Climate-change alarmism has its Al Gore and Hollywood activists, characters whose appeal and personas transcend the issue to popularize green behavior. But where are the personalities of global warming skepticism? Outside the voices of conservative talk radio, whose scope of influence rarely extends beyond a static niche, the call for cool-headed environmental policy lacks star power.
An unlikely source is out to change that. Czech president Václav Klaus will release this month the English translation of his book Blue Planet in Green Shackles (Dokoran, 2008), which connects the devices of modern climate hysteria to past tactics of totalitarian regimes.
Klaus has all the makings of an anti-establishment icon: an impressive resumé, a maverick streak, a propensity for scandal, and an insatiable appetite for attention. He recently admitted to his third known bout of infidelity with a flight attendant, all of which have only raised his status in a country where a mistress is perversely viewed as a symbol of manhood.
In his more respectable moments, the former prime minister and Western-educated economist demonstrates the guts to defy environmental orthodoxy. He represented the lone voice of opposition to the theory of manmade climate change at a New York summit last September. And he recently received his second Green Pearl award, an annual "prize" for the most egregious anti-green public statement. Klaus told the Czech Republic's largest newspaper that fears of planetary degradation are rooted in fiction: "I don't see any destruction of the planet, I have never seen it, and I don't think that a serious and sensible person might say that he has."
Klaus' book, published in its original language a year ago under the title A Blue, not Green Planet, argues that radical environmentalism assaults liberty in much the same manner as communism. At the release event for a Dutch translation last month, the 66-year-old head of state drew parallels between the two ideologies, which present "the same attractive, pathetic, at first sight noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and [is] supplemented by the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice the man and his freedom to make this idea reality."
Indeed, Gore and other purveyors of global warming alarmism routinely speak of personal sacrifice for the sake of the planet. From hybrid vehicles to lowered thermostats to more expensive green goods and services, the challenge of carbon footprint reduction presumes a sacrifice of individual liberty.
At the corporate level, attempts to reduce CO2 emissions stunt economic growth, increasing unemployment while lowering standards of living at every socioeconomic level. Recently, such sacrifice played a role in provoking food shortages and starvation among the world's poorest populations.
Klaus, an unapologetic champion of free markets, warns of just such consequences. His study of environmental policy in Europe reveals a striking correlation between greenhouse-gas emission levels and economic prosperity. Between 1990 and 2005, less developed nations like Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Ireland experienced rapid growth as they sought to catch up with their more developed neighbors. That growth coincided with a 53 percent increase in emitted CO2.
During the same period, Central and Eastern European countries languishing through post-communist restructuring endured dramatic declines of GDP and attendant 32 percent reductions of CO2. The remaining less volatile nations, which experienced slow or stagnant growth over the 15-year span, increased their CO2 emissions by 4 percent.
Such correlation prompts Klaus to wonder at the stated aims of European politicians to reduce emissions by 20 percent from 1990 levels over the next dozen years: "Do they intend to organize a decrease in the number of people living in Europe? Or do they expect a miracle in the development of the emissions/GDP ratio, which would require a technological revolution of unheard-of proportions? I don't know.
"What I know, however, is that we have to restart the discussion about the very nature of our society and about the relationship between the individual and the state, because the issue is not climatology. It is freedom."