Democracy and Climate explores and advances the idea that successfully navigating a changing climate will require revitalizing democratic institutions and civic capabilities.
On December 12, 2015, I was in the room at the signing of the landmark Paris Climate Agreement as one of less than 200 non-government observers there. The moment felt full of history and possibility. It felt that, perhaps, the world might come together and do what was necessary to address climate change.
It was clear to me then that making good on the historic agreement achieved at Paris required all of us to be part actually making it happen.
Fast forward a few years, and the promise of Paris has fallen flat. Global emissions continue to rise. Scientific reports are getting starker. People around the world are feeling the effects of climate change in terrifying ways – fire, cyclones, disease, agriculture failures, and more.
What is even worse is just at the time we need to be working together on climate change, the ways we work together collectively – things like government, academia, the media, and civic associations – feel like they are at best not up to the task at hand. At worst, these things feel like they’re crumbling.
It is a scary time.
And yet, I refuse to shrink if the face of this fear.
Instead, I choose to use this fear as the basis for following a calling. Our time is calling us to transform our society and our systems in ways that bring about a more desirable present and future in the face of climate change.
I believe many others feel this calling, even if they can’t quite articulate it yet. Democracy and Climate is built on this belief.
I founded Democracy and Climate because my particular version of this calling is rooted in a commitment to democracy. This commitment means three things. First, everyone should be free to pursue their version of a good life. Second, everyone should have a say in how we live together. Third, a well-functioning society requires acknowledgement (through word and action) of the dignity of all people and human dependence on the natural world.
I also founded Democracy and Climate because the ways in which we govern ourselves and our ability to address climate change are inextricably linked. Although there is a lot of writing on climate and a lot of writing on challenges to democracy, there is little substantive work connecting the two.
Democracy and Climate, and related work, is an effort to change the conversation about how we govern ourselves and how we deal with climate change, with the hope that we get better at both.