In a bleak article, Damon Linker looks at the likely effects of climate change on liberal democracy, and is not encouraged.
To simplify, we can imagine three scenarios:
The world does nothing, or not enough, and the likely effects of rapid climate change play themselves out. The result: famine, flooding, massive population movements – social disruptions that will severely stress modern, wealthy democracies. Authoritarian regimes may arise just to maintain (or claim to maintain) minimal social order.
The world does something. There’s very little evidence that the world’s democracies can get their citizens to take the drastically inconvenient actions that would be needed to address climate change in an effective way. If action is taken, it will probably be by over-riding liberal democratic norms.
Climate success. A world in which climate change is somehow tamed will most likely be one of limited or negative economic growth. Damon Linker:
To slow or halt climate change, we need to get smaller — producing fewer offspring, expending less energy, emitting less pollution, consuming fewer resources… From the start, modern politics — from classical liberalism on through to more progressive forms of political action like modern liberalism and socialism — have presumed the presence of economic growth and expanding prosperity over time. The promise of material betterment over the course of individual lives and from one generation to the next fuels individual and collective ambition and hope that, in turn, powers the economy. Optimism, hope for the future, faith in progress over time — they are indispensable to keeping our politics decent and broadly democratic. By contrast, when economic pessimism rises, hope for the future wanes, and faith in progress dies out, politics becomes darker, with anger, blame, and bitterness taking the place of contentment.
In short, if Linker is correct, the future of liberal democracy is dim under any likely outcome.