Edited by Edward A. Page and Michael R. Redclift
Chapter 2: Democracy and the Environment
1 Nils Petter Gleditsch and Bjørn Otto Sverdrup 1 INTRODUCTION The recent wave of democratisation has rekindled interest in liberal propositions about the beneﬁcial effects of democracy on international affairs, notably on peace and development. Much of the literature on the environment has ignored the effects of the political system, while other parts have suggested that development, industrialisation, and capitalism are particularly apt to lead to environmental degradation. Since most democracies are highly developed, industrialised and capitalist, many environmentalists have taken a dim view of the prospects for environmental protection in democratic countries. While some have assumed that saving the environment requires a strong state, even an authoritarian regime, and that democracies are incapable of handling the ‘tragedy of the commons’, recent literature suggests a more optimistic view. The end of the Cold War has also occasioned a more critical look at the environmental policies under socialism. This article suggests that although many democracies have permitted development at the expense of environmental protection, democracies are also likely to mobilise counter-forces to such degradation. An empirical analysis shows generally positive bivariate effects of democracy on environmental performance, and more uniformly positive effects when controlling for the level of development. Many environmental problems have transnational effects, but few are exclusively international. Democracies, in addition to overcoming national environmental degradation more efﬁciently, are also better at developing cooperative solutions to international environmental problems. 2 THE RENAISSANCE OF DEMOCRACY IN INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS During ‘the third wave of democratization’ (Huntington, 1991), interest...
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