Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Against a rising tide of green calls for an environmental dictatorship, its refreshing to read that some greens think ordinary people should have the right to choose their own future.
Democracy Is the Answer to Climate Change
Contrary to popular belief, elected leaders are better equipped to address the problem than their autocratic rivals.
The Paris agreement of December 2015 raised new hopes that the worst effects of climate change might yet be averted. This agreement, whose signatories have agreed to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a voluntary basis, marks the first major international pact to combat climate change since the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. In contrast to Kyoto, however, whose signatories accounted for only about 14 percent of global emissions, the countries that signed the Paris deal account for a whopping 96 percent.
Of course, the outstanding question is whether the agreement will actually be implemented. As its critics are quick to point out, the Paris climate pact is a “soft law” that lacks the legal clout to impose sanctions and penalties, but rather attempts to change behavior through norm-building and consensus. And past attempts by individual nations to control greenhouse gas emissions have produced scant results.
Pointing to the susceptibility of democratic governments to interest groups that have an economic stake in maintaining the status quo, environmental ethicist Dale Jamieson questions whether democracy is up to the challenge of climate change at all.Dale Jamieson questions whether democracy is up to the challenge of climate change at all. Scientist James Lovelock is similarly pessimistic, noting that human inertia is so great that, barring a catastrophic event, the best democratic governments can do is to adapt to climate change — i.e., building sea walls around vulnerable cities. Lovelock argues that, to make the hard decisions needed to deal effectively with climate change, it may be eventually be necessary to put democracy on hold, opting instead for some kind of environmental authoritarianism.
But is it really necessary to choose between democracy and saving the planet? A comprehensive review of various countries’ progress towards environmental sustainability suggests otherwise. In fact, the case against democracy as a vehicle for environmental sustainability may be grossly overstated, based less on the actions of the world’s democracies as a whole than on the failures of a conspicuous few.
Democratic societies tend to be wealthy societies, they tend to be societies in which most people have enough financial security to care about issues other than where their next meal is coming from. Democracy promotes individual wealth, by helping to curb official corruption. However dodgy some of the shenanigans in Washington might seem, they are only a shadow of the abuses which occur in places where the boss has absolute, unquestionable authority.
The author concludes that better education will convince people to push for stronger green measures. I believe better science education helps people see through green exaggerations. Whatever voters ultimately decide, I think its reassuring that there are some greens who are decent people, who oppose blatant ongoing efforts to use green catastrophism as an excuse to deprive ordinary people of their liberty.