Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Czech President on CO2 Emissions

Czech President Vaclav Klaus made news last week by giving a speech in which he "questioned global warming". He may do that as well (I know next to nothing about him and his positions) but the extract from his speech which I ran across in The Australian yesterday is more on the economic difficulties of actually reducing emissions. These arguments may be familiar, but they struck me as fairly well made in this instance, and it also struck me as significant coming from the leader of a nation which is still working to rebuilt itself after communist rule.
I recently looked at the European CO2 emissions data covering the period 1990-2005, the Kyoto protocol era. You don't need huge computer models to very easily distinguish three different types of countries in Europe.

In the less developed countries, Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain, which during this period were trying to catch up with the economic performance of the more developed EU countries, rapid economic growth led to a 53 per cent increase in CO2 emissions. In the post-communist countries, which went through a radical economic restructuring with the heavy industry disappearing, GDP drastically declined. These countries decreased their CO2 emissions in the same period by 32 per cent. In the EU's slow-growing if not stagnating countries (excluding Germany where its difficult to eliminate the impact of the fact that the east German economy almost ceased to exist in that period) CO2 emissions increased by 4 per cent.

The huge differences in these three figures are fascinating. And yet there is a dream among European politicians to reduce CO2 emissions for the entire EU by 30 per cent in the next 13 years compared to the 1990 level.

What does it mean? Do they assume that all countries would undergo a similar economic shock as was experienced by the central and eastern European countries after the fall of communism? Do they assume that economically weaker countries will stop their catching-up process? Do they intend to organise a decrease in the number of people living in Europe? Or do they expect a technological revolution of unheard-of proportions?
It's often said that global warming will hit the poorest the hardest. That statement, however, overlooks the fact that any proposal with a realistic prospect of reducing CO2 emissions at a global level would also hit the poorest countries the hardest.

President Klaus also has what strikes me as a healthy respect for the difficulty of master planning systems:
What I see in Europe, the US and other countries is a powerful combination of irresponsibility and wishful thinking together with the strong belief in the possibility of changing the economic nature of things through a radical political project.

This brings me to politics. As a politician who personally experienced communist central planning of all kinds of human activities, I feel obliged to bring back the already almost forgotten arguments used in the famous plan-versus-market debate in the 1930s in economic theory (between Mises and Hayek on the one side and Lange and Lerner on the other), the arguments we had been using for decades until the moment of the fall of communism. The innocence with which climate alarmists and their fellow-travellers in politics and media now present and justify their ambitions to mastermind human society belongs to the same fatal conceit. To my great despair, this is not sufficiently challenged, neither in the field of social sciences, nor in the field of climatology.

The climate alarmists believe in their own omnipotency, in knowing better than millions of rationally behaving men and women what is right or wrong. They believe in their own ability to assemble all relevant data into their Central Climate Change Regulatory Office equipped with huge supercomputers, in the possibility of giving adequate instructions to hundreds of millions of individuals and institutions.

We have to restart the discussion about the very nature of government and about the relationship between the individual and society. We need to learn the uncompromising lesson from the inevitable collapse of communism 18 years ago. It is not about climatology. It is about freedom.
This does not necessarily mean a refusal to do anything to be responsible about one's environmental impact, I think, but it does point out the inherent problem that comes about when very smart people decide to make the world better: They may know a great deal, but seldom as much as they think.

1 comment:

Kyle Cupp said...

There's a reason why Plato and Burke said that prudence is the chief virtue of the statesman.