T08P08 - Climate Crisis as Challenge for Democratic Policymaking: A Critical Policy Studies Roundtable

Topic : Policy Discourse and Critical Policy Research

Panel Chair : Frank Fischer - ffischer@gmx.com

Objectives and Scientific Relevance of the panel

Can contemporary democratic governments tackle climate crisis?  Some say that democracy has to be a central part of a policy strategy to deal with climate change. Others say that it is not up to the challenge in the time frame available—that it will require a stronger hand, even a form of eco-authoritarianism. A question that does not lend itself to easy answers, it is the issue we seek to sort out and assess in these pages. While most of us come down on the side of an environmentally-oriented democracy, establishing and sustaining its practices will not take place under the existing arrangements of a capitalist dominated democratic state and its politics, described as the politics of unsustainability. Democratic governance during climate crisis, it can be argued, will have to invent a new way forward.


The situation we find ourselves in—“the start of a global climate emergency”—presses for serious attention . At the same time that we carry on with our regular activities, in particular those of uncontrolled consumerism, climate change and its worrisome impacts are regularly reported to be getting worse and faster than was expected.  We are, in short, running out of time left to make the kinds of changes needed to avert a very serious climate crisis, even potential catastrophe.   Even if talk of catastrophe turn out to be exaggerated, climate change can still result in serious upheavals leading to various state of emergencies. Without doubt, measures will be introduced to deal with pressing emergencies— heat, flooding, hunger, migration, civil violence and more.  Still, under such circumstances, it is far from certain that contemporary political systems, including democratic political systems, will be able to adequately cope with these pressures. 


We are thus approaching a stage of climate change in which the democratic prospects for the future look increasingly troublesome.  Given the failures of governments to rise to the challenge so far, Lester Brown, founder of the Worldwatch Institute, has suggested that we need a “Plan B.” What that might look like poses a powerful challenge for the policy perspective. A question that presses for attention, this roundtable discussion seeks to assess the democratic policy prospects under the conditions of the climate crisis ahead.

Call for papers

This roundtable discussion seeks to address the implications of the climate change crisis for the future of democratic governance, the democratic policymaking process in particular. It does this in the context of an increasing eco-authoritarian challenge often advance through a state of war analogy and the need for swift and dramatic action.  Others say that democracy has already failed to adequately confront this ominous threat. The panel includes questions such as ´what does democracy mean in this context´, `what is its relationship to sustainability`, what sorts of `participatory alternatives do we have to explore?`, ´what sorts of experimentation might be helpful?` among others.

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