Democracy and environmental degradation Academic Article uri icon


  • In a relatively small but growing body of literature in political science and environmental studies, scholars debate the effect of democracy on environmental degradation. Some theorists claim that democracy reduces environmental degradation. Others argue that democracy may not reduce environmental degradation or may even harm the environment. Empirical evidence thus far has been limited and conflicting. This article seeks to address the democracy-environment debate. We focus on the effect of political regime type on human activities that directly damage the environment. Our discussion of the theoretical literature identifies different causal mechanisms through which democracy could affect environmental degradation. The empirical analysis focuses on the net effect of these competing mechanisms. We examine statistically the effect of democracy on five aspects of human-induced environmental degradation - carbon dioxide emissions, nitrogen dioxide emissions, deforestation, land degradation, and organic pollution in water. We find that democracy reduces all five types of environmental degradation. While the substantive effect of democracy is considerable, it varies in size across different types of environmental degradation. We also find nonmonotonic effects of democracy that vary across the environmental indicators. 2006 International Studies Association.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 22

author list (cited authors)

  • Li, Q., & Reuveny, R.

citation count

  • 275

complete list of authors

  • Li, Quan||Reuveny, Rafael

publication date

  • December 2006