Cracked dry earth during drought
Image by Peter H from Pixabay

Climate Activism Versus Democracy

Kevin Williamson of National Review Online ponders a key problem for climate alarmists.

Climate change as a potential public-policy issue has been with us since the 1960s, while climate change understood in at least some quarters as an urgent public-policy issue has been with us since at least the 1990s. And in that time, the major governments of the world have decided to do . . . not very much. There has been a great deal of talk, agreements entered into and abandoned — and then reentered into, at least notionally, in the case of the United States and the Paris agreement.

We have seen some progress: In the United States, emissions not only of carbon dioxide but also of other greenhouse gasses such as methane and nitrous oxide have declined, if the Environmental Protection Agency is to be believed. And that’s not because poor addled Hunter Biden has been huffing the nitrous oxide out of the sky, or because we have cut back on fossil fuels — in some considerable part, the improvement in the U.S. greenhouse-gas situation is the result of one fossil fuel — coal — having been partly supplanted by another fossil fuel — natural gas, which produces fewer emissions when used to produce electricity. Wind and solar have made a difference in electricity, too.

But, for the most part, the liberal democracies (to say nothing of China and the other authoritarian states) have said, “No, thanks!” to the kind of radical climate policies dreamt of by Green New Dealers, “climate justice” activists, and socialists such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D., N.Y.) who wish to use the climate issue as an excuse for imposing political regimentation on market economies.

Progressives generally argue that this is because our democracy isn’t a real democracy, that it is distorted or captured by big money from Big Oil and other self-interested business concerns. But that isn’t political analysis — it is foot-stamping, insisting that democracy is only democracy when it gives the blessed caste what it demands.

Mitch Kokai / Senior Political Analyst

Mitch Kokai is senior political analyst for the John Locke Foundation. He joined JLF in December 2005 as director of communications. That followed more than four years as chie...