Saturday, March 22, 2008

Vaclav Klaus on global warming

From the Heartland Institute, Vaclav Klaus' speech to the U.N. about global warming. Klaus is the President of the Czech Republic, a professor of economics, and the author of a book on the environment...

Several points must be made to bring the issue into proper context:

1. Contrary to artificially-created worldwide perception, the increase in global temperatures has been – in the last years, decades and centuries – very small by historical comparison, and practically negligible in its actual impact upon human beings and their activities.

2. The hypothetical threat connected with future global warming depends exclusively upon forecasts, not upon past experience. These speculative forecasts are, however, based on relatively short time series of relevant variables and on forecasting models that have not been found reliable when attempting to explain past developments.

3. There is no scientific consensus about this issue. There exists an unresolved scientific dispute about the causes of recent climate changes. An impartial observer must admit that both sides of the dispute – the believers in man’s dominant role in recent climate changes, as well as the supporters of the hypothesis about their mostly natural origin – offer arguments strong enough to be listened to carefully by the non-scientific community. To prematurely proclaim victory of one group over another would be a tragic mistake.

4. As a result of this scientific dispute, there are those who call for imminent action and those who warn against it. We have to choose. Rational response depends – as always – on the size and probability of the risk and on the magnitude of the costs of its avoidance. As a responsible politician, as an economist, as an author of a book about the economics of climate change, with all available data and arguments in mind, I have to conclude that the risk is too small, the costs of eliminating it too high -- and the application of a fundamentalistically interpreted “precautionary principle” a wrong strategy.

5. Even the politicians who believe in the existence of a significant global warming, and especially those among them who believe in its anthropogenic origin, remain divided: some of them are in favor of mitigation, which means trying to control global climate changes (and are ready to put enormous amounts of money into it), while others rely on adaptation to change, on modernization and technical progress, and on favorable impact of the future increase in wealth and welfare (and prefer putting public money there). The second option is less ambitious and promises much more than the first one.

6. The whole problem does not only have its time dimension, but a more-than-important spatial (or regional) aspect as well. This is highly relevant, especially here in the UN. Different levels of income (and wealth) in different places of the world make worldwide, universal solutions costly, unfair and to a great extent discriminatory. The already developed countries do not have the right to impose any additional burden on the less-developed countries. Dictating ambitious and for them inappropriate environmental standards is basically wrong and should be excluded from the menu of recommended policy measures.


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