In January 2009, much of the world’s attention will focus on the shift of power from President Bush to Barack Obama. But the US is not the only place where there will be a significant power shift. The presidency of the EU also moves that month from France to the Czech Republic.
So why does this matter? The President of the Czech Republic is Vaclav Klaus, one of the leading climate sceptics, if not the leading climate sceptic operating at a senior political level in Europe. So there will be a huge irony; namely that for years the EU has battled the Bush administration urging it to be more progressive on climate.
But just when their prayers are answered and an Obama Presidency offers new hope for an international agreement on climate, the EU will be headed by a man who believes that climate change is a myth.
This is also important because 2009 is seen as the key year for a Post-Kyoto agreement to be signed in Copenhagen in December next year. But for the first six months of the year, when Diplomats will be trying to gain a head of steam on the issue, the Czech Republic will probably be out to derail any deal. Klaus is also on the record as saying he wants the EU to give up its ambitious plan to spearhead the struggle against climate change.
Known as extremely arrogant, he is renowned for his free-market views. An ardent supporter of the philosophies of Margaret Thatcher, he is said to have a photo of her near his desk. But like his political mentor, he mind seems to be stuck in the eighties. Klaus is a hard line climate sceptic and anti-environmentalist. Although Klaus’ Presidential office is largely ceremonial, he will undoubtedly have influence over the process and that can only be bad news.
Klaus also buys into the hard right / wise use argument that global warming is a myth peddles by the “religious zealots” of the environmental movement. His language and flawed analysis is identical to that of the Wise Use movement in the early nineties. The language he used a year ago at a Chatham House conference, is like a time warp back to Wise Use proponents who tried to whip up hate and loathing against American greens.
“Nevertheless, there is another threat on the horizon. I see this threat in environmentalism which is becoming a new dominant ideology, if not a religion. Its main weapon is raising the alarm and predicting the human life endangering climate change based on man-made global warming,” said Klaus, before having an attack on the awarding of the Nobel Peace prize to Al Gore and the IPCC. “The recent awarding of Nobel Prize to the main apostle of this hypothesis was the last straw because by this these ideas were elevated to the pedestal of “holy and sacred” uncriticisable truths.”Klaus also argued that “no radical measures are necessary” to fight climate change.
Earlier this year he attended the “International Conference on Climate Change” organized by the Exxon-funded Heartland Institute.
I blogged on this at the time and said: “Looking at the conference programme, I don’t think I have ever seen so many skeptics in one conference. They are literally all there: Patrick Michaels, Craig Idso, Willie Soon, Dennis Avery, Fred Singer, Paul Reiter, Julian Morris, Kendra Okonski, Myron Ebell, Christopher Horner, and Britain’s barmy David Bellamy.”
I also pointed out that “The conference co-sponsors lists like a roll-call of right-wing think tanks (many funded by Exxon) and wise use groups, including the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, run by “Wise Use” guru, Ron Arnold; the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Congress of Racial Equality, Frontiers of Freedom Institute, George C. Marshall Institute, International Policy Network, and Science and Environmental Policy Project.”
So if Klaus is networking with these right-wing / Wise Use groups it is not surprising he spouts the same nonsense as them, but it does seem incredulous that for six pivotal months next year, the EU will be led by such a figure. So how did this happen?
Bohumil Dolezal, a leading commentator who once advised Mr. Klaus, argues his greatest talent is his ability to appeal to average Czechs. “Even if a horse was president of the Czech Republic, it would have a 50 percent approval rating,” he argues. “And Klaus is surely much cleverer than a horse.”
Cleverer than a horse he may be, but he is surely a climate change dinosaur.