English Pages, 21. 7. 2011
The Australian: You have been an outspoken voice on the ideological aspects of the climate change debate. How much are current calls to cut carbon emissions politically motivated, inspired by a desire to harm industrialised economies and liberal democracies rather than motivated by a desire to assist the environment? Has climate action become a replacement for Communism and its variants for the activist political left to continue their battle against free market economics?
VK: I do not believe in the innocence of global warming alarmists. They do not care about the environment, they just misuse it in their crusade which aims at limiting our freedom and prosperity. I don’t want to make cheap comparisons of their ideology with communism, but I do see many similarities. It is – as you say – a new variant “for the activist political left” and I spent all my life fighting such a political thinking because I lived in such a political system.
Climate activists have sought to prevent debate on climate issues in Australia, successfully persuading venues to deny climate change sceptics a platform. One of Australia’s more prominent climate change advocates, Clive Hamilton has gone so far as to suggestion climate change may demand “emergency responses such as the suspension of democratic processes”. Does the climate debate and climate change absolutism threaten free speech and free expression of views?
I like your term “climate change absolutism” and will keep using it (with your permission). We have heard many times in the past, especially in the tragic moments of the 20th century, words like “suspension of democratic processes” in the name of “higher values, goals, ideas”. Communism was a typical example of that. We have to insist that there is no trade-off between democracy and concrete goals. There can be a trade-off between different concrete goals but democracy stands above them.
Has the climate change debate politicised the scientific community? Are scientists, economic modellers and others involved in climate change research producing alarmist findings to guarantee more funding for their research?
The climate change debate is the currently most visible example of the politicization of science. There is no doubt about it. Their practices used to receive more funding for research are absolutely unacceptable. Again, my experience with the organization of science in the communist era tells me that we are approaching similar procedures. It does not mean that the real scientists are doing that; it is more the activity of people who are around science, who try to manage science, who are not doing science themselves.
Australian politicians who support climate action point to the European emissions trading scheme. How real are the cuts to emissions that have supposedly been delivered under the scheme? How robust is the carbon accounting? Does the recent collapse in the EU carbon price reflect fears over the state of Euro zone economies or a lack of confidence in the will of European governments to achieve their stated carbon reduction policy aims, and the fact energy-efficiency measures appeared to be replacing carbon pricing as the EU's main climate change lever?
It is difficult to isolate the effects of the European emissions trading scheme, especially when it was not fully implemented, from all other effects. Some slowing down of carbon emissions trends in Europe was more influenced by the economic slowdown connected with the recent financial and economic crisis. It was a much stronger effect because the relationship between economic activity and carbon emissions is very strong and very stable. I have a similar answer to the question about the role of energy efficiency measures. They were not deliberately used by European governments – the politicians just talked about energy efficiency, they had no instruments to make it happen.
You are an economist. Another prominent economic figure active in the climate change debate, former British chancellor Nigel Lawson, will be visiting Australia at the start of next month. Do you agree with his thesis that the costs of tackling climate change outweigh the costs of continuing with business as usual?
I know Nigel Lawson very well, I wrote a preface for the Czech edition of his book “An Appeal to Reason” and our views are in many respects very similar. As any rational economist, he must always stress the standard cost-benefit analysis instead of precautionary principle used by global warming alarmists. I agree with him that the costs of fighting the climate will be much higher than the costs of potential global warming (if there will be any) in the foreseeable future.
The Australian, July 20, 2011
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