The literature on the political economy of the global environment is a hybrid of political economy, international relations (IR), and international environmental politics, looking at the formal and informal institutional factors which give rise to unsustainable habits. The physical environment has long been the subject of social scientists, who recognized that patterns of social activity might contribute to environmental degradation. One of the most common formulations of environmental issues as a collective action is through the metaphor of the Tragedy of Commons, which argues that overpopulation worldwide would undoubtedly contribute to extensive resource depletion. Following the formulation of the core properties of environmental issues as lying at the interstices of a variety of human activities, implications followed for how to conduct research on international environmental politics and policy. Realist and neorealist traditions in international relations stress the seminal role of power and national leadership in addressing environmental problems. Neoliberal institutionalists look at the role of formal institutional properties in influencing states’ willingness to address transboundary and global environmental threats. On the other hand, the constructivist movement in international relations focuses on the role of new ecological doctrines in how states choose to address their environmental problems, and to act collectively. Ultimately, the major policy debates over the years have addressed the political economy of private investment in environmentally oriented activities, sustainable development doctrines, free trade and the environment, environmental security, and studies of compliance, implementation, and effectiveness.
Peter M. Haas
Elena McLean and Muhammet Bas
Natural disasters such as cyclones, droughts, earthquakes, floods, landslides, volcanoes, or pandemics routinely have cross-border implications. Transboundary risks of natural disasters tend to be the greatest for neighboring countries but often extend regionally or even globally. Even disasters with seemingly localized impacts contained within the national borders of a given state may have indirect short-term or long-term effects on other countries through refugee flows, conflict spillovers, volatility of global commodity prices, disruption of trade relations, financial flows, or global supply chains. Natural disasters may increase the risk of interstate conflict because of commitment problems, reduced opportunity costs of conflict, shocks to status quo divisions of resources, or demarcation of territories among countries, or because of leaders’ heightened diversionary incentives in favor of conflict. In some cases, disasters may have a pacifying effect on ongoing hostilities by creating opportunities for disaster diplomacy among conflict parties. Population displacement in disaster zones can send refugee flows and other types of migration across borders, with varying short-term and long-term socioeconomic and political effects in home and host countries. Adverse effects of natural disasters on regional and global economic activity shape patterns of international trade and financial flows among countries. To mitigate such risks from natural disasters and facilitate adjustment and recovery efforts, countries may turn to international cooperation through mechanisms for disaster relief and preparedness. Regional and global governmental and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are common means to initiate and maintain such cooperative efforts.