Climate Change Democracy Deniers

Back in 2009 I wrote in the Claremont Review of Books about the anti-democratic (that is, tyrannical) impulses of the climate change fanatics, noting the following examples:

A year ago a senior fellow emeritus at Britain’s Policy Studies Institute, Mayer Hillman, author of How We Can Save the Planet, told a reporter, “When the chips are down I think democracy is a less important goal than is the protection of the planet from the death of life, the end of life on it. This [rationing] has got to be imposed on people whether they like it or not.” (Hillman openly advocates resource rationing.) Another recent self-explanatory book is The Climate Change Challenge and the Failure of Democracy by Australians David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith. Shearman argued recently that

“[l]iberal democracy is sweet and addictive and indeed in the most extreme case, the U.S.A., unbridled individual liberty overwhelms many of the collective needs of the citizens…. There must be open minds to look critically at liberal democracy. Reform must involve the adoption of structures to act quickly regardless of some perceived liberties.”

This led to a sharp exchange in the letters to the editor of the next issue, which you can take in here if you like.

This is prologue to a letter to the editor appearing in the current issue of Nature magazine, which I reprint here in full and without comment, since none is required. I think you’ll understand that we’re in the presence of democracy deniers. Climatistas indeed.

Climate change: Climate justice more vital than democracy

Decision-making based on social-justice principles could be more effective than democratic efforts against climate change.

Democratic decision-making involves multiple stakeholders, and democracy emphasizes the mutual roles of actors: all preferences are treated as equal. In many regions of the world, however, the results of democratic choices can be strongly influenced by power relations and inequitable social arrangements, owing to differences in economic development, access to technology and knowledge.

Elites may use democratic processes to entrench their status or encroach on other social goals. This can lead to incremental or undesirable results, which might explain why large democratic nations such as the United States continue to oppose progressive climate legislation.

In our view, sound climate and energy planning should not treat all stakeholders in the same way. Instead, preferences and roles should be weighted to consider criteria related to equity, due process, ethics and other justice principles. This would ensure that stakeholder discussions and resulting policies serve to eradicate, rather than exacerbate, socio-economic vulnerability to a changing climate.

Jingzheng Ren, Michael Evan Goodsite, University of Southern Denmark; Benjamin K. Sovacool, Aarhus University, Denmark.