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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.

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