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Democratic, Security, Environment

In previous posts I talked about the possibility of environmental- and geo-engineering. Now I want to link this with two other important issues: global security and global democracy. My point is that without proper global environmental governance, climate change management can turn into security issue itself.

First of all, any middle-sized nation can geoengineer because we have plenty of technology, which is surprisingly cheap. We do not have proper environmental governance in areas such as global warming and climate change that have been known for some time. What is then left for decisions about geoengeneering? Who takes them?

Second, we have global democratic deficit. Some examples: the democratic reversal http://www.freedomhouse.hu/images/nit2009/overview.pdf in the Former Soviet Union, the undemocratic global powers like China and Russia, the presence of authoritarian regimes in the UN Security Council. To add to this, even advocates of democracy such as the EU and the US experience undermine democracy in supranational decision-making (EU) and neglect of traditional consultation and approval mechanisms (US). Unaccountable and undemocratic governance tend to be less efficient and to overlook important problems.

Who takes decisions about tackling climate change is an important problem. And we may soon be in the situation to take quick decisions with absolutely no preparation or mechanisms how to do it.

Humanity has become increasingly efficient in making global harm from local undertakings. The increase of CO2 emissions by the developed countries, China and India is good example. But with improved geoengeneering technologies, many countries will be able to ‘try and stop climate change’ by means they consider appropriate. Given the grave economic and even social problems that environmental degradation and climate change carry along, different measures to stop them or mitigate their effects have really high stakes. It is then not difficult to imagine how different attempts to stop climate change through geoengeneering will have crucial consequences and therefore differences in the approach and goals would gain security status. Then an act of geoengeneering by the US that does not align with Chinese undertakings may be considered an act of war!

In other words – it is a problem when local harm to environment has global consequences. But we have even greater problem when there is local geoengeneering efforts with global effect without proper decision making on international level! Who will decide it, and how decisions will be made? Scientifically? Politically? We saw in the last 50 years how global governance of the UN type is totally inefficient in solving security issues. We have had security problems as long as civilization existed and we still do not know how to solve them at international and global scale. What is left then for the environmental issues that we realised only a few decades ago? Can we really hope that UN or a similar structure can handle them properly? And can we leave these issues and their resolution to individual international players such as countries, country clubs like the EU and G8 or even big companies with global corporate interests?

These are easy questions. The answer is “NO”. The harder one lies ahead and it is how to create effective Global Environmental Governance. So far I do not see sensible efforts to address this issue. As long as world’s leaders act ad hoc as they do and do not build sustainable and reliable governance mechanism for tackling environmental threats, we may soon find ourselves in the middle of environmental disaster coupled with security chaos. This is a grim prospect, but also one worth considering. We should therefore put more pressure on our governments to fund more research on geoengeneering and to think about global mechanisms for environmental management. Otherwise we may not be ready to take resolute measures if it is necessary. Moreover, we would not know why we should not take these measures. And we would not be able to agree on how we should deal with a global environmental emergency. Important, eh?

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  1. November 4, 2009 at 16:28

    Fortunately, the EU Parliament will shortly be strengthened. On the other hand, I think the appt of EU officials by state leaders does not contradict democratic principles because those leaders have been elected and repuplican democratic principles don’t function as well directly at a very large scale. If you are interested, here is a related post:

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