Interesting interview with BASF CEO Jürgen Hambrecht in today’s Der Speigel, in which the leader of the world’s largest chemical company questions the whole “climate change is a problem” thing. He’s also one of Angela Merkel’s “key advisers,” though we’re hoping it’s on topics other than climate policy. An excerpt:

Spiegel: You say that what the government is calling for is completely unrealistic. What is realistic?

Hambrecht: Realistic is what is doable without harming the economy. Otherwise we will be solving supposed problems by de-industrializing Germany. We are one of the few Western economies that still has a large, well-functioning system of industrial production. If politicians no longer want energy-intensive companies in Germany they should be honest about it.

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Spiegel: No one wants to drive out industry. But why shouldn’t there be other ways to increase energy efficiency?

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Hambrecht: Industry has already done a great deal on its own in the past, including adherence to substantial voluntary obligations. And we will continue to do a lot in the future. But we have already moved far up the learning curve. Climate protection that doesn’t make sense economically translates into the loss of jobs to other countries.

Spiegel: Does this mean that we have already lost the battle against climate change?

Hambrecht: We have to do more, of course. But I have a problem with the term “climate change.” It’s laden with fear. The climate is a highly complex system, and it has always changed. If there is one thing we cannot do, it is to allow ourselves to be scared and to seek emotional satisfaction in short-term campaigns.

Spiegel: Apparently you don’t take the report by former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern seriously. He predicts that unless we take drastic steps today climate change will cause a global economic crisis worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s.

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Hambrecht: That’s fear mongering. There isn’t really anything new in the report. There are processes of change in the climate that we still don’t fully understand. This alone makes me believe that steps must be taken. But there should be some sense of proportion.