.
  • We conclude that both climate mitigation (the prevention of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and climate adaptation (adapting to ongoing and future in the climate) are very much needed in order to keep our planet viable in the long term. That certainly also applies to The Netherlands.
  • The transition to a sustainable, low-carbon and resilient society is however very complex, involving technical, social and ethical challenges. This transition calls on a wide range of different actors and policy makers to change current practices.
  • These changes bring forth questions like what is the best technical solution for a specific context, at a specific time or a specific location? What are cost-effective, practical possibilities and the associated societal and ethical concerns? Who will profit and who will not, and how should we deal with that? How can we make sure the energy transition is fair and inclusive? What policies do we need to make the solutions sustainable?
  1. That is indeed correct.
    It is proper to mention that temperature increase commenced before human CO2 emissions could play a role.
  2. CO2 content does indeed rise and a relation with human emissions is broadly accepted, notwithstanding some serious questions about this assumption that remain unanswered.
  3. There is no proof for this proposition. The fact that one cannot conceive of another explanation for recent warming does not mean that a rather arbitrary assertion like this would, therefore, be true. Why did the earth warm up in the first part of the last century? Why did temperatures in the Litlle Ice Age before that drop to lowest levels in thousands of years? This cannot be explained using climate models, by CO2 concentration or otherwise.
    It may be tempting to correlate rising CO2 concentration in the second part of the last century to the temperature rise, but that is by itself unscientific. More so because the strong increase after the war coincided with a remarkable 20 year lasting temperature stability or even decrease. Our knowledge of climate mechanisms is yet far removed from a well-founded explanation of temperature fluctuations on earth.
  4. The historical record of any of the ‘signals’ mentioned (more appropriately called ‘indicators’) agrees with the fact of a global warming trend as discussed in point 1).
    However, many studies including the recent study by Deltares in The Netherlands contrast with the alleged acceleration of sea level rise that is claimed here: it cannot be found in the Dutch measurements and cannot be deduced from gauging in the rest of the world.
    Furthermore, the IPCC announced in their SREX report that is cannot be stated that ‘extreme weather’ (such as hurricanes or droughts) is increasing. Elementary physics considerations even tell us that the driving factor behind events such as hurricanes decrease (temperature difference between poles and tropical regions).
    Finally, it should be noted that IPCC-SREX propositions about increasing heat waves are always very cautiously formulated: “… there is medium confidence that the length or number of warm spells or heat waves has increased”.
  5. This conclusion is one that is premature so long as the scientific debate about the major issues is still undecided. As an aside, both occurrence and effects on climate of atmospheric methane are even less well understood than those of CO2.
  1. Deze aannames vloeien voort uit de projecties van klimaatmodellen, waarvan aangetoond is dat de voorspellende waarde laag is.
    Wanneer niet de klimaatmodellen van het IPCC maar de waarnemingen uit de IPCC rapporten als uitgangspunt genomen worden, blijkt de opwarming zelfs nog onder de 2 graden te blijven als er pas vanaf 2080 CO2 gereduceerd gaat worden (Lewis & Curry). De door de TU gesuggereerde urgentie van de CO2 reductie heeft geen wetenschappelijke basis.
  2. Ieder model waarvan geclaimd wordt dat het van nut is, dient gevalideerd te zijn conform de ingenieursmethode. Een model dat onvoldoende overeenkomt met de waarnemingen kan dan ook niet als geldig beschouwd worden. Een dergelijke audit omvat fouten-propagatie-analyse en uitgebreide validatie ten aanzien van de uitkomsten op globaal en lokaal niveau, voor temperaturen in de hydrosfeer en in diverse lagen van de atmosfeer, wolkenbedekking en precipitatie.
    Vanaf het IPCC AR5 rapport zijn de projecties van de klimaatmodellen niet meer in lijn met de observaties. Van betrouwbare gekoppelde modellen en scenario’s kan tot het moment van validatie geen sprake zijn.
    Daarentegen dient het positieve effect van goedkope energie  op de levensstandaard erkend en gekwantificeerd te worden. Zodat duidelijk wordt wat de desastreuze invloed op de wereldeconomie zal zijn van onbezonnen beleid dat leidt tot hogere energieprijzen.
  3. Dit is onjuist: de huidige klimaatmodellen zijn niet in staat om het klimaat uit het verleden te reproduceren. Ze hebben ook dusdanig veel parameters dat er geen sprake is van unieke oplossingen. Bovendien is een beroep op compleetheid ten aanzien van de fysische mechanismes en factoren in deze modellen op zijn zachtst gezegd misleidend: ze zijn niet op exact berekende fysische processen in de atmosfeer gebaseerd, maar op benadering daarvan met behulp van subjectieve parametrisaties.
  4. Uit berekeningen van het PBL volgt dat alle beloofde CO2 reducties van het Parijs akkoord bij elkaar ca 35Gton aan CO2 reductie opleveren. Uit de carbon budget methode van het IPCC volgt dat voor de 2 graden doelstelling echter een reductie van 2000 tot 4000 Gton CO2 nodig is t.o.v. van het huidige beleid (van voor Parijs). De opmerking dat Parijs wel eens ontoereikend zou kunnen zijn is zeer misleidend: Parijs doet niet 1% van wat het IPCC noodzakelijk acht voor de 2 graden doelstelling.
    Dat leidt dus tot een veel sterkere conclusie van punt 4: tenzij een honderd maal grotere wereldwijde reductie dan die is voorgenomen in Parijs financieel, technisch en maatschappelijk aantoonbaar haalbaar is, moet de aandacht en de besteding van middelen verplaatst worden van mitigatie naar adaptatie.
    Er zit geen logica achter de conclusie dat beide noodzakelijk zijn.
    Dat de mensheid er goed aan doet om zich voor te voorbereiden op “wereldwijde aanpassing aan de effecten van de klimaatverandering” is even evident als triviaal. De moderne mens is er met name in geslaagd zich te wapenen tegen ongunstige klimaten door beheersing en benutten van praktisch bruikbare en betaalbare energie.
  5. De argumentering voor negatieve emissies is afhankelijk van de uitkomst van het wetenschappelijk debat over de effecten van CO2, derhalve geldt hetzelfde als voor punt 1-5.
    De bepleite verwijdering van broeikasgassen uit de atmosfeer  kost bovendien zeer veel geld en energie en is totdat het tegendeel is bewezen, nutteloos en eigenlijk zelfs ongewenst vanwege de bewezen positieve effecten van CO2 op organisch leven en onze voedselproductie.
  6. De opmerkingen over de ‘veiligheidsklep’ tonen dat er bij de opstellers van deze argumentatie gebrekkige  klimaatkennis aanwezig is: er bestaat niet één aanleiding om te veronderstellen dat het klimaat instabiel zou kunnen worden.
  • In the previous, the absolute necessity to mitigate has not been convincingly argued and cannot be a valid conclusion. If anything follows from the previous, it would be that a choice for adaptation is the only no-regret approach to any climate change that is apparent.
    We from the GRK conclude that “planet habitability” as always is determined by human ingenuity and adaptability, enabled by the availability of plentiful quantities of demand-driven energy. The term ‘sustainable’ can only be misleading if dissociated from a rational discussion about the desired substance and speed of a future energy transition.
  • The premise here is energy transition, whereas in the previous is actually became clear that Paris-based climate policy, by itself already putting a higher burden in cost and popular support, provides only 1% of the reduction that according to the IPCC would be required for 2 degrees Celsius. It follows that any target to ban fossil fuels would be utopian (or dystopian) and that continuing policy in that direction only has negative consequences for society. In the academic approach, there is no room for a dogmatic position but rather a pragmatic cost-benefit should be leading for decision making.
  • Concern over the consequences of “climate policy” is very much legitimate. Our prosperity and flourishing depend strongly on cheap and freely available energy. The intended overly hasty energy transition within 30 years is guaranteed to have big consequences for productivity, prosperity and well being in The Netherlands; the world is well-advised not to follow this example.
Klimaat actieplan TU Delft
  1. The Earth is warming. There are numerous measurements, from weather stations around the world, from weather balloons, ocean buoys, and, more recently, from satellites, which show this.
  2. Emissions of greenhouse gases, mostly due to the use of fossil fuels, have risen sharply during the last decades..
  3. The observed increase of the mean global temperature since pre-industrial times has been robustly attributed to the increase of greenhouse gases. Other phenomena, such as variations in solar radiation, or the concentration of dust particles in the atmosphere, have a much smaller effect. Geological and orbital variations are too slow to explain the current rapid temperature increase.
  4. The warming is also apparent from other signals than increases in atmospheric and ocean temperatures. Sea level is increasingly rising, glaciers are retreating and the amount of polar ice is quickly decreasing. Regional rainfall patterns are changing, and also weather extremes such as heatwaves are increasing.
  5. To reduce global warming, it is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition to CO2 (carbon dioxide), this includes CH4 (methane), N2O (nitrous oxide), and hydrofluorocarbons.
  1. In order to limit the warming to a maximum of 2°C, it is necessary to reduce the worldwide net CO2 emissions to zero in the second half of this century. If we want to limit the emissions to a 1.5°C warming, this must be the case in the middle of this century.
  2. In order to make statements about the future, climate models are needed, in combination with scenarios for developments of, among other things, the global economy, population growth, technological development, policies, lifestyle and standard of living.
  3. The current climate models, as presented by the IPCC, the United Nations platform for climate scientists from all over the world, are capable of reproducing the globally observed temperature trends and can be used as a basis for climate policy.
  4. Complying with the Paris Agreement is a necessary action to protect our societies from adverse consequences of global warming. However, the plans might not be sufficient to limit the warming to 2°C. While it is possible to reduce global warming to safer levels through the Paris Agreement and eventual additional policies, we need to prepare for global adaptation to the effects of climate change as well.
  5. The Paris Agreement also implies that negative emissions – the removal of greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere – are necessary. Intense work in this area is needed as the available techniques are still insufficiently developed for large-scale application, and also new techniques need to be developed.
  6. If at any time in the future the effects of climate change prove to be extreme, new techniques should be available that, as a safety valve, can temporarily cool the earth. The required techniques for this still need to be developed, and the risks versus benefits thoroughly assessed.
  • We conclude that both climate mitigation (the prevention of climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and climate adaptation (adapting to ongoing and future in the climate) are very much needed in order to keep our planet viable in the long term. That certainly also applies to The Netherlands.
  • The transition to a sustainable, low-carbon and resilient society is however very complex, involving technical, social and ethical challenges. This transition calls on a wide range of different actors and policy makers to change current practices.
  • These changes bring forth questions like what is the best technical solution for a specific context, at a specific time or a specific location? What are cost-effective, practical possibilities and the associated societal and ethical concerns? Who will profit and who will not, and how should we deal with that? How can we make sure the energy transition is fair and inclusive? What policies do we need to make the solutions sustainable?
Klimaat actieplan TU Delft
  1. That is indeed correct.
    It is proper to mention that temperature increase commenced before human CO2 emissions could play a role.
  2. CO2 content does indeed rise and a relation with human emissions is broadly accepted, notwithstanding some serious questions about this assumption that remain unanswered.
  3. There is no proof for this proposition. The fact that one cannot conceive of another explanation for recent warming does not mean that a rather arbitrary assertion like this would, therefore, be true. Why did the earth warm up in the first part of the last century? Why did temperatures in the Litlle Ice Age before that drop to lowest levels in thousands of years? This cannot be explained using climate models, by CO2 concentration or otherwise.
    It may be tempting to correlate rising CO2 concentration in the second part of the last century to the temperature rise, but that is by itself unscientific. More so because the strong increase after the war coincided with a remarkable 20 year lasting temperature stability or even decrease. Our knowledge of climate mechanisms is yet far removed from a well-founded explanation of temperature fluctuations on earth.
  4. The historical record of any of the ‘signals’ mentioned (more appropriately called ‘indicators’) agrees with the fact of a global warming trend as discussed in point 1).
    However, many studies including the recent study by Deltares in The Netherlands contrast with the alleged acceleration of sea level rise that is claimed here: it cannot be found in the Dutch measurements and cannot be deduced from gauging in the rest of the world.
    Furthermore, the IPCC announced in their SREX report that is cannot be stated that ‘extreme weather’ (such as hurricanes or droughts) is increasing. Elementary physics considerations even tell us that the driving factor behind events such as hurricanes decrease (temperature difference between poles and tropical regions).
    Finally, it should be noted that IPCC-SREX propositions about increasing heat waves are always very cautiously formulated: “… there is medium confidence that the length or number of warm spells or heat waves has increased”.
  5. This conclusion is one that is premature so long as the scientific debate about the major issues is still undecided. As an aside, both occurrence and effects on climate of atmospheric methane are even less well understood than those of CO2.
  1. Deze aannames vloeien voort uit de projecties van klimaatmodellen, waarvan aangetoond is dat de voorspellende waarde laag is.
    Wanneer niet de klimaatmodellen van het IPCC maar de waarnemingen uit de IPCC rapporten als uitgangspunt genomen worden, blijkt de opwarming zelfs nog onder de 2 graden te blijven als er pas vanaf 2080 CO2 gereduceerd gaat worden (Lewis & Curry). De door de TU gesuggereerde urgentie van de CO2 reductie heeft geen wetenschappelijke basis.
  2. Ieder model waarvan geclaimd wordt dat het van nut is, dient gevalideerd te zijn conform de ingenieursmethode. Een model dat onvoldoende overeenkomt met de waarnemingen kan dan ook niet als geldig beschouwd worden. Een dergelijke audit omvat fouten-propagatie-analyse en uitgebreide validatie ten aanzien van de uitkomsten op globaal en lokaal niveau, voor temperaturen in de hydrosfeer en in diverse lagen van de atmosfeer, wolkenbedekking en precipitatie.
    Vanaf het IPCC AR5 rapport zijn de projecties van de klimaatmodellen niet meer in lijn met de observaties. Van betrouwbare gekoppelde modellen en scenario’s kan tot het moment van validatie geen sprake zijn.
    Daarentegen dient het positieve effect van goedkope energie  op de levensstandaard erkend en gekwantificeerd te worden. Zodat duidelijk wordt wat de desastreuze invloed op de wereldeconomie zal zijn van onbezonnen beleid dat leidt tot hogere energieprijzen.
  3. Dit is onjuist: de huidige klimaatmodellen zijn niet in staat om het klimaat uit het verleden te reproduceren. Ze hebben ook dusdanig veel parameters dat er geen sprake is van unieke oplossingen. Bovendien is een beroep op compleetheid ten aanzien van de fysische mechanismes en factoren in deze modellen op zijn zachtst gezegd misleidend: ze zijn niet op exact berekende fysische processen in de atmosfeer gebaseerd, maar op benadering daarvan met behulp van subjectieve parametrisaties.
  4. Uit berekeningen van het PBL volgt dat alle beloofde CO2 reducties van het Parijs akkoord bij elkaar ca 35Gton aan CO2 reductie opleveren. Uit de carbon budget methode van het IPCC volgt dat voor de 2 graden doelstelling echter een reductie van 2000 tot 4000 Gton CO2 nodig is t.o.v. van het huidige beleid (van voor Parijs). De opmerking dat Parijs wel eens ontoereikend zou kunnen zijn is zeer misleidend: Parijs doet niet 1% van wat het IPCC noodzakelijk acht voor de 2 graden doelstelling.
    Dat leidt dus tot een veel sterkere conclusie van punt 4: tenzij een honderd maal grotere wereldwijde reductie dan die is voorgenomen in Parijs financieel, technisch en maatschappelijk aantoonbaar haalbaar is, moet de aandacht en de besteding van middelen verplaatst worden van mitigatie naar adaptatie.
    Er zit geen logica achter de conclusie dat beide noodzakelijk zijn.
    Dat de mensheid er goed aan doet om zich voor te voorbereiden op “wereldwijde aanpassing aan de effecten van de klimaatverandering” is even evident als triviaal. De moderne mens is er met name in geslaagd zich te wapenen tegen ongunstige klimaten door beheersing en benutten van praktisch bruikbare en betaalbare energie.
  5. De argumentering voor negatieve emissies is afhankelijk van de uitkomst van het wetenschappelijk debat over de effecten van CO2, derhalve geldt hetzelfde als voor punt 1-5.
    De bepleite verwijdering van broeikasgassen uit de atmosfeer  kost bovendien zeer veel geld en energie en is totdat het tegendeel is bewezen, nutteloos en eigenlijk zelfs ongewenst vanwege de bewezen positieve effecten van CO2 op organisch leven en onze voedselproductie.
  6. De opmerkingen over de ‘veiligheidsklep’ tonen dat er bij de opstellers van deze argumentatie gebrekkige  klimaatkennis aanwezig is: er bestaat niet één aanleiding om te veronderstellen dat het klimaat instabiel zou kunnen worden.
  • In the previous, the absolute necessity to mitigate has not been convincingly argued and cannot be a valid conclusion. If anything follows from the previous, it would be that a choice for adaptation is the only no-regret approach to any climate change that is apparent.
    We from the GRK conclude that “planet habitability” as always is determined by human ingenuity and adaptability, enabled by the availability of plentiful quantities of demand-driven energy. The term ‘sustainable’ can only be misleading if dissociated from a rational discussion about the desired substance and speed of a future energy transition.
  • The premise here is energy transition, whereas in the previous is actually became clear that Paris-based climate policy, by itself already putting a higher burden in cost and popular support, provides only 1% of the reduction that according to the IPCC would be required for 2 degrees Celsius. It follows that any target to ban fossil fuels would be utopian (or dystopian) and that continuing policy in that direction only has negative consequences for society. In the academic approach, there is no room for a dogmatic position but rather a pragmatic cost-benefit should be leading for decision making.
  • Concern over the consequences of “climate policy” is very much legitimate. Our prosperity and flourishing depend strongly on cheap and freely available energy. The intended overly hasty energy transition within 30 years is guaranteed to have big consequences for productivity, prosperity and well being in The Netherlands; the world is well-advised not to follow this example.

Consequences for the “Climate Action Plan” TU Delft

The foundations of the central question are already addressed in the first part. If it is NOT “convincingly demonstrated” that the temperature variation is unusual and caused by human emissions of greenhouse gases, then what remains is a hypothesis of rather arbitrary nature. Then, the coupling of “climate” to a plan for action is only justified to the extent that it concerns climate-related threat to human existence in the traditional sense. There is definitely nothing new about that.

The 1%-99% argument occurring in the analysis of point 2-4 may be the most pressing argument that adaptation to whatever climate phenomenon should have precedence over mitigation.

After presenting the arguments above, the university builds by formulating four research questions and after that a discussion of seven areas. These will be presented on a different page for the sake of maintaining an overview. It concerns the following points:

Research Questions TU Delft:

  1. How strong is climate sensitivity?
  2. How will climate influence habitability?
  3. Where does the carbon go?
  4. To which extent can extreme events be attributed to climate change and how will they develop into the future?

Salient topics and research areas in the portfolio of  TU Delft:

  1. What are the challenges for climate adaptation?
  2. Energy Technology.
  3. Reduction of primary demand, re-use and efficiency measures.
  4. Carbon Capture, Conversion and Storage.
  5. Mobility.
  6. What are the challenges for climate adaptation?
  7. What about geo-engineering?

So now what?

We invite you to provide your comments here to the Climate Action Plan of the TU Delft, preferably specifically aimed at the points given. The comment can be positive and negative. We want the case for “climate action” to be formulated as strongly as possible. Please use a numbering system for designating the argument, since numbering starts at #1 at each tab sheet. Thanks for your contribution!


Prepared by: the analysis-panel of “De Groene Rekenkamer” for this article consisted of the following TU Delft alumni:

ir. Cyril Wentzel, ir. Theo Wolters en ir. Evert Jesse.

Editor-in-chief: Cyril Wentzel