Climate change represents the biggest existential crisis that has ever faced the human race. However, we have yet to come to terms with the moral, political and economic dimensions of the climate crisis. As we confront climate change, we must ask: What would real climate justice look like? And what is the connection between the pursuit of true democracy and the battle to stave off a climatic change catastrophe? Marit Hammond, a lecturer in environmental politics at Keele University in the U.K., advocates for the necessity of an “ecological democracy” in order to meet the climate emergency urgently and sustainably. In this interview, Hammond offers insights on what this new form of democracy would look like and how we can get there.

C.J. Polychroniou: The challenge of climate change has been confronted so far on both political and economic grounds. Yet fewer people are engaging in conversations about the moral element of climate change. Isn’t global warming, first and foremost, a moral issue?

Marit Hammond: It is. However, it is important to stress that this moral dimension is not separate from, but rather stretches into the political and economic dimensions — for it is not just about private individuals’ moral behavior.

Climate change is a moral issue insofar as it is knowingly caused by human actions, and in turn causes significant, existential harm — avoidable harm — to humans, other species, precious cultures and ecosystems. As is widely known, threats such as crop failures, weather extremes and sea level rise threaten the quality of life, if not life itself, particularly of those who already have the least resources to draw on to manage their lives. It is those who cannot afford to protect themselves against heat waves that die or suffer severe health problems; those already living in precarious, [severe] weather-prone regions are forced to migrate elsewhere and make themselves economically vulnerable in the process. Although climate change is a complex phenomenon at the planetary level, it is causing suffering in the lives of concrete individuals — as well as the irreversible loss of countless species and unique ecosystems.