A new book by American researcher Eve Darian Smith describes how around the world, many countries are becoming less democratic. This retreat from democracy and "creeping authoritarianism," as the US State Department has put it, is often supported by the same industries that are escalating the climate crisis.
By: Eve Darian-Smith, Professor of Global and International Studies, University of California at Irving. Translation and comments: Avi Blizovsky, editor of the knowledge website
"In my new book,"Global Fire: Rising Anti-Democracy and the Climate Crisis", I detail connections between these industries and the politicians who are delaying action on climate change and reducing democracy. This is a dangerous change, both for the representative government and for the future climate." Written by Prof. Eve Dearian Smith from the University of California at Irving.
corporate seduction of environmental politics
"In democratic systems, elected leaders are expected to protect the interests of the public, including against exploitation by corporations. They do this primarily through policies designed to secure public goods, such as clean air and unpolluted water, or to protect human well-being, such as good working conditions and a minimum wage. But in the last few decades, this core democratic principle that citizens prevail over corporate profits has been aggressively undermined.”
"Today, it is easy to find political leaders - both on the right and on the left - working on behalf of corporations in the fields of energy, finance, agriculture, technology, the military and pharmaceuticals, and not always in the public interest. These multinational companies help finance their political careers and their election campaigns to keep them in office."
"In the US, this relationship was based on the Supreme Court's 2010 "Citizens United" decision. The decision allowed virtually unlimited spending by corporations and wealthy donors to support the political candidates who best served their interests. The data shows that candidates with the highest external funding usually win. This led to increased corporate influence on politicians and party policy."
When it comes to the political parties, it is easy to find examples of campaign financing fueling political agendas. In 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before a US Senate committee on the greenhouse effect, both the Republican and Democratic parties took climate change seriously. But this approach quickly diverged. Since the 90s, the energy sector has heavily funded conservative candidates who have pushed its interests and helped reduce regulation of the fossil fuel industry. This enabled the expansion of fossil fuel production and escalated carbon dioxide emissions to dangerous levels.
"Industry's power to shape policy is exemplified by examples such as the coalition of 19 Republican attorneys general and coal companies suing to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants."
"The energy industry has effectively captured the democratic political process and prevented effective climate policy legislation."
"At the same time that the energy industry sought to influence policy on climate change, it also worked to undermine the public's understanding of climate science. For example, records show that ExxonMobil has for years engaged in an extensive climate science denial campaign, spending more than $30 million on lobbyists, think tanks and researchers to promote climate-science skepticism. These efforts continue today. A 2019 report found that the five major oil companies had spent more than $XNUMX billion on climate-related lobbying and branding campaigns in the previous three years.”
"The energy industry has effectively captured the democratic political process and prevented effective climate policy legislation." states Darian-Smith.
"Corporate interests will also fuel a wave of electing well-funded anti-democratic leaders who are willing to delay and even dismantle existing climate policies and regulations. The tactics of these political leaders have escalated public health crises and, in some cases, human rights violations.
Brazil, Australia and the USA
Many anti-democratic governments are associated with the oil, gas and other industries that drive climate change, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and China.
In the book "Global Fire" I investigate how three leaders of traditional democratic countries - Jair Bolsonaro from Brazil, Scott Morrison from Australia and Donald Trump in the USA - came to power with the help of anti-environmental and nationalist platforms that appeal to an extreme right-wing populist base and energy corporations that accelerate climate change. While the political landscape of each country is different, the three leaders have an important common denominator."
"Bolsonero, Morrison and Trump all depend on fossil fuel corporations to fund electoral campaigns and keep them in office, or, in Trump's case, get re-elected." (Editor's note: And when he didn't succeed, he decided to fight the AB perception of reality).
“For example, Bolsonaro's power depends on the support of a powerful right-wing coalition of landowners and farmers called the União Democrática Ruralista, or UDR. This group reflects the interests of foreign investors and especially the mining and agribusiness sectors worth billions of dollars. Bolsonaro promised that if elected in 2019, he would dismantle environmental protections and, in the name of economic progress, develop industrial-scale soybean production and cattle grazing in the Amazon rainforest. Both contribute to climate change and deforestation in a fragile area that is considered essential to maintaining atmospheric carbon levels from rising.
“Bolsonero, Morrison and Trump are all openly skeptical of climate science. Unsurprisingly, they all ignored, weakened or dismantled environmental protection regulations. In Brazil, this has led to accelerated deforestation and the burning of the Amazon rainforest. In Australia, the Morrison government ignored widespread public and scientific opposition and opened the controversial Edney Carmichael mine, one of the largest coal mines in the world. The mine will affect public health and the climate and threatens the Great Barrier Reef as temperatures rise and ports are expanded along the coast."
"Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord - a move most Americans oppose - repealed more than 100 laws designed to protect the environment and opened national parks to fossil fuel drilling and mining." (The current US President Biden returned the US to the Paris Agreement, but failed to act against the coal lobby after his party member Joe Manchin, a senator from West Virginia, who is used as a Libra, opposed President Biden's ambitious budget proposal at the threshold of 2 trillion dollar for a host of social and climate initiatives. Gave the additional voice that helped the Republican Party. AB).
"It is worth noting that all three leaders acted, sometimes together, against the international efforts to stop climate change. At the UN climate talks in Spain in 2019, Costa Rica's Minister of Environment and Energy at the time, Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, accused Brazil, Australia and the US of blocking efforts to deal with climate injustice related to global warming.
"Brazil, Australia and the USA are not unique in these responses to climate change. Around the world, there have been similar gatherings of anti-democratic leaders funded by fossil fuel corporations and implementing anti-environmental laws and policies that protect corporate profits. What is new as a tree is that these leaders are openly using the power of the state against their own citizens to secure land grabs for building dams, laying pipelines, digging mines and destroying forests at the hands of corporations.”
"For example, Trump supported the deployment of the National Guard to disperse Native Americans and environmental activists protesting the Dakota oil pipeline, a project in which he was personally invested. His administration also proposed tougher penalties for anti-pipeline protesters that were later echoed in legislative proposals promoted by the American Council on Legislative Change, whose members include lawmakers and oil industry lobbyists. Several Republican-led states have enacted similar anti-protest laws. Under Bolsonaro's rule, Brazil has changed laws in ways that empower loggers to dispossess small and indigenous farmers of their land in the rainforest.”
What can people do about it?
"Fortunately, there are many things people can do to protect democracy and the climate. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy and reducing the destruction of forests may reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The biggest obstacles, the latest UN climate report noted, are national leaders who are unwilling to regulate fossil fuel corporations, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or plan for renewable energy production.”
"The way forward, as I see it, includes voters who will push back against the trend towards authoritarianism, as Slovenia did in April 2022, and push for the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy. People can reclaim their democratic rights and oust anti-environmental governments whose power depends on prioritizing energy capitalism over the interests of their citizens and our collective humanity.
More of the topic in Hayadan: