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Dutch companies including Shell and NAM, funded well known climate skeptic Frits Böttcher

English translation of an article published 23 Feb 2020 by the Dutch Financial Times (FD)

Dutch industry funded climate skeptic Frits Böttcher

From our editor

According to FTM, Shell is one of the companies that Böttcher financed. Photo: ANP

In brief

  • Climate skeptic Frits Böttcher received at least one million guilders fom the Dutch business community in the 1990s.
  • At the request of donors, he wrote activist papers in which he denied the existence of the greenhouse effect.
  • Partly due to his work, there was little support for sustainable climate policy at the end of the last decade.

Between 1989 and 1998, Frits Böttcher received at least one million guilders (€ 450,000) from 24 Dutch companies, including Shell, NAM, AkzoNobel and DSM. With that money he set up an international network of climate skeptics. At the request of the donors, he also wrote activist papers and articles in which he denied the existence of the greenhouse effect. This is the result of research by Follow the Money (FTM) and the Authentic Journalism Platform (PAJ), who have access to the personal archive of Böttcher, who died in 2008.

Böttcher was a professor of chemistry and a well-known climate skeptic who tried to influence public opinion about the role of CO2 (carbon dioxide) in the atmosphere in his publications. To that end, he claimed that CO2 would be good for plants.

Response companies

Shell, Texaco, KLM, Hoogovens, ANWB and AkzoNobel, among others, transferred money to the climate skeptic. De Volkskrant, which also publishes extensively on Saturday about Böttcher, got stories from several of these parties involved. Shell’s CEO Marjan van Loon says that ‘this happened 25 or 30 years ago. We cannot speculate about what exactly happened and in which context. She added that it is “important to bear in mind that science has done a lot of research into the climate issue for decades,” and that Shell has long been clear about its position on climate change and the role of CO2.

KLM tells de Volkskrant that ‘there is no indication whatsoever’ that the airline Frits Böttcher paid for money thirty years ago and says it actually started to take sustainability measures in the 1990s. The ANWB does confirm that it has financed Böttcher because of its ‘excellent scientific reputation’.

Club of Rome

Böttcher is best known to the general public as co-founder and former chairman of the Dutch branch of the Club of Rome. This was an informal group with prominent figures from politics, science and business. Thanks to this club, Böttcher has built up a reputation as a socially committed, environmentally conscious scientist.

In 1971 came the Club of Rome with a report on the unbridled population and economic growth and the finiteness of fossil fuels. But Böttcher distanced himself from this report: in publishing it he emphasized the dangers of population growth and the need for new technologies to exploit unreachable resources until then. He did not say a word about a more sustainable economic model. On the contrary: he wrote to his clubmates that he felt it was an “urgent need” to counterbalance the “information that undermines the business community and is now being given everywhere”.

Kyoto Treaty

FTM and PAJ write that Böttcher’s work contributed to the fact that in the 90s there was little support for climate policy that contained CO2 emissions. This turned around at the end of the 90s. In 1997, the famous Kyoto Treaty was signed, in which it was agreed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, and Böttcher also stopped financing.


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