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Climate Change and Democracy

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJuly 9, 2014 9:26 PM


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From an interview between Columbia University Press and science historian Naomi Oreskes:

Q: What are the threats to democracy and personal freedom posed by climate change and its effects? Oreskes: Disruptive climate change threatens democracy—threatens democratic institutions—and personal freedom, because natural disasters require massive governmental responses, and invite the federal government to usurp local and individual authority.

I'm puzzled by this statement. Can anyone elaborate on how this may play out? Also, while we're mentioning climate change and democracy in the same breath, I would be remiss in not pointing out this controversial 2007 book, which argued that democracy, as stated in the foreword, was "an impediment to finding ecologically sustainable solutions for the planet." (The book goes so far as to argue "that authoritarianism is the natural state of humanity.") Such an abhorrent perspective is well outside the mainstream and should in no way be ascribed to environmentalists and those concerned about climate change. But it is a disturbing mindset and as such, cringe-inducing. Nonetheless, some thought leaders have dabbled (or at least fantasized) around the edges of it. [UPDATE: On Twitter, Robert Wilson reminds me of James Lovelock's utterances on global warming and democracy.] So while I, too, am concerned about climate change, I'll be keeping one wary eye on the tides and the other on what I would consider a more realistic threat to democracy.

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