From Communism to Environmentalism

Posted:May 30, 2008, 1:37 AM by NP Editor

Climate change, environmentalism, Vaclav Klaus

By Vaclav Klaus

I spent most of my life under the communist regime which ignored and brutally violated human freedom and wanted to command not only the people but also the nature. To command “wind and rain” is one of the famous slogans I remember from my childhood. This experience taught me that freedom and rational dealing with the environment are indivisible. It formed my relatively sharp views on the fragility and vulnerability of free society and gave me a special sensitivity to all kinds of factors which may endanger it.

I do not, however, live in the past and do not see the future threats to free society coming from old-fashioned communist ideology. The name of the new danger will undoubtedly be different, but its substance will be very similar. There will be the same attractive, to a great extent pathetic and at first sight quasi-noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of something greater than the self, supplemented by enormous self-confidence on the side of those who stand behind it. Like their predecessors, they will be certain they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their ideas reality. In the past it was in the name of the masses (or of the proletariat), this time it is in the name of the planet. Yet, structurally, both are very similar.

I see the current danger in environmentalism, and especially in its strongest version, climate alarmism. Feeling very strongly about it and trying to oppose it was the main reason for putting my book together, originally in the Czech language, in the spring of 2007. It has also been the driving force behind my active involvement in the current climate change debate and my being the only head of state who in September, 2007, at the UN Climate Change Conference inNew York City openly and explicitly challenged the ongoing global warming hysteria.

My deep frustration has been growing exponentially in recent years due to the facts that almost everything has already been said, that all rational arguments have been used and that global warming alarmism is still marching on. The whole process is already in the hands of those who are not interested in rational ideas and arguments. It is in the hands of climatologists and other related scientists who are highly motivated to look in one direction only because a large number of academic careers has evolved around the idea of man-made global warming. It is, further, in the hands of politicians who maximize the number of votes they receive from the electorate. It is also — as a consequence of political decisions — in the hands of bureaucrats of national, and more often of international, institutions who try to maximize their budgets and careers regardless of the costs, truth and rationality. It is in the hands of rent-seeking businesspeople who are — given the existing policies — interested in the amount of subsidies they receive and look for all possible ways to escape the positive, general welfare enhancing functioning of free markets. An entire industry has developed around the funds these firms are getting from the government. [For a recent Canadian example read Shawn McCarthy's article in the Globe and Mail on May 30th, 2008"A lobby machine that runs on Ethanol"]

The basic questions of the current climate change debate are sufficiently known and well-structured:

  • Do we live in an era of a statistically significant, non-accidental and non-cyclical climate change?
  • If so, is it dominantly man-made?
  • If so, should such a moderate temperature increase bother us more than many other pressing problems we face, and should it receive our extraordinary attention?
  • If we want to change the climate, can it be done? Are current attempts to do so the best allocation of our scarce resources?
  • My answer to all these questions is “no,” but with a difference in emphasis. I don’t aspire to measure the global temperature, nor to estimate the importance of factors which make it. This is not the area of my comparative advantages. But to argue, as it’s done by many contemporary environmentalists, that these questions have already been answered with a consensual “yes,” and that there is an unchallenged scientific consensus about this, is unjustified. It is also morally and intellectually deceptive.

    Financial Post 

    Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, presented his book, Blue Planet in Green Shackles, to the National Press Club in Washington this past Tuesday.