Several hundred Dutch scientists have warned about the risks of drilling for gas in the Wadden Sea in a second open letter. The letter is addressed to the ministers Van der Wal (Nature and Nitrogen) and Jetten (Climate and Energy) and state secretary Vijlbrief (Mining).
This second open letter comes less than three months after a previous letter in which scientists sounded the alarm about the decision by the Dutch government to allow gas extraction in North Sea near the island of Schiermonnikoog.
Both letters were sent by Scientists4Future, a ‘coalition of concerned scientists’. From a WUR perspective, it is noticeable that the Wageningen signatories to the first letter are missing among the names at the bottom of the second letter. When we inquired about this, we were assured it was not because they have changed their views on the gas drilling.
‘To be honest, I didn’t notice the initiative for that second letter,’ says marine mammal researcher Geert Aarts. ‘If I had seen it in time, I would probably have signed the letter again. To invest in fossil fuel now is not a future-proof approach. That is quite apart from the ecological effects.’
Annet Pauwelussen, assistant professor Marine Governance, also says it was not a deliberate choice to not sign the letter. Even so, she is relatively unbothered by the fact that her name is missing in the list of signatories. ‘I’m OK with that. I like to read up on the topic thoroughly before signing, but I haven’t done that yet in this case. I may still have signed the letter if I had known about it, but I must have missed the email.’
In the letter, Scientists4Future emphasize that granting licences for the extraction of gas under the Wadden Sea is a huge risk for the environment in this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Subsidence due to the gas extraction in combination with rising sea levels can reduce the area of mudflats exposed at low tide, whereas this is essential for the Wadden ecosystem.