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the president: an envirosceptic Czech maverick?

The Czech president Václav Klaus seems to revel in being controversial. Perhaps he thinks of himself as the "Czech maverick?"

Over the last two years, Klaus has received a lot of attention for his highly publicized opposition (and book!) to what he calls the "myth of global warming." The climate skeptic he is, Klaus delivered a keynote speech at the international envirosceptic gathering in March 2008 in New York, the International Conference on Climate Change, sponsored by a plethora of international right-wing free-market advocate think-tanks such as the National Center for Policy Analysis, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, and the Austrian Hayek Institute.

American media, including conservative talk show host Glenn Beck almost wet their pants at the pleasure of featuring a climate skeptic and free-market advocate who happens to be the head of a state.

The previous year, Klaus also addressed the delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference, which caused some Czechs (including the author of this blog) some embarrassment.

About environmentalism, Klaus says that it "is a metaphysical ideology and a worldview that has absolutely nothing in common with science and the climate." According to Klaus, environmentalism "is a new anti-individualistic, pseudo-collectivistic ideology based on putting nature and environment and their supposed protection and preservation before and above freedom."

Global warming is, asserts Klaus, "similar to the Avian flu propaganda, the Y2K propaganda, the end of resources propaganda, the overpopulation propaganda."

Klaus worries: "A rational response to any danger depends on the size and probability of the eventual risk and on the magnitude of the costs of its avoidance. I feel obliged to say that – based on my knowledge – I find the risk too small and the costs of eliminating it too high."

His main fears seem to stem from his libertarian ideas of an unrestricted market, which "ideologies" such as environmentalism threaten. In a nut shell, he clearly advocates the tired old 'profits before people and the planet' ideology which is precisely that which got the planet as sick as it is today.

He, like many Czechs I know, refuses to acknowledge the gravity of the environmental degradation that plagues the world. "Nature is powerful. It will come back and regenerate itself," argue so many Czechs I have spoken to. But do they not realize that extinctions caused by human activity are taking place at at least 100 to 1,000 times nature's normal rate between great extinction episodes? Do they not see that climate change is a life-or-death matter for not only animals but whole communities of people who are fleeing their ancestral lands because of the quickly melting polar ice caps and rising ocean levels?

Sometimes I laugh at the foolishness of the global warming deniers, but other times the gravity of the matter sinks in and Mr. Maverick et al are just not funny anymore.

Comments

jadefrank's picture

Climate change skeptics

Hi teachergirl,

It's great to hear your voice again. I enjoy your articulate commentary on Czech issues. Today is the inauguration of Barak Obama and it's exciting to finally have a leader in this country who has put the environment and alternative energy on the agenda.

I too often laugh at the climate change skeptics, but as you mentioned "the gravity of the matter sinks in and Mr. Maverick et al are just not funny no more". I couldn't agree more.

Born and raised in Alaska, one of the last vast spaces of land that remains undeveloped and where climate change is more easily recognizable, it's baffling how many climate change skeptics populate this state. Perhaps, like Klaus, they are more concerned with lining their pockets from the exploitation of natural resources and this "inconvenient truth" is easier for them to deny.

I was just forwarded an article from my hometown newspaper, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

"FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — A critic of global warming is responsible for the icy glare Al Gore is giving this Alaskan community. Local businessman Craig Compeau on Monday unveiled an ice sculpture of the 2007 Nobel Prize winner and leader in the movement to draw attention to climate change and global warming.
The 8 1/2-foot-tall, 5-ton bust of the former vice president dominates a downtown street corner from its perch on the back of a flatbed truck. Compeau says he's a "moderate" critic of global warming theories. He used the unveiling of the sculpture to invite Gore to Fairbanks to explain his global warming theories. He says it will stand through March unless it melts before then. It was 22 degrees on Monday."

What's interesting here is that Compeau owns a snowmobile business, so his clientele depends on the idea of winter. And while the temperatures in Fairbanks were extra cold earlier this month, the gradual signs of climate change are so obvious. Fairbanks, which used to see dump loads of snow each winter is now lucky to see a foot on the ground and the area is turning into an "arctic desert". And glaciers that once were so present along the highways have melted back so far that they are no longer visible.

I sincerely hope that with the inauguration of President Obama, this country can begin leading the world in climate change research and set an example for other nations to follow. Under Bush's administration, the U.S. has seriously lagged behind.

Thanks for your take on this topic! I look forward to hearing more.

Warm regards,
Jade

I so wish I shared your enthusiasm about Obama's environment & alternative energy plans. Unfortunately, I just can't get behind a lot of his ideas. Clean coal is one of them. There's no such a thing as clean coal. Offshore drilling is another issue which Obama doesn't exactly oppose. Obama has expressed his support for nuclear energy as well. Obama's energy secretary Steven Chu, for instance, is unequivocally an avid nuclear energy (as well as oil drilling) proponent. The Obama-Biden energy plan also includes "prioritized construction of a natural gas pipeline from Alaska."

Margaret Williams of the World Wildlife Fund outlined the risks of offshore drilling and the steps the Obama administration would have to take to reverse the damage the drilling in Alaska under Bush has done to the environment. However, I don't foresee Obama taking these steps, as he has repeatedly demonstrated his allegiance to big business instead of indigenous communities and the environmental movement.

Unlike the Czech Republic, a small country with limited resources, the U.S. has a wealth of renewable sources: hydro, solar, wind... why invest more into messing with 'dirty energy?'

On the economic front, though this idea may seem radical to many, I very critical of the green energy bubble which is growing exponentially as we speak and which Obama has enthusiastically vowed to inflate. I am actually against financial speculation, and all for banning derivatives trading, especially on anything related to the "green economy." A milder option, a sort of a compromise, if you will, which Ralph Nader suggests, would be taxing derivatives trading. Such practice is common in many European countries and would bring in enough money to reboot the economy without any major shifts. As Nader calculates, a derivatives tax of 0.1% on all trading would bring in at least $500 trillion a year. Wall Street could pay for its own bailout!

I would like to see progressive environmental policy in action under Obama, but so far, I have not had much indication that there is a place for a truly progressive agenda in his administration.

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