There are clear connections between the fossil fuel industries and the politicians who are both stalling action on climate change and diminishing democracy – and it’s a dangerous shift, argues an international studies professor in her new book.
Around the world, many countries are becoming less democratic. This backsliding on democracy and “creeping authoritarianism,” as the U.S. State Department puts it, is often supported by the same industries that are escalating climate change.
In my new book, “Global Burning: Rising Antidemocracy and the Climate Crisis,” I lay out connections between these industries and the politicians who are both stalling action on climate change and diminishing democracy.
It’s a dangerous shift, both for representative government and for the future climate.
Corporate Capture of Environmental Politics
In democratic systems, elected leaders are expected to protect the public’s interests, including from 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 welfare, such as good working conditions and minimum wages. But in recent decades, this core democratic principle that prioritizes citizens over corporate profits has been aggressively undermined.
Today, it’s easy to find political leaders – on both the political right and left – working on behalf of corporations in energy, finance, agribusiness, technology, military and pharmaceutical sectors, and not always in the public interest. These multinational companies help fund their political careers and election campaigns to keep them in office.
In the U.S., this relationship was cemented by the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United. The decision allowed almost unlimited spending by corporations and wealthy donors to support the political candidates who best serve their interests. Data shows that candidates with the most outside funding usually win. This has led to increasing corporate influence on politicians and party policies.