Freedom, not climate, is at risk

A recent Op-Ed piece in the Financial Times by the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus caught my eye recently:

“As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism”

The article goes on to say:

“The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment”

More self-appointed expertise:

“Does it make any sense to speak about warming of the Earth when we see it in the context of the evolution of our planet over hundreds of millions of years? Every child is taught at school about temperature variations, about the ice ages, about the much warmer climate in the Middle Ages. All of us have noticed that even during our life-time temperature changes occur (in both directions)”

Klaus summarises his article by offering the following:

As a witness to today’s worldwide debate on climate change, I suggest the following:

  • Small climate changes do not demand far-reaching restrictive measures
  • Any suppression of freedom and democracy should be avoided
  • Instead of organising people from above, let us allow everyone to live as he wants
  • Let us resist the politicisation of science and oppose the term “scientific consensus”, which is always achieved only by a loud minority, never by a silent majority
  • Instead of speaking about “the environment”, let us be attentive to it in our personal behaviour
  • Let us be humble but confident in the spontaneous evolution of human society. Let us trust its rationality and not try to slow it down or divert it in any direction
  • Let us not scare ourselves with catastrophic forecasts, or use them to defend and promote irrational interventions in human lives.

I suppose that someone who has lived under totalitarian rule might be expected to respond this way. I understand and am sympathetic to that, and we are in agreement that “Any suppression of freedom and democracy should be avoided”. However, the hysterical rhetoric about this being “biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity” falls with a dull incredulous thud on the table. Who said that it was about being directed from above? Who said it was about giving up choice? Surely part of the solution is being able to choose – something might charge against so-called special interests (i.e. the fossil fuel lobby) who spend millions to dissuade us from what would otherwise be the most sensible pathway. Perhaps Mr. President should shelve his hysteria and realize how few freedoms we might have in an overheated world short of water, natural ecosystems and economic wealth.

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