Hayley Stevenson talks about who decides to fix climate change

I’m not certain that it’s cause for sustained consternation, but a few of my students (it was more than three) referred to the University of Sheffield’s Hayley Stevenson as a he in their most recent assignments. You may listen to her in the clip below addressing the topic of climate change and democracy. Not surprisingly, Professor Stevenson implicitly rejects my proposal of a global benevolent dictator (take that USA, China, and Stephen Harper) tasked with creating the global climate regime necessary to combat the potential effects of climate change. Stevenson prefers more democracy to less.

2 thoughts on “Hayley Stevenson talks about who decides to fix climate change”

  1. I am also quite skeptical about democracy generally, and hence Stevenson’s proposal of democratizing the politics of climate change. I’m not a ardent believer that either democracy or authoritarianism brings about effective solutions to climate change or other issues. Rather, I believe in a benevolent government that has noble goals and objectives for its citizens and its environment whether it is a democratic one or authoritarian. The U.S is arguably one of the most democratic countries in the world, yet is the biggest emitter of green house gases after China, and decision making within the government always happens at an extraordinarily slow pace due to the need for congress to approve, and the frequent ideological and policy clashes between Republicans and Democrats. Moreover the frequent changing of governments also leads to changes in climate policies.For example when Bush came to power he pulled out of the Kyoto protocol, along with some other powerful countries such as Canada under Harper. Therefore, this hinders the implementation of solutions because collective action is necessary. Countries such as Singapore and Rwanda on the other hand, that are not considered “democratic” have more sustainable environmental policies. The main focus should be educating the population about climate change and its gruesome effects with the potential that a strong/powerful and educated civil society will emerge that will demand and hence influence governments to reevaluate their strategies on climate change.

  2. Over the last 20 years, since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992,there has been a concerted effort to provide a top-down approach to tackling climate change through the United Nations. However, initiatives like the Kyoto protocol have achieved very little substantive change. So I can understand how Stevenson can suggest that a more democratic approach could be utilized to mitigate climate change. However, I feel that climate change is just too complex of an issue to be ratified by the general public. Firstly, Stevenson makes the assumption that the general public is fully aware of climate change and it’s effects. While I do sincerely hope that people are educating themselves on the issue, I doubt that many do read up on the harmful effects of climate change. Mostly because a majority of individuals, for example those residing in the developed world, do not feel the negative effects of climate change or are just too busy lining up for the new iPhone to really care. Secondly, voter turnout has significantly decreased over the last couple of years, especially in Canada. So how can one assume that citizens will show up to vote for the creation of policies to combat climate change? Lastly, the democratic system itself is very complex. This complexity can greatly hinder policies and strategies to be agreed upon and implemented in a timely manner to actual deal with climate change. A more democratic approach to climate change could work, but it needs a motivated, well informed, and educated general population if it is to have any effectiveness at all.

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