Tuesday, June 03, 2008

President Klaus of the Czech Republic

Below is a translation of the foreword to the Dutch edition of Vaclav Klaus's new book on the environment: "Blue Planet in Green Shackles". Foreword by Hans Labohm, one of the expert reviewers of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

This is a unique booklet. The author belongs to the most outstanding and important politicians of his country and, more generally, of Central and Eastern Europe as a whole. After the demise of communism, he played a remarkable role in the transformation process and modernisation of his country (which subsequently was peacefully divided into the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic). He was minister of finance, prime minister, chairman of parliament and head of state.

But more importantly in the framework of this booklet, he is - as far as I know - one of the rare prominent politicians, who has an intimate knowledge of environmental and climate issues, and does not blindly follow the alarmist views, represented by various national and international institutions, such as the UN and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As such he is often regarded as a dissident in the international environment and climate debate and one of the most important opponents of Al Gore.

Vaclav Klaus approaches today's environmentalism from a totally different perspective. As someone who spent a great deal of his life under communism, he is hypersensitive to any measure which encroaches upon human freedom. In his view, at the beginning of the 21st century, communism or one of its weaker variants, does not constitute the greatest threat to freedom, democracy and the free market system any more. No, this threat has been substituted by that of militant environmentalism. It is an ideology which preaches the primacy of nature and the earth.

Like the gospel of erstwhile Marxism, it aims at the suppression of the spontaneous evolution of mankind and wants to replace it by some sort of worldwide central planning of society. Klaus is convinced that, paradoxically, this will be damaging to nature and the earth, just like the introduction of Marxism has resulted in the exploitation, not only of workers, but of the population as a whole.

At the climate summit in New York, in September 2007, Vaclav Klaus was the only speaker who voiced doubts about the man-made global warming hypothesis (the hypothesis - because it is not more than that - that mankind has a substantial impact on global warming and that this will have disastrous consequences). Indeed, most experts agree that there has been some warming over the past 150 years, but this warming is very modest and almost insignificant for mankind. Moreover, this warming lies within the limits of natural variability.

As has been observed, the idea that mankind has a important impact on climate is a hypothesis. This hypothesis, however, is in many ways contradicted by facts, observations and measurements. Yet, counter indications have been systematically ignored in official reports. Vaclav Klaus always emphasises that he, as an economist, does not pretend to possess any scientific expertise when participating the in the climate debate.

This modesty is commendable. Yet, the question arises whether he does not detract from his own merits. After all, from the point of view of methodology there are similarities between climatology and economics. Both disciplines use computer models. From a previous life as an active economist, Vaclav Klaus possesses an intimate knowledge of their possibilities and limits. Although the use of models is useful, yes indispensable to explore complex systems, one should be aware of the fact the they do not offer a reliable basis for predictions. Both climatologists and economists simply know too little of the factors which are influencing the systems which they investigate.

Klaus does not oppose policies which aim at careful husbandry of the environment. On the contrary. He shares that attitude with other critics of environmentalism and climate sceptics. But he resists absolutism and fundamentalism, which are so rampant in this field and which completely ignore the costs and benefits of the various policies which have been implemented or are still in the pipeline.

Klaus is particularly concerned about the way environmental issues are being exploited by some political and interest groups for a frontal attack on the basic tenets of a free society. It has become increasingly clear that the current climate debate is not a controversy about the environment, but about human freedom.

Dogmatic environmentalists will most probably not be inclined to adjust their views in the light of the arguments advanced by Vaclav Klaus in this booklet. But for those who do not pretend to be omniscient and who - like Klaus - are in favour of a healthy environment, but who, in addition, also attach importance to other values and priorities, his analysis of fundamental issues, which so far have not or hardly have been addressed in the debate, constitutes a fresh intellectual shower, if not an eye-opener.

Global Warming: 'This myth, this hoax, this fraud'

Will the news that 31,000 scientists signed a petition rejecting the catastrophic, man-made global warming threat change the political and cultural dynamic in this country on this phantom problem? I hope so, but I sincerely doubt it.

This myth, this hoax, this fraud is being taught to children in public schools throughout America as if it were established fact. This myth, this hoax, this fraud is being spoon-fed to Americans by the millions in newspaper articles and TV-news scare stories every day. This myth, this hoax, this fraud is manipulating people around the world in movies and TV programming. This myth, this hoax, this fraud is being rammed down the throats of college students in science classes -- and courses that have no connection to science or politics whatsoever. And this myth, this hoax, this fraud is perpetuated by all three major presidential candidates as fact, giving common-sense Americans no choice to reject Draconian, lifestyle-altering policy prescriptions that will strip us of our freedoms and our wealth.

I hate to throw a wet blanket on the occasion of this good news (that tens of thousands of scientists actively and publicly are rejecting the hoax, the myth and the fraud), but the hour is late. One of the greatest lies ever perpetrated on free people in the history of the world already is accepted in far too many quarters as truth, as reality.

Nevertheless, we must never stop speaking out. And I applaud Art Robinson's dogged determination to get the truth out. He is an example of a real scientist -- one who is not bought off by government grants awarded for the "right kind of research."

Yet it is so distressing that the two remaining contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination, as well as Republican John McCain, buy this malarkey hook, line, and sinker. There may not be a scientific consensus about global warming, but by default, there is, tragically, a political consensus. Like so many other political issues of the day, it appears the people will be denied any opportunity to voice their opinions and weigh in on the policies already being drafted "to combat global warming" -- global warming that doesn't exist!

Actually, though, there is a way for you to sound off on the policies espoused by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain: Don't vote for any of them. Reject them all! And be vocal about why you are doing so. If ever there were an election that demanded a vote for "none of the above," the 2008 presidential election is it. When the politicians don't give you a choice, don't give them your vote. It's that simple.

Global warming is not just a trivial side issue. It is clearly part of a concerted effort to steal your freedom and dispossess you of your property and to empower government to do whatever is necessary "to save the planet."

The scientific verdict is in. Man-made carbon dioxide is not heating up the planet. Furthermore, there is nothing man can do to change the climate on a global scale -- for good or bad. We are far too insignificant to make that kind of impact, even if we tried. So send them packing -- not only the presidential candidates but also the congressional candidates who buy into this con job. Don't subject your children to the indoctrination. Don't support the propaganda efforts in the media -- whether they come in the form of entertainment or "news." It's time to fight back on all fronts.


Two comments on the above from correspondents


Speaking of a political rather than scientific consensus, my local radio station has taken to calling carbon dioxide "global warming pollution." For after all, hasn't our Supreme Court recently decided as much? This is but one sign that, while our society imagines itself progressing toward greater freedom of thought, in reality it is rapidly succumbing to authoritarian indoctrination. Even judges now feel empowered to rule on such matters - and we permit them. Any authority will do.

But there, I'm afraid, lies the intersection between science and politics, a consensus by default. If I were to call my radio station to protest that carbon dioxide hasn't caused global warming, a reportedly unprecedented increase of nearly 40% having proved that by now, I'd find myself quite alone. The evidence is on my side - no effect, theory dead - and science is supposed to adhere to the evidence, yet what scientist would support my blanket assertion? No, I'd be told, human emissions are affecting the planet's climate; we just don't know how much. It reminds me of Bernard Goldberg's book title, "Crazies to the Left of me, Wimps to the Right."

The man in the street, people like Farrah, will catch up to "the basic science" being wrong sooner than any authorities, scientists included. But in the meantime - and long thereafter because of the inevitable anti-scientist backlash - we're all screwed.


So how does one go about explaining it to children? Here is how I explained it, to a group of 12-14 year old children at a nearby school a few weeks ago:

That Al Gore "science" about global warming? Well, gang, that stuff isn't really "science" I am sorry to say - because they didn't look at the facts, when they jumped to a bunch of conclusions. That's what science does - look at facts, to find out what is consistent with more facts, facts that might be ideas right now, that no one necessarily knows for sure if they are true, yet.

For some years, the atmosphere appeared to become warmer, in some regions of the globe (and not all the Earth, for sure). That was, maybe from years 1970-1990, or there abouts. People observed that - and they also observed that there was more carbon dioxide in the air over these years - which can come from burning gas and coal and oil (among anything else that grows) - and they connected the two ideas.

Unfortunately, the same people made a mistake: not only are the two ideas not connected, most of the carbon dioxide in the air didn't even come from people burning fuel. It came from the ocean, and it had already been there a long time before people lived in cities, for sure. So it was just one observation, and another observation, and errors were made when they connected the observations.

They simply made a mistake, but it is difficult for people to admit their mistakes, especially when they have already advised people, how to correct something. All I can say is - don't be like that, and you have my word, don't believe anybody who tells you, I have told you something that isn't right


In any discussion of carbon taxes, no matter what their form, it is important to keep the core economic theory in focus. The basic idea, advanced by early 20th-century economist Arthur C. Pigou, is that if a society wants to reduce the use of something that's undesirable, the best way to do that is to have the government tax it. Pigou is the magician behind the great global pressure from economists and politicians -- from Stephane Dion to Stephen Harper, from John McCain to Nicholas Sarkozy --for taxes on carbon emissions.

The theory is simple enough, and intuitively appealing. In the Pigouvian world, if you raise the price of carbon, the laws of supply and demand will kick in and carbon use--from burning coal, oil, gas, wood-- will fall. As carbon use falls, the threat of man-made global warming will be reduced, maybe even eliminated. Beautifully simple. Who could not like such a clean solution to a messy problem?

Unfortunately, little of what Pigou said on the subject of Pigouvian taxes is of any use to policy makers. How high should the tax be? How do you set targets for measuring effectiveness? What do you do about the side effects of the taxes? What do you do with the tax revenue?

Pigou is silent on all of this, but these are the important carbon tax questions. It ultimately matters not whether governments try to tax carbon directly, right down at the gasoline pump as planned in British Columbia, or whether they try complex "cap-and-trade" schemes that seem to tax big corporate polluters and let the rest of us get off with little direct burden.

Never mind, also, whether a climate change catastrophe looms between now and 2080 or 2120 or 2180 or whenever. The science, a quagmire of uncertainty, is irrelevant to the economics of carbon taxes.

* So lets look briefly at our main questions. How high should the tax be?

With oil at $130 a barrel, we already have in place the equivalent of a carbon tax of about $300 a tonne. The impact of that price increase is rattling through the economy, transferring massive amounts of wealth from consumers to energy producers. But if this new oil price were to persist, would it cut oil-based carbon emissions to the levels we supposedly need to save the planet? Nobody knows, but it's not likely. The B. C. carbon tax, set to reach $30 for each tonne of carbon, will obviously do even less to curb carbon emissions.

The point is that nobody knows how high the carbon tax would have to go to reduce emissions. It's a central planning problem. The policies being talked about now are really just exercises in experimental economics, pushed by speculative science.

* What are the carbon emissions targets? No carbon tax regime sets explicit emissions targets. The B. C. government said it would produce estimates of how much carbon emissions would fall as a result of its taxes, but no numbers have been produced so far. In fact, any carbon tax, no matter what its design, would be based on guesswork. They have no clue.

* What are the side effects of carbon taxes? Unpredictable, but undoubtedly dramatic. Economists' models are no help. Politics will shape the tax, applying it here and there as dictated by planners and the usual political pressures. Industry groups will fight for preferences, provinces and states will battle to protect their local economies, international trade will be at risk, developing countries will gain advantages. Carbon taxes, especially cap-and-trade systems, essentially require a total reordering of economic calculation around carbon atoms instead of money.

* What do states do with all the new tax revenue? This is the second part of the central planning nightmare. Local, provincial and national governments will begin massive planning efforts and plot new interventions to deploy the new tax revenues. They will claim to be "shifting" the revenue back to taxpayers through cuts in income and other taxes. They will want to use the new revenue to subsidize other non-carbon industries, and offset the burden of the carbon tax on injured industries.

That's consistent with Pigou's theory, which worked both ways. Not only should government tax to reduce the use of bad things, he thought government should subsidize good things, part of his belief that government should help distribute resources "in the most efficient way." His objective, he said, was to make it "feasible for governments to control the play of economic forces ? to promote the economic welfare, and through that, the total welfare, of their citizens as a whole."

So carbon tax programs are an experiment --although one that has already been tried. It imposes central planning on an economy based on carbon emissions rather than economic growth and welfare. It didn't work for the economy, it won't work for carbon.



A protest from the plain-spoken North of England

SO-CALLED "green" taxes are a con. They have absolutely nothing to do with saving the planet, or changing people's behaviour. It is all about raising revenue. Governments around the world have realised that environmentalism gives them an easy way of squeezing yet more tax out of hard-working people. And if you object, you are supposed to feel guilty about drowning polar bears.

"Green" taxes also impact most heavily on the poor. This isn't an accident, it is a deliberate policy. Take, for example, motoring. The only way of reducing the numbers of cars is by forcing the less-affluent off the roads. This is what increases in fuel duty and car tax are partly designed to achieve. Of course, some people will simply give up driving, but for many, they have little choice - particularly those with large families, or who live in a rural area, or who need a car to get to work.

Tough, say the environmentalists, pay up and stop moaning. Think of the polar bears.

Same with air travel. The green agenda is to stop the less-affluent from flying by making it so expensive that only the rich can afford it. But it won't stop Al Gore jetting around the globe lecturing us lesser mortals about the evils of flying.

A perfect example of this "green" tax con is the 200 pounds increase in car tax on so-called "gas guzzlers" due to be introduced next year. It will be imposed not just on high-performance cars and vast 4x4s, but on ordinary family vehicles, too. It is also retrospective, so if you bought a car seven years ago and can't afford to change it, you'll be hit by an enormous tax rise. As I said, it is nothing to do with changing your behaviour. It is all about making you pay more tax.

Richer people won't be put off driving by a few extra pence on fuel duty. Prince Charles won't be giving up the Aston Martin any time soon, and don't expect to see well-heeled eco warriors such as Jonathon Porritt or Lord Melchett shivering at the bus stop at six on a winter's morning.

Last year, a study by the Taxpayers' Alliance found that "green" taxes raised 21.9bn pounds in 2005 (the figure will be much higher today), but the social cost of carbon emissions was estimated at just 11.7bn. The difference - a whopping 10bn a year - was simply pocketed by the Chancellor. Not a penny of it went to the polar bears. Green issues are just an excuse to tax us more. They are not trying to save the planet - they just want to pick your pocket.



When the Senate takes up landmark climate legislation this week, its backers can be sure of just one thing: The obstacles they face show how hard it will be to enact a meaningful cap on greenhouse gases -- probably under the next administration.

The next administration, not this one, because even supporters of the complex, extensively negotiated 494-page bill say that there is little chance that it will win Senate approval, less chance that the House will agree on a similar measure and perhaps no chance that President Bush will sign it if it reaches his desk.

"In some ways, this is a dress rehearsal for next year, but I still think it will be a useful thing for the Senate and Congress, because at some point we have to deal with it," said Sen. Byron L. Dorgan (D-N.D.), who says he has yet to decide how he will vote.

For the moment, supporters of establishing a federal cap-and-trade system to curb emissions linked to global warming say they hope to put down a marker in the national debate over climate change. And lawmakers from both parties are eyeing how their votes might become fodder in this fall's presidential and senatorial elections.

The bill -- which would require that U.S. emissions be cut 18 percent below 2005 levels by 2020 and nearly 70 percent by mid-century -- has picked up support in recent weeks from 13 unions in the AFL-CIO's building and construction trades department, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and many faith groups. It is also backed by companies such as General Electric and Alcoa and utilities such as Exelon, PG&E, FPL Group and Public Service Enterprise Group.

But it has run into opposition from some energy titans who say they favor a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gas emissions but argue that this version is the wrong one and will cost consumers too much.

"This is just a money grab," said James E. Rogers, the chief executive of Duke Energy. Rogers says he supports a cap-and-trade system but argues that this bill raises too much revenue from coal users while diverting too much of it to other purposes. "Only the mafia could create an organization that would skim money off the top the way this legislation would skim money off the top," he said. Duke, with customers in Ohio, Indiana and the Carolinas, relies heavily on coal-fired plants.

More than a dozen key senators -- including freshmen Democrats Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) -- have yet to endorse the bill. And Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), who supports the bill, is staying neutral rather than pushing recalcitrant members of his caucus to back it.

"Generally, I believe that global warming is a serious issue and that we need to address it," said Dorgan, whose state produces lignite coal as well as wind power. But he added that he is still "digesting" the complicated bill, which he fears would not do enough to spur technology that would enable the country to continue burning coal.

"We thought and hoped we'd be in a more serious place, but most people are using it as an opportunity to vet ideas and advance ideas for the debate to come in the next Congress," said Tim Profeta, who directs Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions. "Not many people see this as a serious piece of legislation that will become law this year."

More here


Comment from the "Financial Times". Good to see a mainstream outlet getting it

The science of climate change is increasingly confronted by profound disagreements and re-adjustments. The rise in temperatures that occurred during much of the 1980s and 1990s appears to have stalled for much of the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, global carbon dioxide emissions have been accelerating considerably. Greenhouse gas emissions increased on average 3 per cent a year from 2000 to 2005, compared with a growth rate of 1 per cent a year on average during the 1990s. Yet global temperatures failed to rise as a result of accelerating emissions.

A study published last month in the scientific journal Nature even predicted a slight cooling trend of up to 10 years as a result of shifting ocean currents. The report's publication triggered widespread confusion among climate modellers. After all, the climate models published only last year by the IPCC foretold a significant and relentless warming trend as a result of increased carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. None predicted that global warming would be arrested for a decade.

Even though it is likely that moderate warming will recommence, nobody knows for sure when this might occur. Unless there is a dramatic speeding of global temperature rise, climate science will be increasingly relegated to the margins of policymaking and economic considerations will become the dominant factor in the decision-making processes.

Conversely, as long as temperatures remain flat (or fall), politicians and the general public will become more sceptical. As a result, policymakers are likely to regard costly climate policies as a political liability and an economic risk that should be evaded as much as possible at both a national and international level.

It seems increasingly doubtful that a new, Kyoto-style climate treaty will be agreed at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen next year. The current cessation of global warming and the prospect of more years of stagnation will provide legislators with a respite for a sober reconsideration of cost-effective climate policies. What remains uncertain, however, is how long the slowdown will last and what will happen once temperatures start to rise again.



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