We Must Not Give Up the Fight Against Climate Alarmism
I strongly disagree with the global warming doctrine, which is an arrogant set of beliefs, an ideology, if not a religion, that endangers human freedom and prosperity.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Václav Klaus, first prime minister (1993–1998) and second president of the Czech Republic (2003–2013) and an economist who advocates free markets, delivered this speech at the conference of Association des Climato-réalistes, Musée Social in Paris, France on December 7, 2017. The Heartland Institute thanks President Klaus for permission to reprint it here, edited for publication.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Many thanks for the invitation and for the opportunity to participate in this important gathering. It is great to be in France after many years and to see Paris as it looks in the era of mass migration.
I travel abroad almost permanently, but not to France.
I don´t know whether it is my fault or something else. It may be partly caused by my inability to speak French, something I consider a great deficiency of mine, partly by the evident discrepancy between my views and mainstream French thinking.
Nevertheless, I was in the last couple of years inspired by the works of several French authors, such as Michel Houellebecq, Pascal Bruckner, Pierre Manent, Alain Finkielkraut, not to mention my old friends such as Pascal Salin. It gave me a new motivation to be in contact with France and its intellectuals.
I must admit that I was not, until very recently, aware of the French Association des Climato-réalistes, of its activities, and of its ability to organize such an important gathering as today´s. Many thanks for bringing me here and for giving me a chance to address this distinguished audience.
The issue of climate alarmism, of manmade and human-society-endangering global warming, has become one of my main topics as well as worries. I strongly disagree with the global warming doctrine, which is an arrogant set of beliefs—an ideology, if not a religion—that endangers human freedom and prosperity. It lives independently of the science of climatology. Its disputes are not about temperature; they are part of the “conflict of ideologies.”
Reminders of Communism
My way of looking at this topic is based on a very special experience gained under the Communist regime in which I spent two-thirds of my life. This experience sharpened our eyes. We became hypersensitive to all attempts to violate freedom, rationality, and free exchange of views, and we became hypersensitive to all attempts to impose on us the dogmas of those who consider themselves better than the rest of us. In the Communist era, we witnessed an irrational situation where science was at the same time promoted and prohibited, praised and celebrated, manipulated and misused. I have very similar feelings now.
My view of this topic is also based on my being an economist who has strong views about the role of markets and governments in human society and the economy, about the role of visible and invisible hands in controlling our life and shaping our future, and who considers the politically based interventions in the economy connected with the ambitions to fight climate absolutely untenable.
Finally, my view is based on my being a politician for 25 years of my recent life, who has always been fighting all variants of green ideology, and especially its highlight, the global warming doctrine. I have been for many years intensively involved in the worldwide, highly controversial, and heavily manipulated debate about global warming and about the role of human beings in it. I was the only head of state who dared to openly express a totally dissident view at the UN General Assembly already 10 years ago. (See “Statement by H.E. Mr. Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, at the General Debate of the 62nd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations, New York,” September 26, 2007, www.klaus.cz/clanky/1109.)
‘Ignorance and Dishonesty’
I actively participated in this debate in many ways, most visibly by a book with the title Blue Planet in Green Shackles, which was published in 18 languages around the globe.
This year I published a sequel, Shall We Be Destroyed by Climate or by Our Fighting the Climate? It is available only in Czech now; the English version is coming soon.
I don´t agree with the so-called consensus proclaimed about this issue by the global warming alarmists. The real consensus is very narrow. The scientists—and all rational human beings—agree that temperatures have warmed in the past two centuries and that human activities may have played some role in it. Nothing else. It is evident that both the size of warming and its causes continue to be hotly debated. There is absolutely no consensus in this regard.
The politicians who signed the Paris Agreement two years ago are either not aware of the missing scientific ground for it or are aware of it but signed it because it serves their personal or political interests. It may be both: ignorance and dishonesty.
The politicians understood that playing the global warming card is an easy game to play, at least in the short or medium term. And they know, together with the influential British economist John Maynard Keynes, that in the long run we are all dead. The problem is that the politicians do not take into consideration the long-term consequences of policies based on this doctrine. They hope the voters will appreciate their caring about issues more substantial than the next elections.
Global Warming Summarized
The global warming theory can be summarized in the following way.
It starts with the claim that there is an undisputed and undisputable, empirically confirmed, statistically significant, global, not local, warming. It continues with the argument that the time series of global temperatures exhibits a growing trend which dominates their cyclical and random components. This trend is supposed to be nonlinear, perhaps exponential. This trend is declared to be dangerous for the people (in the eyes of “soft” environmentalists) and for the planet (by “deep” environmentalists).
The growth of average global temperature is postulated as a solely or chiefly manmade phenomenon attributable to growing emissions of carbon dioxide from industrial activity and the use of fossil fuels. The sensitivity of global temperature to even small variations in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is supposed to be very high. The ongoing temperature increases can be reversed by radical reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, which should be organized by means of the institutions of global governance.
They forget to tell us that this reversal is not possible without undermining democracy, the independence of individual countries, human freedom, economic prosperity, and a chance to eliminate poverty in the world.
No Scientific Consensus
I do not believe in any one of these articles of faith, and I am glad not to be alone. There are many natural scientists and also social scientists, especially economists, who do not believe in them either. The problem is that the genuine scientists, or most of them, do science and are not willing to be involved in discussing this doctrine in the public space.
How to make a change? I dare say that science itself will not make it. The Global Warming Doctrine [GWD] is not based on science. Accordingly, scientific debate itself cannot bring it into disrepute.
I am also afraid that a decisive change cannot come as a result of new empirical data. It is evident that the current temperature data confirm neither the alarmist and apocalyptic views of the believers in the GWD nor their quasi-scientific hypotheses about the exclusivity of the relationship between carbon dioxide and temperature. As we all know, the statistical data didn´t show a global warming for the 18 years between 1998 and 2015.
Ideology, Not Science
Discussing technicalities in more and more depth will not help us either, because the supporters of the global warming doctrine are not interested in them.
Their ideas are the ideas of ideologues, not of scientists or climatologists. Data and theories, however sophisticated, will not change their views.
The same is true of the economic dimension of this debate. If somebody wants to reduce if not to eliminate carbon dioxide emissions, he must either expect a revolution in economic efficiency (which determines emissions intensity) or start organizing a worldwide economic decline. Nothing else is possible.
Unrealistic Discount Rates
Radically diminishing carbon dioxide emissions has both short-term and long-term consequences.
To analyze them requires us to pay attention to intertemporal relationships and to look at opportunity costs.
It is evident that by assuming a very low, near-zero discount rate, the proponents of the global warming doctrine neglect the issue of time and of alternative opportunities. A low discount rate used in global warming models means harming current generations vis-à-vis future generations. We should not accept claims that by adopting low discount rates we protect the interests of future generations, or that opportunity costs are irrelevant because in the case of global warming the problem of choice does not exist. This uneconomic or perhaps anti-economic way of thinking must never be accepted.
As someone who personally experienced central planning and attempts to organize the whole of society by directives from above, I feel obliged to warn against the arguments and ambitions of the believers in the global warming doctrine. Their arguments and ambitions are very similar to those we used to hear when living under Communism. These dangerous ideas should be resisted. It must be done at the political level. We have to explain it to the common people.