Is climate change propaganda?

June 26, 2007 at 3:00 am Leave a comment

Tree of connectivityThe President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, has an interesting perspective on climate change. Recent European summers have been the warmest in 500 years, most notably the scorching heatwave that shimmered across Europe in 2003. The global temperature increased by 0.6% during the 20th Century. Both these facts, according to Vaclav, have caused environmentalists and their followers to suggest radical action is needed to curb global warming.

In the past year, we’ve had Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth, shown in cinemas around the world; the Stern report warn of dire predictions; and the Group of Eight summit grappling with what to do about climate change. But Vaclav queries whether climate change rhetoric is just plain propaganda and whether it is now becoming politically correct to embrace global warming at the expense of alternative viewpoints. The grand narrative – the established truth – he suggests is that of climate change. Vaclav says that global warming hysteria has become a prime example of the truth versus propaganda problem and suggests that some leading scientists protest against the arrogance of those who advocate the global warming hypothesis and relate it to human activities.

He has of course lived in a communist regime and feels the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity is ambitious environmentalism, not communism. Vaclav maintains that environmentalists are demanding immediate political action rather than believing that long-term positive change can result from economic growth and technological progress. In an interesting comment he suggests “..the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment”. Not quite sure how he reaches this position because if we look at the wealthy, developed countries, they are the ones ripping the environment apart with carbon emissions, deforestation and so on. Vaclav believes that scientists should declare their political and value assumptions and how this might affect the selection and interpretation of scientific evidence.

Like many people who question the veracity of the climate change argument, Vaclav questions why we seem to ignore the cyclical nature of climate fluctuations throughout history. There was a well-documented warmer climate during the Middle Ages and as recently as the early 20th Century, temperatures were warmer than now. In suggesting this, Vaclav perhaps chooses to ignore the rapidly climbing temperatures identified in the Hockey Stick graph (shows temperatures shooting up in the latter half of the 20th Century).

He places great faith in contemporary society when he states: ”Due to advances in technology, increases in disposable wealth, the rationality of institutions and the ability of countries to organise themselves, the adaptability of human society has been radically increased. It will continue to increase and will solve any potential consequences of mild climate changes.”

Given that recent articles have suggested that Paris, France and Mediterranean countries could be facing an increase in hot days by up to 500%, I’m not sure how he concludes that we’ll be facing mild changes.

Professor Richard Lindzen from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says: “future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age”. This is a position Vaclav seems to be taking when he says: “The issue of global warming is more about social than natural sciences and more about man and his freedom than about tenths of a degree Celsius changes in average global temperature.

Living for most of his life under a communist regime, Vaclav is perhaps finely tuned to political ideologies and seems to be worried that a global warming grand narrative will emerge from a politically centralised approach to climate change. To prevent this from happening, he suggests we keep in mind 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 they want (yes, well: can we allow people to wantonly spew carbon emissions into the atmosphere; threaten endangered species???);
  • 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 (Vaclav seems to be assuming that people can or will be personally responsible for their actions – a risky notion if you ask me);
  • 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.

Okay I admit I struggle with Vaclav’s approach. Because he has lived under a communist regime, I wonder if he swings to the other end of the spectrum by asking that we be personally responsible for our actions; that human society should evolve naturally without any intervention; that nothing and no-one should be suppressed. Could this position be to the detriment of our world and society?

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Entry filed under: Climate Change.

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