Global Warming Hysteria or Freedom and Prosperity?
One can tell – with a high degree of confidence – what topics are expected to be raised here, this morning when it comes to discussing the key challenges of today’s world. The selection of the moderator and my fellow-panelists only confirms it. I guess it is either international terrorism or poverty in Africa. Talking about both of these topics is necessary because they are real dangers but it is relatively easy to talk about them because it is politically correct. I do see those dangers and do not in any way underestimate them. I do, however, see another major threat which deserves our attention – and I am afraid it does not get sufficient attention because to discuss it is politically incorrect these days.
The threat I have in mind is the irrationality with which the world has accepted the climate change (or global warming) as a real danger to the future of mankind and the irrationality of suggested and partly already implemented measures because they will fatally endanger our freedom and prosperity, the two goals we consider – I do believe – our priorities.
We have to face many prejudices and misunderstandings in this respect. 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 nature or scientific ecology; it is about environmentalism, about one – recently born – dirigistic and collectivistic ideology, which goes against freedom and free markets.
I spent most of my life in a communist society which makes me particularly sensitive to the dangers, traps and pitfalls connected with it. Several points have to be clarified to make the discussion easier:
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 difference of temperatures between Prague where I was yesterday and Cernobbio where I am now is larger than the expected increase in global temperatures in the next century.)
2. As I said, the empirical evidence is not alarming. The arguments of global warming alarmists rely exclusively upon forecasts, not upon past experience. Their forecasts originate in experimental simulations of very complicated forecasting models that have not been found very reliable when explaining past developments.
3. It 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 have to act when necessary. But we 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. They represent the solution to any eventual climate changes, not their cause. We should promote adaptation, modernization, technical progress. We should trust in the rationality of free people.
6. It 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.
No radical measures are necessary. We need something “quite normal.” We have 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 fashionable political correctness. We should provide the same or comparable financial backing to those scientists who do not accept the global warming alarmism.
I really do see environmentalism as a threat to our freedom and prosperity. I see it as “the world key current challenge.”
Václav Klaus, Ambrosetti Forum,Villa d’Este,Itálie