Abusing Freedom in Name of the Planet

(The following article is excerpted from remarks delivered by Mr. Klaus, president of the Czech Republic, before the National Press Club on May 27, 2008, as transcribed by Federal News Service.)

My thinking today is fundamentally influenced by the fact that I spent most of my life under the Communist regime which ignored and brutally violated human freedom and, as I remember quite well, wanted to command not only the people, but also the nature. To command the wind and rain is one of the famous slogans I remember since my childhood.

This experience taught me that freedom and rational dealing with the environment are indivisible.

I would like to stress that I do not live in the past and do not see the future threats to free societies coming from the 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…and at first sight quasi-noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of something above him. Like their predecessors, they will be certain that they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their idea reality.

In the past, it was in the nature of the masses or of the proletariat, this time in the name of the planet. Structurally, it is very similar. The current danger, as I see it, is environmentalism, and especially its strongest version, climate alarmism…

The real debate is, and should be, about costs and benefits of alterative human actions, about how to rationally deal with the unknown future about how much to trust the impersonal functioning of the markets in solving any human problem, including global warming and how much to distrust the very visible hand of very human politicians. …

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 have evolved around the idea of manmade global warming.

It is, farther, in the hands of politicians who, through the manipulation of people, maximize the number of votes they seek to get from the electorate. It is also, as a consequence of these political decisions, in the hands of bureaucrats of national, and more often of international institutions, who try to maximize their budgets and years of careers as well, regardless of the cost, truth and rationality.

Four Crucial Questions

I have to say that the basic questions of the current climate change debate are sufficiently known and well-structured. Four of them are crucial:

Question number one: Do we live in are era of statistically significant, non-accidental, and non-cyclical climate change?

Question number two: If so, is it dominantly manmade?

Question number three: 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?

And the final question: If we want to change the climate, can it be done, and are current attempts to do so the best allocation of our scarce resources?….

I would say that my answers to all these questions is no. No, but with a difference in emphasis.

I am not, myself, fighting about the first question. I don’t aspire to measure the global temperature or to correct the measurements of climatologists. And I even do not estimate the relative importance of effectors which influence it. … But to argue, as it is 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. And not only unjustified, it is also morally and intellectual deceptive, and this is something that I can’t live with.