A profile of Vaclav Klaus...
I really admire the President of the Czech Republic - why can we have a leader like him?
Mr. Klaus has become a globally prominent voice of skepticism about what he calls global-warming "alarmism." This week, while in New York to address a gathering of fellow "non-alarmists" at a conference in Times Square, he took some time to sit down with members of the Journal's editorial board to offer his dissenting views on Russia, Kosovo, America and of course, climate change.
"I am not a climatologist," Mr. Klaus cheerfully admits. "I am not disputing the measurement of the temperature." Even so, Mr. Klaus believes that his many years of experience in the fields of economics and econometrics give him some insight into the nature of the problems faced by climatologists and policy makers. In climatology as in economics, he says, "there are no controlled experiments. . . . You can't repeat the time series." So, just as you can't run a controlled experiment to determine the effect of, say, deficits on interest rates, we can't directly determine the effect of CO2 on climate. All we have are observations and inferences.
Mr. Klaus is also interested in the politics of global warming. He has written a book, tentatively titled "Blue, Not Green Planet," published in Czech last year and due out in English translation in the U.S. this May. The main question of the book is in its subtitle: "What is in danger: climate or freedom?"
He likens global-warming alarmism to communism, which he experienced first-hand in Cold War Czechoslovakia, then a Soviet satellite. While the communists argued that we must all sacrifice some freedom in pursuit of "equality," the "warmists," as Mr. Klaus calls them, want us to sacrifice liberty -- especially economic liberty -- to prevent a change in climate. In both cases, in Mr. Klaus's view, the costs of achieving the goal, and the impossibility of truly doing so, argue strongly against paying a price of freedom.
Furthermore, the fact that there has been some warming over so many years does not, by itself, prove to him that this trend will continue indefinitely. "Undoubtedly there is some warming," Mr. Klaus allows. "But there has never been no change in climate, no change in global temperatures."
The world, he argues, is full of risks, and the risk of catastrophic climate change is just one of them. Therefore, we need a more measured approach to assessing the risks and the costs of mitigating them.
Cost-benefit analysis and the precautionary principle "are two different methodologies, two different approaches, two different ways of thinking," he says. The less desirable precautionary principle "as used by Al Gore and all his fellow travelers" says that "if you are afraid that there are risks to something, you may prohibit everything." He continues: "This is for me absolutely unacceptable to think about."