Václav Klaus: What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?

Council for National Policy Conference, Salt Lake City, 27.09.2007

published: 28.09.2006, read: 9598×


Thank you very much for the invitation to this important gathering. Thank you for giving me a chance to address this very distinguished audience.

I did not expect to come here again and especially in the position I hold now. It was in the dark communist days. It was at the end of the short but promising era of the Czechoslovak Prague Spring and it was my first and at the same time last visit to your beautiful country for the next 20 years. The collapse of communism in November 1989 changed everything. Freedom and democracy which followed as a result of our radical systemic change made us a totally different country, free and prosperous, member of the European Union and NATO, and a good friend and close ally of the United States of America.

I used the term "communism collapsed" not without purpose. I know that there are – both here and elsewhere – many people who claim that they defeated communism. As an integral part and active player of that process, I would dare to argue that communism melted down and would add that the meltdown was accelerated by the strong stances of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher who refused to compromise with the Soviet Union. What helped us was their policies, not the soft, so called peace-policy of our West European neighbors.

I have had tens, if not hundreds of speeches in your country after that. At the beginning, my topics were communism and how to get rid of its legacy. The transition from communism to a free society is over, and not only in my country. One may have reservations about developments in some of the former communist countries but I strongly disagree with attempts to look at those countries with a misleading optics of fighting communism there now. To trivialize the multifaceted and multidimensional post-communist transition in such a way is a serious fallacy.

My second topic, if not obsession, used to be (and still is) Europe and the European Union, something not sufficiently understood here. After almost half a century of communism the Czech Republic wanted to be again a normal European country, which means – these days – to be a member of the European Union.

This is what we accepted and both our gradual approaching the EU during the first fifteen years after the fall of communism and our entry into it three years ago represented an integral part of our radical political, social and economic transformation. Nevertheless, our communist experience made us sensitive to all kinds, forms, manifestations and aspects of the suppression of freedom and democracy in the name of allegedly "higher" goals and due to it we find that the EU unification project itself – an almost holy and sacred goal which explains, justifies and excuses everything – not only a blessing. The currently politically correct approach, I call Europeism, does not see it and tries to create a brave new world without nations, without borders, without politics, without a "demos" (which means without authentic citizens) and – as a result of it – without democracy. I see it as a big problem.

Today, I intend to discuss another "high and holy" issue. I want to speak about supposed devastating climate changes, about consequences of global warming and about our responses and reactions to them. Some people try – consciously or subconsciously – caricature people like me and accuse those of us, who dare to speak about it differently than is now politically correct, of talking about things we do not understand and are not experts on. They are wrong. People like me do not try to enter the field of climatology, do not try to better measure global temperature, and do not try to suggest alternative scenarios of the future global climate fluctuations (based on different, but equally speculative and unreliable forecasting models). In my argumentation I don’t talk about climatology but about environmentalism,about an ideology which puts nature and environment and their supposed protection and preservation before and above freedom.

It may sound surprisingly but I have the feeling that I have not changed the subject of my talks in the last 18 years. Talking about communism, talking about europeism and talking about environmentalism is more or less, structurally, similar if not identical.The issue is always 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 the main threat to the future of mankind, as well as

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

After spending the whole day at the UN Climate Change Conference on Monday and two following days at the General Assembly I know what I am talking about.

The problem is that we are confronted with many prejudices, misunderstandings and now already also vested insterests. As I said, 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.

I would summarize my position on these issues in the following way:

1. Contrary to the currently prevailing views – promoted by global warming alarmists, Al Gore’s preaching, the IPCC, or 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. (The today’s difference of temperature between Prague and Salt Lake City is almost 30 degrees Fahrenheit, which is much more than even Al Gore promises as regards the whole next century temperature increase.)

2. The available empirical evidence is not alarming. The arguments of global warming alarmists rely exclusively upon very speculative forecasts, not upon past experience. Their forecasts are based on experimental simulations of very large forecasting models that have not been found very reliable when explaining past developments.

3. The whole debate is, of course, not only about ideology. The problem has its important scientific aspect but it should be stressed that the scientific dispute about the causes of recent climate changes continues. The attempt to proclaim a scientific consensus on this issue is a tragic mistake, because there is none.

4. We are rational and responsible people and know that we have to act when necessary. But we should know that 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. As a responsible politician, as an academic economist, as an author of a book about the economics of climate change, I feel obliged to say that – based on our current knowledge – the risk is 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.

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. Economic growth, increase of wealth and technical progress represent the solution to the consequences of eventual climate changes, not their cause. We should promote adaptation, modernization, technical progress. We should trust in the rationality of free people.

6. This issue has a very important North-South and West-East dimension. The developed countries do not have the right to impose any additional burden on the less developed countries. Imposing overambitious and – for such countries – economically disastrous environmental standards on them is unfair and discriminatory.

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 good point saying: "To chce klid". The Americans would probably say "Take it easy" or "Let’s be cool" or "Calm down!". What the world needs now is to remain "quite normal". It requires, however, to get rid of the one-sided monopoly, both in the field of climatology and in the public debate. We have to listen to arguments. We have to forget the destructive, but currently so fashionable dictate (if not tyrany) of political correctness. We should provide the same or comparable financial backing to those scientists who do not accept the global warming alarmism.

When I spoke at the UN conference on climate change on Monday morning, I concluded my speech by saying: "We should trust in the rationality of man and in the outcome of spontaneous evolution of human society, not in the virtues of political activism. Therefore, let’s vote for adaptation, not for attempts to mastermind the global climate." There is nothing to add to it. Especially to this audience.


Václav Klaus

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