Chief UN Climate Scientist Calls the Climate Crisis Narrative “Religious Extremism”

CO2 Coalition Releases First Professional Translation of Controversial Article in Finnish Business Journal – see below

IPCC reports are read like the Holy Book, where certain sentences are sought to justify their own extreme position. It has the features of religious extremism ….This world will not end…. We are at the best of mankind’s time in many ways.”

The CO2 Coalition of over 50 climate scientists and energy economists today released the first professional translation of a controversial article that appeared in a Finnish business newspaper on September 6, 2019. The article contained a lengthy interview with Dr. Petteri Taalas, who is the Secretary-General of the UN’s World Meteorological Organization. This position makes Taalas the top climate scientist at the UNIPCC, which advises governments on climate science and energy policy.

The article has created controversy, with Taalas being portrayed as both a supporter and a critic of the climate crisis narrative. The CO2 Coalition paid for an impartial, professional translation (below) so that Taalas’ opinions can be fairly assessed. The article was translated from the Finnish Financial Newspaper Talouselämä (The Journal) for the CO2 Coalition by Language Innovations LLC, on September 23, 2019.

The headline on the article is: Climate guru Petteri Taalas: Climate change is not yet out of control, but the debate is – “It has the features of religious extremism.”

Here is a key excerpt from the article:

The career meteorologist does not see the basis for the apocalyptic scenarios that are being predicted now. According to Petteri Taalas, there are, as of yet, no signs of horror images of climate change, such as the reversal of the Gulf Stream or large-scale methane depletion as the Siberian permafrost melts.

More excerpts and quotations are provided on the CO2 Coalition’s website.

Dr. Caleb Rossiter, a climate statistician who directs the CO2 Coalition, said that the full article shows that Dr. Taalas remains convinced that carbon dioxide is warming the planet, but disagrees with claims that the warming is catastrophic for humanity. “We applaud the UN’s top climate scientist’s rejection of the climate crisis narrative. The scientific data to date show a modest impact of CO2 emissions on temperature, virtually no impact on rates of extreme weather like hurricanes, droughts, and sea-level rise, and a major, positive impact on plant growth. I agree with Dr. Taalas that the media should stop promoting essentially religious views as science.”


(Translated from the Finnish Financial Newspaper Talouselämä (The Journal) for the CO2 Coalition by Language Innovations LLC, September 20, 2019)

Climate guru Petteri Taalas: Climate change is not yet out of control, but the debate is – “It has the features of religious extremism.”

(Sub-headline) The Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization calls for the big issues to be addressed in the fight against climate change. “There has been such a sense of darkness. Reasonable means for Finland should be carefully considered.”

(Photo caption) Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), shows the path from the backyard to the forest. Along the way, five of the family children once went to kindergarten.

(Text) Five. That’s a big family in these days. Many people are now wondering if they can have children at all. Will the offspring have to live as adults in a ruined planet? Every child and occupant is a source of emissions. Actually, can I even have children?

“Now we should curb our enthusiasm and think about what can really solve this problem,” Taalas says on the terrace of his home in Nuuksio, Espoo.

Taalas is the highest ranked Finn in the UN. His second home is in Geneva. He was recently elected to manage the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the United Nations specialized agency whose mandate covers weather, climate and water resources. The member States’ approval of Taalas’ reforms shows that he does not have any competition.

The career meteorologist does not see the basis for the apocalyptic scenarios that are being predicted now.

“This world will not end, the world will only become dark. The living conditions of some people on the planet are getting harder, but people have been living under difficult conditions for a while” Taalas says.

In his opinion, the Finnish discussion and reporting on climate change has become very distressing.

“The Finnish media has been raising the concern. The latest issue was that children became a negative thing. For example, I am concerned about young mothers who already have many burdens. This adds to their load.”

According to him, the solution to climate change does not require an individual to have an ascetic life or to stop having children.

“The fight against climate change can be done in good spirits. Big things are being done at the state level. If you start living a simplistic life, the world won’t also be saved”, Taalas says.

But what world will be saved? At the state level, things do not look very good. Despite the 2015 Paris Agreement, global emissions have risen over the last couple of years as global energy demand has increased. This is the wrong direction.

“Climate change is solved with private investment, not just with public money. I believe in win-win solutions. That it is economically viable to invest in climate-friendly solutions.
Consumers can benefit economically and even through healthy food or exercise.”

Should you move to New Zealand? This is what Petteri Taalas was discussing with his current wife back in the 1980s. They participated in peace marches and feared nuclear war. The fear was exacerbated by Soviet propaganda.

“We thought we might be safe in New Zealand because the southern hemisphere is not as badly polluted. We also think that it is not worthwhile to have children in such a world.”

Fear and anxiety subsided when the war did not happen.

“At that time there, was the same spiritual environment as there is now amongst the youth. Should we do something extreme very quickly? The media feeds it in part. Forests and food, for example, are important issues in combating climate change, but they are not the central issues. Now they have gained a lot of visibility,” Taalas says.

What would be the most pressing issue right now?

“In Finland, as in the rest of the world, the key to solving the problem is to give up fossil energy. Abandoning oil, coal, natural gas and peat in Finland. That is the key,” Taalas says.

However, Taalas does not want to downplay the importance of the vegetarian diet, as 70% of the cultivated area goes to feed the animals to produce meat. Feeding the world’s growing population requires change.

“Young people are interested in making positive changes. Our own children are an example of that. When they cook, we usually eat vegetarian food.”

Taalas explains his views from quite a few vantage points. WMO oversees issues related to natural disasters, climate and water resources. It has also set up an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with the United Nations Environment Organization (UNEP), whose scientific climate reports are constantly gaining attention.

The next UN climate summit is in New York, in September.

“I lead the Science Group at conferences, where we review the latest scientific findings and assess new initiatives in different countries to combat and adapt to climate change. The aim is to increase the level of ambition around reducing emissions. If this is not feasible, we will move towards a 3-5 degree-warming by the end of the century”, Taalas says.

This kind of warming already sounds quite scary, as extreme weather phenomena have become more common.

“We also need to focus on adapting to climate change.”

Goods and emissions come from China

Carbon dioxide emissions in 2017 (million tons)

United States
Saudi Arabia
South Korea
Great Britain
Source: Global Carbon Project

Finland, China and the EU show close values

Carbon dioxide emissions per capita in 2017 (tons)

United States
EU average

Until a few years ago, climate scientists had a fierce debate with so-called skeptics who disputed the foundations and results of climate research. This has subsided, but, according to Taalas, experts are now being challenged from the other side.

“Experts are under attack for not being radical enough. There are threats and extremists in all corners of the world.”

Much more radical climate action is being demanded today, namely by the Extinction Rebellion or the Rebellion Climate Movement, who already demand zero emissions by 2025 and “truthful” climate information from governments. Like the climate research from the Holy Book and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, which are now also being exploited in the same way.

“The IPCC reports are read like the Holy Book, where certain sentences are sought to justify their own extreme positions. It has the features of religious extremism,” Taalas says.

At the other side, there are the right-wing populists who oppose any kind of emission reduction and climate policy. How do we find a middle ground here? Taalas looks back at a 1970s Finnish approach, when the Korpilampi seminar created a common view on Finnish economic policy.

“We need some kind of climate Korpilampi seminar. Bringing biodiversity supporters, scientists, politicians and businesses to the table without hesitation. We would assess what makes sense for Finland in this regard.”

“There has been such a sense of darkness. Reasonable means for Finland should be carefully considered.”

Indeed, the current government program promises to bring various actors to the “round table on climate policy.” One challenge for the government is to make sure that climate action is accepted by the public. The difficulty was clear when France attempted to raise its fuel tax for climate reasons. It was blocked by yellow vest demonstrations.

“In democratic countries and probably in China as well, this is a delicate matter. A policy of prohibition will easily influence other types of decision-makers in the next elections. You have to think about how to get the people involved,” Taalas says.

Taalas believes that in climate policy, the media and researchers have focused on the individual.

“There has been such a sense of darkness. Measures are obviously needed, but Finland needs to think carefully about what to do. This requires interaction between different actors in society.”

He hopes for the media to be incisive and versatile when interviewing experts and stakeholders.

“We also have certain reservations about our experts. We are sometimes promoters of our own cause. This has also been reflected in issues related to forestry and diet.”

For him, for example, the most important issue was the ozone study 20 years ago.

“The more it was referenced in public, the better. At the same time, he hoped to increase funding for his field,” Taalas says.

Energy is part of the story

Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions and removals by sector in 2018 (EUR million tons)

*Emissions (56.5 million tones in total)               *Removals

Heating of buildings, waste incineration
Industrial processes
Carbon sinks in forests and land use
(LULUCF) Source: Statistics Finland

Global climate emissions have risen over the last couple of years, partly due to economic and production growth. Now the world economy is threatened by a trade war. Is it ultimately good for the climate?

Taalas does not declare himself a “Lincoln.” He does not believe that the trade war and the economic crisis are good for the climate.

“It may be that the trade war is focusing on things other than combating climate change. This was the case with the financial crisis. In climate action, soil is best when there are no other concerns.”

He also does not believe that climate policy should be turned into widespread prohibitions or some form of command economy.

“Globally, the problem is being solved through investment in non-fossil solutions for power generation, transportation and buildings. Land use and changes in the nutritional economy can further enhance this. The public sector has to create the framework, but the resources come mainly from elsewhere.”

The fight against climate change does not require a lower standard of living.

“Economically and technically, we are equipped to fight. That was the message in the October IPCC report. Living with adverse effects is estimated to be 20 times more expensive than the investments needed to solve the problem,” Taalas says. However, policy makers need to create a framework and give clear direction to market forces. This is what has happened in the EU and emissions have steadily decreased.”

According to him, the UN climate negotiations are now in a situation where countries are following each other. This is partly because President Donald Trump announced his willingness to withdraw from the treaty after his election. However, the strength of the market forces and the state says that the power of the emission development in the United States has been good.

“The US has already implemented half of the Paris Agreement commitments. It is invested in renewable and energy-saving because it is economically attractive.”

For example, the Navajo coal-fired power plant, with annual emissions equivalent to more than three million passenger cars, will soon be closed in Arizona.

At the same time, China’s emissions grew 3 percent last year. According to the Chinese State Research Institute, the country’s coal usage would not begin to decline until 2025. Will China stick to its goals?

“A large amount of coal power has been built, and it is difficult to give it up immediately. This is a big economic issue,” Taalas says. He points out that giving up coal power has not been easy in Helsinki.

“The economy supports the transition to renewable sources, but this does not happen instantaneously. China has seen this as a business opportunity. They are the world’s leading producer of solar technology.”

Taalas believes that increasing the carbon footprint of products may accelerate China’s coal power downtime.

“I would point out in particular giving up fossils and developing a forestry culture.”

The Nordic countries are an encouraging example in the fight against climate change. For example, Finland’s emissions are one fifth lower than in 1990, even though the economy has grown. The situation is further improved by new wind power, which is already worth building without subsidies, and by new nuclear power.

“Nuclear power can provide basic energy. It could replace fossil energy in China and India, for example,” Taalas says.

The challenge for nuclear power is that the price has risen due to increased safety requirements. According to Taalas, small power plants can help with high expectations.

So there are ways, despite the enormity of the challenge. According to Petteri Taalas, there are, as of yet, no signs of horror images of climate change, such as the reversal of the Gulf Stream or large-scale methane depletion as the Siberian permafrost melts.

“If we look at the state of the world, excluding climate change and population growth, then we are at the best of mankind’s time in many ways: the economy, health and, for example, the position of women will never be better. This whole picture doesn’t care about people,” he says.

This is well illustrated, for example, in the book “The World of Facts,” by the late Swedish professor Hans Rosling.

“Global climate change and population growth are things that aren’t well under control, but they can also be solved.”


Translation: Language Innovations LLC, Washington, DC