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More Democracy Is Needed To Tackle Climate Change: A Lake Chad Parliament

 More democracy is needed to tackle climate change: A Lake Chad parliament

by Frederic Hanusch and AdenikeOladosu

One of the most frequently posed questions in this century could be: can democracy withstand the test of climate change? Or can climate change break democracy? Already, climate change is making nation states fragile. And in a country where there are different ethnicity and religions, the impacts of environmental instability are resulting in farmers-herdsmen clashes, for instance in Sub-Saharan Africa. Climate change is capable of creating an enabling environment for fueling conflict that can lead to the outbreak of war.


Earth System Science has been clearly saying for a long time what kind of climate change we can expect and how it will unfold depending on the greenhouse gases emitted. In recent decades, however, this knowledge has not been translated into political action. So, should we abandon democracy or at least put it on hold for a while to “solve” the climate crisis and “save” the planet? Isn't it better to simply let scientists govern instead of politicians?


There are two arguments against such a technocracy. First, democracy has a value in itself. In democracies the government results from free and secret elections, democracies protect human rights better than autocracies, democracies guarantee the freedom for different ways of living life. If we start to suspend democracy, so to speak, to achieve certain policy goals, we also abolish these intrinsic values.On the other hand, there is not yet really any proof that a technocracy or any other form of autocracy makes better climate policy. China is probably the most prominent case in this regard as its renewable energy capacity is growing rapidly renewable energies are being installed widely. However, at the same time, a very high number of coal-fired power plants are being built and until recently China promoted the construction of coal-fired power plants in other countries. As respective indices demonstrate, China’s climate performance looks worse than in most democracies. There is simply no empirical evidence that technocratic or autocratic governance actually performs better in terms of climate change.


What a country does about climate change depends on many factors, such as its climate vulnerability or how much it depends on coal, gas and oil revenues. But it also matters how democracy is organised. Research on how democratic quality, consisting of inclusion, participation and transparency among other things, influences climate performance, including climate policies passed and greenhouse gases reduced, provides a fairly clear picture. The higher the quality of democracy the better the climate performance.However,a fair contribution to international climate goals is still not achievable by most democracies.What would be needed are not only incremental reforms of democracy, such as regular town hall meetings or permanently institutionalized citizen’s councils dealing with climate change, even though they are good starting points. More radically, democracy has to be fundamentally re-thought and re-practiced. Let us propose an idea for how this may look.


An ambitious idea addresses the constituency of democracies. The planet must be taken into account in the way democracy is conceived and practiced. Fundamental questions arise again, including: who has democratic "agency"? After non-white and non-male people were long considered only a resource for labor or reproduction, and today are still struggling to achieve full democratic participation, “non-human” nature is now additionally emerging and awaiting democratic representation. What at first glance seems to be a thought experiment of planetary law is already being practiced since the indigenous Maori in New Zealand proposed that not only the TeUrewera forests but also the Whanganui River and Mount Taranaki become legal entities in their own right. When advocating for the restoration of Lake Chad, the need for such a green democracy becomes obvious: a democracy that includes the voice of our non-human environment, the voice of Lake Chad itself. If such environmental rights are not developed correctly, it will definitely affect human rights because a green democracy calls for a balanced equation: between humans and the environment. This is because a one-sided democracy will definitely affect the wellbeing of our environment.


Just imagine that the future of Lake Chad would not only be decided by member states of the Chad basin, namely Cameroon, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Algeria, the Central African Republic, Libya, and Sudan, but also by Lake Chad itself. A “Parliament of Lake Chad” could speak in the name of Lake Chad, consisting of spokespersons of Lake Chad’s inhabitants, ranging from fish to fishermen, from the African myrrh to the secretary bird, from the farmer to the mineral natron. Together they would have to consider the manifold relations existing in and around Lake Chad, creating a more inclusive future for the region that respects the needs of all its human and non-human inhabitants.


- please insert here images of lake Chad’s change (1973 vs. 2017) downloadable here: -


Democratic innovation and what might be called democratic serendipity must play a larger role in thinking about and practicing democracy in regards to climate-friendly futures.Democracy is one of the several indicators that relay the temperature of our planet’s wellbeing. It calls for us all to rethink democracy to suit the prevailing condition; otherwise, planetary forces driven by climate change, ranging from extreme weather events to large-scale forest fires, could increasingly shift democratic action from the claim of shaping to the realm of reactive action.



Dr. Frederic Hanusch is co-founder and scientific manager of the Panel on Planetary Thinking at the Justus Liebig University Giessen, Germany, and a research fellow of the Earth System Governance Project. His research explores the development of democracies in an era of human-caused planetary change. He is author of Democracy and Climate Change. More information about his work can be found on his website:



OladosuAdenike graduated with first class honorsin agricultural economics from the University of Agriculture, Makurdi, Nigeria (UAM). She is an ecofeminist, ecoreporter and climate justice leader. She founded the I Lead Climate Action Initiative that advocates for the restoration of Lake Chad. Adenike specializes in peace, security and equality in Africa especially in the Lake Chad region. She is championing a green democracy and is a recipient of the Ambassador of Conscience award from Amnesty International Nigeria. More information about her work can be found on her


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