The Intersection Between Democracy and the Climate Crisis

The Intersection Between Democracy and the Climate Crisis

While the climate crisis is not a new issue, it has taken on a new urgency over the last five years. This is partly because of the US government’s two-party system, and the Republican party becoming especially forceful in its opposition to climate protections in recent years. For most Americans, climate policy is of high priority, putting the majority of voters at odds with the Republican party’s stance. Around 66% of Americans believe that climate change is caused by human activities and 69% are in favor of expanding wind and solar energy. But instead of shifting the party’s approach to issues like climate change, the GOP has relied on structural advantages and loopholes in the American election system to win power, resulting in a democracy crisis.

Euronews: UN Secretary-General says the climate crisis is placing half of humanity in 'the danger zone,' June 14, 2022.

Amanpour and Company: Expert Warns of Rise in “Mass Casualty” Events as a Result of Climate Change, July 1, 2022.

Why This Matters

The Supreme Court’s recent ruling in West Virginia v. EPA dealt a decimating blow to climate policy, which will hinder the climate commitments made by the US in the Paris Agreement to limit global warming. The appointed justices that make up a conservative supermajority were confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate that had obstructed over 100 appointments for federal judges made by Obama. When Trump assumed office, that same Senate promptly confirmed conservative appointees made by the new president. Despite the Republican party representing less than half of the country’s voters, they were still able to win political power and assert their influence over crucial climate policies that will have long-term impacts on the future of both climate change issues and democracy as a whole.

CNBC: How The Supreme Court May Threaten Democracy, June 27, 2022.

PBS Frontline: War on the EPA (full documentary), May 25, 2021.

The Role of Big Business

As the climate crisis has rapidly deteriorated in the past couple of years, we have all heard of corporations making “net-zero pledges” and “carbon-neutral commitments.” But in reality, those are often just greenwashing buzzwords used to appease public concern and conceal harmful lobbying efforts. According to the MCSI Net-Zero Tracker, current climate action and promises by big corporations will put the world on track for a 2.9-degree Celsius rise in temperature by 2100. That’s an extremely off-target figure that, should it play out, will plunge global climates and economies into chaos. The world’s biggest businesses have prioritized their bottom lines and are mostly to blame for both crises of climate change and climate policy. In short, they are not poised to save democracy or the planet.

Reuters: World could see 1.5C of warming in next five years, May 10, 2022.

The Economist: See what three degrees of global warming looks like, October 30, 2021.

CBS: Climate change could displace 200 million in 20 years, disaster relief organization warns, June 1, 2022.

However, big business relies on employees and customers that wield more power in politics and the economy than they are led to believe. Because of them, corporations are starting to shift away from Republican doctrines on climate change and other social issues in favor of social harmony with their employees and customers. Additionally, many businesses and banks are realizing the threat climate change poses to their long-term profits and are willing to switch over to clean energy alternatives. In recent years, customers and employees have influenced a few corporations into withholding campaign money and boycotting state economies, which have impeded GOP efforts to undermine climate policies and the rest of the American democratic system. Working people are who are going to save democracy and the planet because of their spending power and influence on corporate profits.

NBC: Are Major Companies Living Up To Their Net-Zero Pledges To Combat Climate Change?, February 10, 2022.

Our Eden: Your Bank is Funding Climate Change, November 13, 2021.

MSCI: MSCI Net-Zero Now (documentary), October 11, 2021.