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Monday June 27, 2022

Corporate capture

May 18, 2022

In 1988, when NASA scientist James Hansen testified before a US Senate committee about the greenhouse effect, both the Republican and Democratic parties took climate change seriously. But this attitude quickly diverged. Since the 1990s, the energy sector has heavily financed conservative candidates who have pushed its interests and helped to reduce regulations on the fossil fuel industry. This has enabled the expansion of fossil fuel production and escalated CO2 emissions to dangerous levels.

The industry’s power in shaping policy plays out in examples like the coalition of 19 Republican state attorneys general and coal companies suing to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

At the same time that the energy sector has sought to influence policies on climate change, it has also worked to undermine the public’s understanding of climate science. For instance, records show ExxonMobil participated in a widespread climate-science denial campaign for years, spending more than US$30 million on lobbyists, think tanks and researchers to promote climate-science skepticism. These efforts continue today. A 2019 report found the five largest oil companies had spent over $1 billion on misleading climate-related lobbying and branding campaigns over the previous three years. The energy industry has in effect captured the democratic political process and prevented enactment of effective climate policies.

Corporate interests have also fueled a surge in well-financed antidemocratic leaders who are willing to stall and even dismantle existing climate policies and regulations. These political leaders’ tactics have escalated public health crises, and in some cases, human rights abuses.

Many deeply antidemocratic governments are tied to oil, gas and other extractive industries that are driving climate change, including Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and China.

In ‘Global Burning’, I explore how three leaders of traditionally democratic countries – Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Scott Morrison of Australia and Donald Trump in the US – came to power on anti-environment and nationalist platforms appealing to an extreme-right populist base and extractive corporations that are driving climate change. While the political landscape of each country is different, the three leaders have important commonalities.

Bolsonaro, Morrison and Trump all depend on extractive corporations to fund electoral campaigns and keep them in office or, in the case of Trump, get reelected.

For instance, Bolsonaro’s power depends on support from a powerful right-wing association of landowners and farmers called the Uniao Democratica Ruralista, or UDR. This association reflects the interests of foreign investors and specifically the multibillion-dollar mining and agribusiness sectors. Bolsonaro promised that if elected in 2019, he would dismantle environmental protections and open, in the name of economic progress, industrial-scale soybean production and cattle grazing in the Amazon rainforest. Both contribute to climate change and deforestation in a fragile region considered crucial for keeping carbon out of the atmosphere. Bolsonaro, Morrison and Trump are all openly skeptical of climate science.

Excerpted: ‘Rising Authoritarianism and Escalating Climate Change Are Supported by the Same Industries’. Courtesy: Commondreams.org

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