Can politicians solve global warming?

Lots of us are asking politicians to fix climate change [5]. So why is progress so slow? Whilst democracies have clear advantages and are fought for in many countries [1,2,3,4], they have one big disadvantage: it is hard to implement long-term policies [6]. Politicians are faced with a trade-off between improving the lives of people in the present, and looking after the future [6].

To illustrate this, let’s run two imaginary candidates against each other in an election:

Candidate A: proposes to improve healthcare, provide more jobs etc. People want these benefits.

Candidate B: wants to fix climate change, which will involve introducing a high carbon tax [7] and reducing air travel [8]. People want to fix climate change, but this might to some extent come at the price of improving healthcare etc. Moreover, solutions to climate change involve reducing consumption and changes to our lifestyles [13], something people are usually not happy about [9,14]!

Because people want the things candidate A offers, candidate B will have a hard time winning an election in a democracy. Think of democracy as “survival of the fittest” – like evolution in nature [11]. Zebras that don’t run fast get eaten by lions. Only fast zebras survive [12]. In politics, only candidates that run popular programs get power. People don’t like your ideas? No power for you.

So, yes, politicians can solve global warming: the required policies are relatively straightforward, they are just not properly implemented yet [10]! They’ll only become reality if people vote for them. Investigate the policies of different political candidates, and if you have the right to vote, use it!

References

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