A Comparative Analysis of Climate Change Performance: Democracy vs. Authoritarism

download-672x372

As part of a new initiative between the Harvard Economics Review and the Columbia Economics Review, we will regularly showcase a selection of the Harvard Economics Review’s online articles on our website. We hope you enjoy “A Comparative Analysis of Climate Change Performance” by Mirza Uddin as much as we did!

The impact of anthropogenic activity, both at the industrial and private level, continues to exacerbate the issues surrounding climate change in today’s society. The possibility of future progress grows breaker due to limited action by nations to thwart the detrimental effects of climate change. In fact, even after numerous studies have proven the existence of climate change, such as those by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)[i], a number of national leaders continue to deny that human activity is the cause of these pressing issues. Scholars of political science have offered a number of different insights into distinct factors that may be impacting climate change performance within individual nations. One particular area of interest is the discussion regarding whether democracies or authoritarian regimes are able to create effective climate change policies. An extensive analysis of political science research reveals that democratic nations tend to have superior performance in the realm of climate change policy relative to autocracies and that a certain degree of public participation must be adopted by authoritarian regimes in order to create effective climate change policies.

A political science perspective can further aid us in understanding the impact of these two regime types with respect to the growing salience of climate change concerns across the world. The paper will begin by establishing the importance of regime type in the climate change arena before discussing whether democracies or autocracies seem to have more effective climate change policies. Evidence will be complied using both qualitative work as well as statistical analyses. Next, the paper will attempt to further understand which factors lead certain regimes to have better performance in the creation of climate change policy, while other types of governments may have factors that hinder them from reaching similar levels of performance. Then, the paper will delve into which principles or institutions that can potentially improve climate change policies within regimes that tend to have poor climate change policy performance with a focus on public participation. Finally, the paper will analyze the upshot of understanding the impact of regime type on climate change policy performance and how to create effective policies within regimes that may have had poor policy performance in the past.

The manner in which a government functions can have a far-reaching impact on all facets of society, and the climate change policy arena is no different. Beth Edmondson and Stuart Levy, both experts within the field of environmental politics, write that understanding the political importance of climate change and the overall discourse on the matter is greatly effected by the types of governing bodies within individual states.[ii] Climate changes is indeed a global issue and even the slightest differences in policy effectiveness within individual nations can have a significant impact on reaching emission targets on a global scale. We first begin by taking into account that there are about 196 unique actors in the international arena, with each nation attempting to advance its own particular agenda while also simultaneously trying to decrease its personal cost associated with mitigation efforts. The challenge only increases due to the absence of an international policing force that is not able to hold these nations accountable for failing to abide by certain agreements. The time inconsistency problem, the idea that optimal choices at one point in time may be at odds with optimal choices in future points in time, further aids in explaining why certain actors may have an incentive to defect.[iii] When the time inconsistency problem is considered in the context of climate change, we can quickly begin to realize that the value of mitigation efforts are realized so far into the future that countries may not have as large of an incentive to take part in action. These ideas work together to better explain why poor policy effectiveness can truly have a detrimental impact on the global community. Even small variations in discount rates can lead to large variations in results that are achieved  with respect to climate change.[iv] If one nation highly discounts the future benefits of mitigation efforts (time inconsistency problem) and as a result chooses to not follow certain protocols when creating policies, there will usually not exist an international body that can hold the nation accountable (absence of international police force). Now this problem is only magnified if a large number of nations begin to behave in this manner and as a result certain emission goals set forth by the international community become much more difficult to achieve. Therefore, if a particular regime type is putting into place ineffective climate change policies, the negative impact can be far more extensive than merely poor policies in one nation. Solutions to create effective policies within all nations, regardless of regime type become paramount because the type of regime within a nation is unlikely to change in the short term. So, even if it is determined that one regime type performs better then another, we cannot simply replace the poorly performing regime with ease. However, we can learn from effective regime type and try to understand which institutions within the regime contribute to these better policies. With this understanding, we can attempt to assess the feasibility of whether these institutions can be instated in the poorly performing regime type.

With the importance of climate change policy effectiveness established, we can begin to draw the necessary distinctions between authoritarian and democratic governments needed to further assess how these institutions can have an impact on climate change policy effectiveness. One method of ranking these different nations can be achieved though a statistical analysis of climate change performance. One indicator in particular that is growing in prominence is The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI), which is an annual publication by the NGOs Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe.[v] The policy assessments are created by 300 climate experts and provide each country with a score out of 100. The annual publication by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe includes a total of 58 countries, which together account for more than 90% of global emissions.[vi] CCPI takes into account criteria such as a country’s level of emission (focusing on especially if the country has been able to reduce its overall emissions) as well as mitigation policies in order to derive the overall score. However, the CCPI alone merely scores different countries based on climate change performance, but does not delve into whether democracies or autocracies have better performance overall. In order to highlight this point, we can plot the CCPI against the Democracy Index. The Democracy Index, which is published by The Economist Intelligence Unit.[vii] The Democracy Index is based on 60 different indicators that measure qualities such as, level of political participation and civil liberties. The Democracy Index scores countries from 1-10, with 10 being the perfect form of a democracy. Using the Democracy Index as the independent variable in our analysis and the CCPI as the dependent varaible, we can begin to better understand regime variability with respect to climate change (Figure 1). A linear regession model on the scatter plot reveals an R2 value of 0.20. While, certain confounding varaibles may indeed exist there does seem to be a correlation between increasing levels of democracy and higher levels of climate change perfomance. This can indicate that democratic instituions may be able to engender a higher level of performance in the realm of climate change policy compared to autocratic governments.

Figure 1. Correlation between Level of Democracy and Climate Change Performance. 2016.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 9.15.20 AM

In order to further understand the implications of the aforementioned data, we can begin to classify countries into subgroups. While we know that a correlation may exist between countries that are relatively more democratic and climate change policy performance, we still have yet to determine the factor by which these regime types actually differ in terms of mitigation efforts. The Economist Intelligence Unit actually categorizes these countries into several subgroups based on their overall Dmeocracy Index Score.[viii] The Index classifies the nations into one of the following four subgroups: Authoritarian, Hybrid Regime, Flawed Democracy or Full Dmeocracy. So in this case the authoritarian regime subgroup would include countries that are highly undemocratic with a strong central authority and limited political freedoms, such as Saudi Arabia. The hybrid regime categpry includes countries with qualities of both authoritarianism and democracy, such as Thailand. The flawed democracy classification would include countries that either claim to be democracies or display certain democratic characteristics but have flaws that hinder them from becoming true democraicies, such as Mexico. Finally, the full democracy category would include the most democratic countries with high dgrees of public participation in the political sphere and high levels of political freedom, such as Germany. If we go on to divide the nations into these four subgroups and then find their mean CCPI scores, we can begin to see further trends that may not have been as apparent initially (Figure 2).  We find that as the level of democracy increases within nations, the CCPI score increases considerably. Authortarian regimes (mean democracy index score of 3.04) received the lowest mean CCPI score out of the four categories (43.97), wheras full democracies (mean democracy index score of 8.91) received the highest CCPI score out of the four subgroups (57.2). The idea that is most interesting perhaps is that this data portrays an upward trend as the level of democracy increases as well. For instance, hybrid regimes (more democratic than authortarian governments) received a higher CCPI score relative to authortiaran regimes. In addition, flawed democracies (more democratic than hybrid regimes) received a higher CCPI score than both authoritarian govenrments and hybrid regimes. So, it may be the case that even in nations in which a “full democracy” may not be present, we may see significantly better mitigation efforts relative to authortarian countries as long as they have more more qualities akin to democracies. This understading is critically important for the discussion in this paper. As mentioned ealrir, it is highly unlikely that a regime can change completely in a short period of time; however, the problem of climate change requies immediate attention. As a result we must ensure that we find solutions that can allow undemocratic natipns to have higher levels of policy effectivness as well.

Figure 2. Comparative Analysis of Mean Values (Democracy Index). 2016.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 9.15.29 AM

It is also imperative that we consider the impact of the CCPI score on the overall results as well. The weighting system of this particular index is quite unique, since it weights aspects such as emissions trends quite highly with 50% of the overall score derived from this very trend. On the other hand, it weights overall level of emission not as highly (30%). Take for example Country A that has significantly decreased its emissions level since the past year but still has a relatively high level of emission. On the other hand, Country B has a low overall emissions level but has had a minimal decrease in its emissions level since last year. The CCPI score for Country a would most likely be higher, since it has managed to decrease its emissions level significantly (higher weight on emissions trend). In order to further assess the validity of the derived correlation from the CCPI scoring system it is important to compare the results with other indices that also work to assess climate change performance on the national level. This can allow us to account for variables within the actual Climate Change Performance Index that may have skewed the results. One piece of scholarly research that can aid us in this endeavor is that of Robert Looney’s (Foreign Policy). Looney also conducted a statistical analysis on a different set of data in order to understand how different levels of democracy can impact overall climate change performance.[ix] Looney used the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index as the independent variable but used the World Energy Council’s Energy Trilemma Index as his dependent variable.[x] Unlike the CCPI score, the Energy Trilemma Index ranks 130 countries in terms of their progress in three distinct energy performance areas: energy security (the availability of reliable supplies of energy), energy equity (the domestic price of energy) and environmental sustainability (the effect of the country’s energy sources on greenhouse gas emissions).[xi] Using the Energy Trilemma Index can perhaps aid us in better understanding how democracy relates to a different set of performance criteria from those included in the CCPI system. The research conducted by Looney led to interesting findings that again illustrate how democracies may perform better in mitigation efforts relative to autocracies. The countries grouped by the Economist Intelligence Unit as full democracies had a mean ranking of 34.2 on the Energy Trilemma Index, while the authoritarian regimes had a much lower mean ranking (85.6).[xii] It is important to keep in mind that Looney measured his results in a different manner than the aforementioned analysis that implemented the CCPI system. Looney used the rankings that the countries received in order to classify their effectiveness, whereas before we observed the actual overall CCPI score that a country received. So in the case of Looney’s analysis, a higher mean ranking would indicate better climate change performance. However, the conclusions of the two models (CCPI and Energy Trilemma Index) are exactly the same: increasing levels of democracy lead to higher degrees of climate change performance. Looney did not only look into full democracies and authoritarian governments, but also analyzed the governing structures that fall somewhere in-between the two archetypes. Looney found that in the two intermediate regime types, environmental sustainability decreased as the level of democracy decreased, with flawed democracies having an mean ranking of 62.9 compared to the 67.5 mean ranking that hybrid regime nations received.[xiii] This again leads to the idea that higher levels of democratic institutions even within countries that may not be classified as full democracies can have better climate change performance relative to autocracies.

While these methods of statistical modeling may reveal a correlation between democracies and a higher degree of climate change performance relative to authoritarian governments, there may in fact be a number of confounding variables in place. In order to assess the validity of the data that has been collected, it is imperative to further analyze what other variables may exist outside of regime type that can explain this phenomenon. First, correlation is not an indicator of causation. Essentially, this notion implies that although a correlation may exist between higher levels of democracy and better climate change performance, the regime type may not be the sole cause of better climate change policy itself. Critics may raise the argument that factors such as a nation’s level of wealth may aid in better explaining why certain countries may be able to contribute more towards initiatives to thwart climate change. The reasoning behind this argument is that a nation with more wealth will be able to direct more funds towards mitigation efforts. On the other hand, developing nations or countries with higher levels of poverty may not be able to contribute as much towards creating effective climate change policies since they cannot bear the burden of costs associated with climate change mitigation efforts. In order to understand whether this criticism is valid it is important to analyze how a nation’s level of wealth may be impacting climate change efforts. One key indicator of a country’s level of wealth is Per Capita Income. Looney’s piece in Foreign Policy actually delved into this issue by examining the relation of Per Capita Income to climate change.[xiv] Looney writes: “As it turns out, countries that prioritized environmental sustainability ranked considerably higher on democracy than those that didn’t (75.4 vs. 103.5). These countries also had somewhat lower average per capita income ($25,015 vs. $37,095)”.[xv] Contrary to what critics may believe, this finding actually leads to the idea that higher degrees of climate change performance may actually not be greatly dependent on a particular nation’s level of wealth. Even relatively poorer nations may be able to contribute significantly to progressive climate change policies. Democracies were the regime type that prioritized environmental sustainability and also achieved better overall performance even with lower levels of per capita income. This finding also allows us to understand that a nation’s level of prioritization may also lead to better climate change performance to an extent, since these countries will contribute more towards climate change efforts and it turns out that high levels of prioritization are mainly found in democracies.

These sets of statistical analyses only help to establish a correlation between increasing levels of democracy and a higher degree of climate change performance. Now, the question that naturally arises after the discussion of these findings is why these authoritarian regimes may be performing worse in the realm of climate change relative to democracies? An issue faced by nearly all authoritarian regimes is the high level of concentrated power in often one national leader. This leader is unaccountable to both the public or any other force is authority. These dictators often the rulers often instate certain policies in order to ensure the stability of their country as a whole and also to discourage any form of dissent against their authority. So, in the realm of climate change it is important to consider if climate change policies can be used by national leaders in order to advance personal agendas of national leaders. William Goodyear William Goodyear of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University raised this every point when he asked whether climate change policies may serve as a tool for dictators.[xvi] This is quite an interesting proposition that can help explain the incentive structures in place for authoritarian regimes to engage in mitigation efforts. If true, this may also help explain why policies within autocracies have not been as effective because the dictator may only be instating the policies in order to appease the population but is not following through to ensure that the policy is as effective as possible. However according to Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia of the Center for Climate and Security, these leaders may not be able to use climate change policies to advance their agendas since the development of these policies is often tied to public participation in the political sphere.[xvii] Developing high levels of public participation in government may be an integral component of creating effective climate change policies according to a number of different studies, which authoritarian inherently do not include in their political structures.[xviii] Since, authoritarian leaders do not depend upon public input in order to govern, they are less capable of adapting to rapidly changing circumstances that affect their public, such as climate change. Werrel and Femia go even further to say that authoritarian leaders are unwilling to adapt to changes that effect the public because they simply can continue to rule without the need for actual public support.[xix] This in turn leads to a scenario in which good governance and sustainable natural resource management are rarely the result. As a result, these omnipotent leaders can often continue to rule without having to implement certain mitigation efforts since they are not accountable to the public in any way.

Werrel and Femia’s thesis rests on the fact that the lack of public participation in autocratic governments leads to ineffective climate change policies. However, what happens if the authoritarian regime does in fact instate climate change policies? It was found through a number of different studies that even even when authoritarian regimes attempt to improve their climate change practices, the policies that are instated are not as far-reaching as those found in democracies.[xx] There may be a number of reasons that can aid in explaining this occurrence. As mentioned earlier, these autocratic leaders are unaccountable. This unaccountability means that the leaders can instate ineffective policies and there will essentially be no one in place to challenge the leader. This is quite contrary to the structures found in democratic regimes, since the leader is accountable to both the public as well as other forces within the government. Take the United States for example, in which the President is the leader of the country but is not omnipotent. The system of checks and balances hold the President accountable. If the President continues to defy public will on a particular issue, then the public can vote for the other party in the next election cycle. In these ways, the President is held accountable and cannot merely instate certain protocols without having to answer for his decisions in some manner.

We have thus far analyzed how low levels of public participation and accountability may aid in explaining climate change policy ineffectiveness in authoritarian regimes. A third reason that may explain the poor climate change performance in autocracies is the high level of corruption that is often found in this regime type. Corruption is a quality that is found in nearly all autocratic nations according to a number of different scholars. In Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2008, which encompassed 180 countries, it was found that 60% of the 60 most corrupt nations are autocracies.[xxi] Instances of corruption tend to be higher in authoritarian governments due to a lack of political accountability and relatively weaker state capacity. Democracies depend upon competitive elections in order to determine who their leader will be, whereas authoritarian dictators are usually dependent upon a small group of political and social elites and the military in order to retain their power. The state also tends to have direct control over all economic ventures as a whole. Even in autocracies that appear to be reforming their economies, such as China, the ruling Communist Party maintains control over the most important sectors, such as financial services and energy.[xxii] This allows the omnipotent government to control nearly all segments of society with limited outside voices that could potentially challenge the rule of the leader. There is often rampant looting by the ruling families as well, who use the state treasury as their private fund rather than using it to ameliorate the nation. This could potentially mean that resources that could have been directed towards mitigation efforts instead find their way into the pockets of the ruler. An interesting theory introduced by some scholars states that the corruption in many of these authoritarian regions are linked to the rentier state philosophy.[xxiii] A rentier state is defined as a nation which derives all or a substantial portion of its national revenues from the rent of resources to external clients.[xxiv] A large number of authoritarian regimes are mostly found in the MENA region and are often classified as rentier states. For instance, 89% of government revenue in Saudi Arabia stems from fossil fuel revenue.[xxv] Most of these rentier states rely upon rents collected from the export of natural resources (mostly oil) and since the government does not tax its citizens, the governing forces can essentially ignore the voice of the people since the government does not rely upon the public to raise state funds. As a result, the central authority within mainly the Middle East can go on unchecked and continue its practice of limiting outside voices that often lead to instances of corruption due to power being in the hands of only a few. With high degrees of corruption, it is entirely possible that climate change policies, especially those agreed upon on an international level, are implemented but the effectiveness decreases due to the corrupt practices of the nation. Democratic leaders on the other hand are usually under extreme scrutiny and any potential corrupt practice, such as looting from the state treasury, will surely result in some form of punishment. Thus, the concept of high corruption in autocracies can provide another reason as to why climate change policy in authoritarian regimes are less effective compared to the same policies in democracies.

Another reason that can help explain the poor climate change performance in authoritarian regimes can be the low level of freedom found within these regimes. Put simply, autocracies tend to be less free compared to democracies. Nico Stehr, the Founding Director of the European Center for Sustainability Research, writes that authoritarian regimes may be ill equipped to tackle climate change concerns because they restrict the creative and innovative modes of thinking that a free democracy would normally allow.[xxvi] According to Stehr, the empowerment of individuals throughout society leads to a greater amount of voice and more potential catalysts for progress.[xxvii] Within authoritarian regimes, only the few at the top are truly able to make decisions without any real input from society at large. This leads to limited avenues for the population a large to engage with the issue of climate change. As a result, even individuals who may in fact have ideas that could shift climate change policy within these governments in a new positive direction may find themselves voiceless and unable to challenge the polices of the ruler, since that act in itself is often punishable in many autocratic governments. Climate change is an increasingly complex problem and must be confronted with multifaceted solutions. This level of complexity requires a flexible government that can quickly react to alter failed or inefficient policies, which is sure to occur in the realm of climate change.[xxviii] However, authoritarian states by nature are largely inflexible due to their deep reliance on concentrating power at the top and restricting outside forces from participating in the political process. As a result, the opinions of expert scientists or educated individuals are likely to be absent from the political process altogether. There is very little weight these experts can possess against the ultimate decision of the dictator, creating a dangerous scenario in which the government encroaches upon not only freedom but limits individual actors from participating in forming solutions for the climate change problem.

In order to further understand the actual impact of decreased levels of freedom within authoritarian regimes on climate change, we can begin to quantitatively analyze the issue as well. The level of freedom found in each nation is the primary research concern of Freedom House, a US based NGO that assigns freedom scores to countries across the globe. Freedom House Aggregate Scores range from o to 100, with 0 being not free and 100 being the freest.[xxix] Freedom House assesses factors such as political rights and civil liberties in order to derive the aggregate score. Using these scores as the independent variable in the statistical analysis and the CCPI as the dependent variable, a degree of correlation can potentially be determined. Figure 3 reveals an R2 value of 0.21, which is slightly higher than the correlational value that was found earlier when CCPI was plotted against the Democracy Index. This indicates that level of freedom (this includes both political and civil liberties) may also be correlated to climate change performance to a certain degree. The Freedom House scores also reveal that most of the countries with relatively poor freedom scores are authoritarian regimes, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. In contrast, the freest countries are comprised of mainly democracies, such as Sweden and Canada. Jane Grant, Associate Professor of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, touches upon the importance of freedom within democratic countries.[xxx] High levels of freedom can lead to participation by citizens in climate change related legislation and also allows the nation to become more willing to work with other countries on this very issue.[xxxi] Thus, the suppression of freedom at the national level may impact political discourse on climate change  as a whole. This can ultimately harm the effectiveness of climate change policy as well due to discouraging participation by citizens to challenge government policies and also due to the unwillingness of these autocratic governments to work in the international sphere on climate change concerns.

Figure 3. Correlation between Level of Freedom and Climate Change Performance. 2016.

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 9.15.43 AM

The combination of both scholarly research and statistical models help to explain why exactly these authoritarian countries may be performing poorly in the realm of climate change relative to democracies. The factors that are playing a major role are a lack of public participation, low levels of government accountability, high levels of corruption and limited political freedom. However, which factors in particular are responsible for better climate change performance within democratic nations? Higher degrees of public participation, high levels of government accountability, relatively lower levels of corruption and a high level of political freedom are surely all playing a role in the the higher levels of policy effectiveness within democratic nations. Another important factor that can explain climate change policy effectiveness in democracies, according to David Orr, is that democratic governments are more likely to be more farsighted and agile.[xxxii] These qualities allow democracies to anticipate future challenges that may arise in climate change policy and structure the policy in a way so that future obstacles have limited impact on the level of policy performance. The farsighted factor is aided due to the fact that democracies are able to build more expansive and often better alliances with NGOs, climate change experts and the public compared to autocracies. These different networks aid the government in learning about different parts of their society and in creating climate change policies that can ensure minimal hindrances in the future and achieve high levels of effectiveness. Authoritarian regimes on the other hand are not able to leverage these networks to the same degree since the government is largely inaccessible for the majority for the people. As a result, the policies created by the autocracies may not be nearly as farsighted as those found in democracies and potential roadblocks in the future may be more likely to hinder the overall effectiveness of the policies that were put in place.

At this point we have explored both differences in climate change policy effectiveness within democracies and autocracies, and have also delved into reasons that explain why the variation in policy effectiveness exists in the first place. However, a secondary goal of this paper was to explain how effective policies can be created regardless of regime type, since the type of regime that is found within a particular nation is unlikely to change in the short term. It Is nearly inconceivable to think that all authoritarian regimes can be quickly changed to democracies, so that we can further combat climate change effectively. However, what is feasible is the introduction of particular institutions that seem to be responsible for climate change policy effectiveness within democracies. The four most important factors that we found within democracies that tend to lead to policy effectiveness are higher degrees of public participation, high levels of government accountability, relatively lower levels of corruption, a high level of political freedom and a farsighted government. However, all of these factors are in some way related to public participation. Public participation can hold the government accountable for its actions. Public participation can also hold the government for instances of corruption, which can potentially decease levels of corruption. Finally, public participation can allow the government to become more well informed about issues at hand and prepare for future obstacles to policies, which in turn enables the government to become more farsighted. As Werrell and Femia of the Center for Climate and Security pointed out earlier, the development of effective climate change policies is often tied to public participation in the political sphere.[xxxiii]

With the importance of public participation established, we can begin to delve into which forms of public participation may be most feasible within autocratic regimes. It is unlikely that an authoritarian government will allow for high degrees of public participation though competitive elections, since the nature of the regime itself is opposed to that idea as a whole. However, public participation is possible in authoritarian regimes through other means. One avenue to express public opinion is through the use of protest. Political Scientist Frances Fox Piven tracks a number of different social movements throughout history to advance the idea  that protest can be used by citizens in order to express their voice and also to bring about desired reforms even under authoritarian rule.[xxxiv] China is an example of an authoritarian country that allows for such protests. Dorothy Sollinger extends the idea that China is governed by public opinion to an extent due to the existence of a responsive model of government in the nation.[xxxv] The rationale behind the responsive model is that the politicians in China respond to voice, and often that voice is expressed through nonviolent means of protest, such as marches.[xxxvi] The Chinese government benefits from responding to the desires expressed through protests because they are able to satisfy the demands of the citizens and as a result retain stability while decreasing the need for outright revolution. This idea can be extended to climate change policies as well. One point that was quite intriguing in the previous statistical analysis of countries and their climate change performance was that China received a score of 46.6 on the CCPI.[xxxvii] To understand the unique value of this number, it is important to keep in mind that China received one of the lowest scores on the Democracy Index (3.14). This CCPI score not only exceeds the average mean CCPI score for autocratic governments (43.97) but is also a higher score than the score recieved by some full democracies, such as Canada and Australia. Clearly, China must be taking part in behavior that is somehow different from that of traditional autocracies because they received a relative high CCPI score despite the fact that it is currently the largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world.[xxxviii] Due to a deceasing emissions trend in China over the past few years, the country has been able to attain a relatively better CCPI score over time. One potential explanation for this phenomenon is the fact that China allows for public protests. The inclusion of public voice in the political realm through the use of protest allows the government in China to be more well informed as a whole. This in turn allows the Chinese government to become more agile and farsighted, which enables the government to take into account potential future hindrances to policies in place and also react quickly to changing circumstances.

The problem that naturally arises form the discussion of public voice and protests is that most authoritarian governments do not support the development of large scale protests. They often view the protests as a threat to both national stability and their power. Many authoritarian governments instead make use of the military or other policing forces in order to break apart protests. This leads to a scenario in which outside voices are largely absent and the government is not able to leverage outside networks in order to create effective policies. However, authoritarian governments can allow of protests while still retaining their autocratic structure. The use of protests will be beneficial for the dictators as a whole. The rulers will be able to learn more about what the citizens within their nation desire and then implement policies that have the ability to appease the masses. This ensures that the citizens are satisfied and will therefore be less likely to revolt against the governing body. In addition, the outside voices will allow the government to leverage new networks that can allow them to create policies that are more farsighted and effective. As mentioned earlier, one of the primary reasons why democracies are able to create better climate change policies is due to the fact that the government is able to leverage networks, such as the public, NGOs and climate change experts before creating its policies. These outside influences allow the government to develop a deeper sense of the issues at hand and create policies that are more agile and farsighted in nature. As a result, the policies are able to better predict potential future hindrances and have structures that allow the policy to work even when those roadblocks do arise. Since, voting is not a possibility within autocratic regimes, protests may be a manner in which a democratic institution is introduced to increase climate change policy effectiveness without having to engage in extensive upheaval of the current regime structure.

The four most important factors found for the success of democracies in creating effective climate change policies were high degrees of public participation, high levels of government accountability, relatively lower levels of corruption, a high level of political freedom and a farsighted government. As established earlier public participation can allow all of these qualities to be realized to an extent. The use of protests are an effective means of expressing public opinion within autocracies as we have seen. Through the use of protests, citizens in an autocratic country will be be able to voice their opinions (public participation). In addition, government accountability will increase because citizens will turn to protests if the government goes against the public will. In turn, high levels of corruption can potentially decrease as well since the public can hold governments accountable though protests if the ruling body engages in high instances of corruption. Political freedom within the nation increases as well since individuals are able to exercise certain liberties with the use of protests. Finally, a more farsighted and agile government is created due to the inclusion of outside voices.  Protests are an aspect that autocracies can include that benefits the rulers in retaining their power while also increasing climate change policy effectiveness.

A thorough analysis of of political science research reveals that democratic nations tend to have superior performance in the realm of climate change policy relative to autocracies and that a certain degree of public participation must be adopted by authoritarian regimes in order to create effective climate change policies. Public participation can lead to a higher degree of accountability, potentially lower levels of corruption and a more farsighted government. Since, voting is not possible in most authoritarian nations one method of increasing public participation without changing the governance structure as a whole can be protests. Climate change encompasses a large-scale global issue and in order to make significant strides in combating this problem, the participation of all individual nations is necessary. This indicates that nations, regardless of regime type, must engage in developing effective climate change policies at the national level. Since regime type is unlikely to change in the near future, solutions such as protests are necessary in order to increase climate change policy effectiveness without greatly altering regime type.

The original article can be found at: http://harvardecon.org/?p=3403

[i] The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change: 2014 Synthesis Report

[ii] Beth Edmondson and Stuart Levy, Climate Change and Order (Pelgrave Macmillan, 2013)

[iii] Jon Hovi, Detlef F. Sprinz and Arild Underdal, Implementing Long-Term Climate Policy: Time Inconsistency, Domestic Politics, International Anarchy (MIT, 2009)

[iv] P.K. Rao, The Economics of Global Climate Change (M.E. Sharpe Inc. 2000)

[v] Jan Burck, Franziska Marten and Christoph Bals, The Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2016

[vi] Jan Burck, Franziska Marten and Christoph Bals, The Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2016

[vii] The Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index 2015

[viii] The Economist Intelligence Unit, Democracy Index 2015

[ix] Robert Looney, “Democracy is the Answer to Climate Change”, Foreign Policy, 6/1/16

[x] Robert Looney, “Democracy is the Answer to Climate Change”, Foreign Policy, 6/1/16

[xi] Robert Looney, “Democracy is the Answer to Climate Change”, Foreign Policy, 6/1/16

[xii] Robert Looney, “Democracy is the Answer to Climate Change”, Foreign Policy, 6/1/16

[xiii] Robert Looney, “Democracy is the Answer to Climate Change”, Foreign Policy, 6/1/16

[xiv] Robert Looney, “Democracy is the Answer to Climate Change”, Foreign Policy, 6/1/16

[xv] Robert Looney, “Democracy is the Answer to Climate Change”, Foreign Policy, 6/1/16

[xvi] William Goodyear, “Is Climate-Proofing a Tool for Dictators”, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, 3/11/13

[xvii] Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, “Can Authoritarian Regimes be Climate Resilient? Not Likely”, The Center for Climate and Security, 3/19/13

[xviii] Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, “Can Authoritarian Regimes be Climate Resilient? Not Likely”, The Center for Climate and Security, 3/19/13

[xix] Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, “Can Authoritarian Regimes be Climate Resilient? Not Likely”, The Center for Climate and Security, 3/19/13

[xx] Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, “Can Authoritarian Regimes be Climate Resilient? Not Likely”, The Center for Climate and Security, 3/19/13

[xxi] Minxin Pei, “Government by Corruption”, Forbes Magazine (2009)

[xxii] Minxin Pei, “Government by Corruption”, Forbes Magazine (2009)

[xxiii] Larry Diamond, “Why are there no Arab Democracies”, Journal of Democracy (Volume 21, Number 1, 2010)

[xxiv] Mari Luomi, The Gulf Monarchies and Climate Change (Hurst & Company, 2012)

[xxv] Mari Luomi, The Gulf Monarchies and Climate Change (Hurst & Company, 2012)

[xxvi] Stehr, Nico. “Exceptional Circumstances: Does Climate Change Trump Democracy?” Issues in Science and Technology 32, no. 2 (Winter 2016)

[xxvii] Stehr, Nico. “Exceptional Circumstances: Does Climate Change Trump Democracy?” Issues in Science and Technology 32, no. 2 (Winter 2016)

[xxviii] Stehr, Nico. “Exceptional Circumstances: Does Climate Change Trump Democracy?” Issues in Science and Technology 32, no. 2 (Winter 2016)

[xxix] , Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2016: Table of Country Scores

[xxx] Jane A. Grant, Democracy, Community and the Environment (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2003)

[xxxi] Jane A. Grant, Democracy, Community and the Environment (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2003)

[xxxii] David W. Orr, Down to the Wire (Oxford University Press, 2009)

[xxxiii] Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, “Can Authoritarian Regimes be Climate Resilient? Not Likely”, The Center for Climate and Security, 3/19/13

[xxxiv] Frances Fox Piven and Richard Cloward, Poor Peoples’ Movements (Vintage Books, 1977)

[xxxv] Dorothy J. Solinger, Three Welfare Models and Current Chinese Social Assistance: Confucian Justifications, Variable Applications (Journal of Asian Studies, 2015)

[xxxvi] Dorothy J. Solinger, Three Welfare Models and Current Chinese Social Assistance: Confucian Justifications, Variable Applications (Journal of Asian Studies, 2015)

[xxxvii] Jan Burck, Franziska Marten and Christoph Bals, The Climate Change Performance Index: Results 2016

[xxxviii] John Vidal and David Adam, “China overtakes US as world’s biggest CO2 emitter”, The Guardian (7/19/07)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *