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The Other Side of Global Warming Alarmism

English Pages, 7. 11. 2007

Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to address this distinguished audience. I would like to start by stressing how glad I am to be for the first time in the well-known Chatham House which has been the place of so many important talks and discussions in the whole 87 years of its existence.

My speeches here in London have been in the past years connected with two topics. The first one was the end of communism and our way of getting rid of its legacy. The second one was the European integration.

The transition from communism to a free society is over, and not only in my country. We may have reservations about developments in some of the former communist countries but I disagree with the attempts to look at those countries with a misleading optics of fighting communism there even now. It is a mistake and I am afraid a slightly snobbish position as well.

My second topic here used to be Europe and the European Union. Whereas the first issue is more or less closed because communism is over, the second issue is here with us. It has not faded away. On the contrary, with treaty after treaty, with summit after summit, the danger of creating a brave new world of a post-democratic European supranationalist entity is getting more and more acute.

After almost half a century of communism the Czech Republic had a strong desire to be a normal European country again. We understood and accepted that it requires – these days – to become a member of the European Union. Nevertheless, due to our experience with the suppression of freedom and democracy in the name of allegedly “higher” goals, we consider the current European unification project itself – again an almost holy and sacred goal which explains, justifies and excuses everything – not only a blessing.

The recent embracement of the so-called Reform Treaty, which is in all important aspects identical with the old Constitutional Treaty, is a defeat for all true European democrats and should be interpreted as such. The down-playing of its true essence is intellectually unacceptable and morally inexcusable.

Nevertheless, there is another threat on the horizon. I see this threat in environmentalism which is becoming a new dominant ideology, if not a religion. Its main weapon is raising the alarm and predicting the human life endangering climate change based on man-made global warming. The recent awarding of Nobel Prize to the main apostle of this hypothesis was the last straw because by this these ideas were elevated to the pedestal of “holy and sacred” uncriticisable truths.

It became politically correct to caricature us, who dare to speak about it, as those who are talking about things they do not understand and are not experts on. This criticism is inappropriate. People like me do not have ambitions to enter the field of climatology. They do not try to better measure global temperature or to present alternative scenarios of the future global climate fluctuations.

They need not do it because the climate change debate is basically not about science; it is about ideology. It is not about global temperature; it is about the concept of human society. It is not about scientific ecology; it is about environmentalism, which is a new anti-individualistic, pseudo-collectivistic ideology based on putting nature and environment and their supposed protection and preservation before and above freedom. That’s one of the reasons why my recently published book on this topic has a subtitle: “What is Endangered, Climate or Freedom?”.

When we look at it in a proper historical perspective, the issue is – once again – freedom and its enemies. Those of us who feel very strongly about it can never accept

- the irrationality with which the current world has embraced the climate change (or global warming) as a real danger to the future of mankind, as well as

- the irrationality of proposed and partly already implemented etatist and dirigistic measures because they will fatally endanger our freedom and prosperity, the two goals we consider – I do believe – our priorities.

My position can be summarized in the following way:

1. Contrary to the currently prevailing views – promoted by global warming alarmists, by Al Gore’s preaching, by the IPCC, or by the Stern Report – the increase in global temperatures in the last years, decades and centuries has been very small and because of its size practically negligible in its actual impact upon human beings and their activities. For most of the Earth’s history (95% of it), the globe has been warmer than it has been for the last 200 years. In addition to it, using history again, it has been proved that the consequences of modest warming have been mostly positive, not negative.

2. The arguments of global warming alarmists rely exclusively upon very speculative forecasts, not upon serious analysis and extrapolation of past trends or upon undeniable conclusions of natural sciences. The available empirical evidence is not alarming. The highly publicized forecasts made by some leading environmentalists are based on experimental simulations of very complicated forecasting models that have not been found very reliable when explaining past developments. They were mostly done by software engineers, not by scientists themselves.

3. The debate has its important scientific side connected with the dispute whether the current mild warming is man-made or natural. Let’s listen to the scientists but one thing is and becomes evident more and more: the scientific dispute about the causes of recent climate changes continues. The attempts to proclaim a scientific consensus are self-debilitating. There is none. More and more scientists, on the contrary, dare to speak out about it.

4. The issue has an important economic aspect which requires the application of a standard cost–benefit analysis. A rational response to any danger depends on the size and probability of the eventual risk and on the magnitude of the costs of its avoidance. I feel obliged to say that – based on my knowledge – I find the risk too small and the costs of eliminating it too high. The application of the so-called “precautionary principle,” advocated by the environmentalists, is – conceptually – a wrong strategy, because human civilization cannot exist in a regime of the precautionary principle.

5. The deindustrialization and similar restrictive policies will be of no help. Instead of blocking economic growth, the increase of wealth all over the world and fast technical progress – all connected with freedom and free markets – we should leave them to proceed unhampered. They represent the solution to any eventual climate changes, not their cause. We should trust in the rationality of men. We should never forget that the government failure is always much bigger than the market failure. We should not believe more in Al Gore than in the omnipotence of the Soviet or Czechoslovak central planners. Fifty- or hundred-year plans of the current environmentalists will not be any better than the five-year plans which liquidated the economic freedom (and the economic efficiency connected with it) in the centrally planned economies of the past.

6. The global warming issue has a very important North-South and West-East aspect as well. Environmental quality is a luxury good and demand for it increases with income and wealth. The developed countries had to go along the path of the environmental Kuznets curve in the past and do not have any right to prematurely impose their current overambitious environmental standards upon less developed countries, because that would lead to an economic disaster there.

The only conclusion is that no radical measures are necessary. Famous Czech writer of the early 20th century Jaroslav Hašek, whose book “The Good Soldier Schweik” is known world-wide, made a point with saying: “To chce klid”. The Englishmen would probably say “Take it easy”.

I lived most of my life in an oppressive and very unproductive political, economic and social system called communism. It was impossible to “take it easy”. Now I live in a system based on the ideology of Europeism which prefers supranational institutions with their post-democracy to the good old democratic institutions in a well-defined constitutional sovereign state. It is difficult to “take it easy” again. And we are moving – very rapidly – to the era of environmentalism in which environment (or perhaps the irrational claims of environmentalists) is placed ahead of men and their freedom. We can take the global climate changes easy, but the climate propaganda and new wave of dangerous indoctrination of the whole world not.

Václav Klaus, Chatham House, London, 7 November 2007


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