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The Lone Stand of Vaclav Klaus

David Henderson - February 2012

There is a global policy consensus on the threat of global climate change is an urgent priority for all nations due to anthropogenic global warming (AGW). There is one prominent and outspoken dissenter - the person of the President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus who as a classic liberal holds that “ambitious environmentalism” has “replaced communism” as “the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity”. David Henderson argues that Klaus is justified in his belief that worldwide “reshaping” and “transformation”, in the cause of radical “decarbonisation”, could be expected to bring coercive and would-be permanent restrictions on individual freedom.

On climate change, there is an official policy consensus. That consensus has been firmly in place for over twenty years, and virtually all governments subscribe to it. By way of recent example, paragraph 66 of last year’s G20 Summit Document begins as follows: “Addressing the threat of global climate change is an urgent priority for all nations. We reiterate our commitment to take strong and action-oriented measures ...”

The measures referred to are chiefly directed towards curbing emissions of (so-called) “greenhouse gases” in general, and carbon dioxide in particular. The policy consensus reflects what I call received opinion; and the core of received opinion is that anthropogenic global warming (AGW) constitutes a serious threat, which however can be contained and partially averted by severely limiting emissions.

The consensus has been increasingly reflected in a wide variety of official actions at local, state, national and international level. In taking these actions, the governments concerned have so far met with widespread public approval.

It is a remarkable fact that, throughout the period since its adoption at the end of the 1980s, the policy consensus has gone without serious political challenge. In the OECD member countries in particular, climate change issues have typically been the subject of close and continuing cross-party agreement, so that policies have been little affec...

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