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Helmut Schmidt on global warming

Around 1981, my uncle who has lived in Australia since 1969 visited Europe. He invited me and my mother to West Germany. The communists didn't allow me to go but my mother did go. She brought some luxurious stuff as well as a booklet called "This is how we live in the Federal Republic of Germany."

It explained how rich and free the Germans were. And the social-democratic chancellor Helmut Schmidt was featured in the booklet, too. In 1980 I was a red kid and no one could have said anything wrong about the Soviet Union. At least this is how my grandfather used to remember me. Around 1981, I became a pro-capitalist person and it stuck. ;-)

Nevertheless, Schmidt was replaced by Helmut Kohl in 1982 and I didn't hear about him for 25 years. However, now the 88-year old Gentleman made an interesting interview (part 1, part 2) for Der Bild. I don't speak German but because the interview is interesting, let me translate it anyway. ;-)

The G8 summit is just a theater
Dear Mr Chancellor, Germany hosts the G8 summit in Heiligendamm (Holy Dam) in East Germany. If you imagine that you are again a young man who attends a rally 70 years ago, what would you demand from the world leaders?

70 years ago, I was a young person who was against the Nazis. I wouldn't stand at the fence and demonstrate. But if I had been demonstrating against them, the Nazis would have put me into jail.

What do you think about the anti-G8 demonstration?

Not much. No 18-year-old person can know how the world works. Our law says that the federal presidents must be at least 40 years old. It is a reasonable regulation. Only exceptions may sensibly judge the world's economy if they are younger than 40 years. However, even young people are capable to participate in peaceful rallies. That's not so difficult: even small babies know how to cry!




Together with the French president Giscard D' Estaing, it was you who organized the world economic summit in 1975. Was it a success story?

It's fair to say that the two of us have essentially invented the summit. It wasn't easy to convince the Britons and Americans that ours was a good idea.

The purpose of the summit didn't use to be in large resolutions. However, later it became a summit of 10,000 foreign bureaucrats each of which wants to contribute and each of which wants to discuss with others indefinitely.

Instead, we wanted the most important top-tier politicians to meet each other in person, ask questions and answer them, in the smallest possible circles. And indeed, it was a good enough setup to terminate the global inflation that was getting started.

Is it different these days?

Today, the whole event is just a theater for the media! I've heard that only from America, we will host 1000 visitors. That will stimulate Chinese and Russian media. Needless to say, personal contacts become virtually impossible - a problem that Ms Merkel as the hostess can hardly solve.

If you were writing down the three most important problems for the G8 countries, what would they be?

The first big question is why is it just G eight? Where are the Chinese, the Indians, the oil-exporting countries, and the third world? You have to understand that you can no longer control the world economy from the West, without China and India. This era is gone! And you cannot do things without the oil exporters who determine the oil and gas prices.

How should the world economy be controlled?

At present, the most serious threat is no longer high inflation or skyrocketing oil prices. The economy has been booming for an unprecedented long period of time and it involves all continents. It will continue for some time - two years and maybe three years if we are lucky.

The biggest problem I see is the unbalanced position of the three key global currencies, the dollar, the euro, and the Chinese yuan.

China and Japan run a surplus of hundreds of billions of dollars each year while the U.S. have the same deficits. That's a completely sick trend that we should fix.

As I said, this issue won't stop the booming economy in two or three years but in the long run, it will surely be a threat for the global economy.

It's the first time when the protection of the climate stands at the top of the G8 agenda. Is the situation as dramatic as the IPCC climate panel warns us?

This whole climate panel has invented itself and no one has asked for it. It is a severe exaggeration to call IPCC a council that should issue recommendations. The whole debate is hysterical and overheated, especially by the media. There has been climate change since the beginning of the Earth.

For hundreds of thousands of years we have seen ice ages and interglacials.

For example, people find tusks in Germany and prove that elephants once lived in this country during interglacials. Or in my garden in Hamburg's Langenhorn which is 15 meters above the sea level, I can find mussels that indicate that the ocean used to reach to Langenhorn and maybe even further.

Meanwhile, the reason behind these climate changes have been inadequately researched for the time being. And there is no reason to think that the climate change should suddenly stop. But to get upset about it and to believe that mankind could stop this climate change by making a resolution in Heilligendamm is pure hysteria, it is a nonsense!

Is it possible to be influencing the climate without further use of nuclear energy?

The short answer at this moment is No. But I can't predict what people will say in 30 years.

The technological progress has accelerated tremendously and it will continue to do so. Recall that there were only 50 years between the first airplane and the first airplane with a bomb that destroyed a whole city.

When we discuss the shortage of energy, the rising population is a key issue. When my dad was a schoolboy in Hamburg-Barmbek, the world's population was 1.6 billion. Now it is over 6.6 billion and around 2050 it will be approximately 9 billion. All of them will need bread to be baked, all kinds of meals to be cooked, and cars to be driven and heated up in winter.

Great thanks to Sabine Hossenfelder for adjusting and confirming the translation.

Some additional influential climate articles on this weblog

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reader str said...

It is not "Der Bild".

The picture would be "Das Bild" but the paper is simply called "Bild" nowadays or colloquially "Die Bild" as a short for for "Die Bild-Zeitung".