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Origins and Theory of Climate Change Politics  

Loren R. Cass

Climate change politics refers to attempts to define climate change as a physical phenomenon as well as to delineate and predict current and future effects on the environment and broader implications for human affairs as a foundation for political action. Defining the causes, scale, time frame, and consequences of climate change is critical to determining the political response. Given the high stakes involved in both the consequences of climate change and the distributive implications of policies to address it, climate change politics has been and remains highly contentious both within and across countries. Climate politics presents difficulties for study given its interdisciplinary nature and the scientific complexities involved in climate change. Climate change politics emerged in the mid- to late 1980s, as climate science became more accessible to policymakers and the public. However, scholarship on international climate politics was relatively slow to develop. Prior to 2008, major publications on international relations (except for policy journals) only lightly touched upon climate politics. Climate change was frequently referenced in articles on a range of topics, but it was not the primary focus of analysis. Since 2008 there has been a dramatic increase in literature focusing on climate change. The possibility of massive economic, political, and ecological dislocation from the consequences of climate change as well as from policies to address the problem have resulted in an extensive literature. Scholars have addressed aspects of climate politics from every paradigm within international relations, as well as drawing on research from numerous related disciplines. The international relations theories that shaped the scholarship on climate politics provide the foundation for understanding the ongoing normative debates surrounding domestic and international policies to address climate change.

Article

Normative Debates and Policy Responses in Climate Change Politics  

Loren R. Cass

Climate change politics refers to attempts to define climate change as a physical phenomenon as well as to delineate current and predict future effects on the environment and broader implications for human affairs as a foundation for political action. Defining the causes, scale, time frame, and consequences of climate change is critical to determining the political response. Given the high stakes involved in both the consequences of climate change and the distributive implications of policies to address climate change, climate change politics has been and remains highly contentious both within countries and across countries. Climate politics presents difficulties for study given its interdisciplinary nature and the scientific complexities involved in climate change. The international relations literature surrounding climate politics has also evolved and grown substantially since the mid-2000s. Efforts to address the consequences of climate change have evoked controversial ethical and distributive justice questions that have produced an important normative literature. These debates increasingly inform the ongoing negotiations surrounding responsibility for the problem of climate change and the policies required to address climate change. There is also a larger debate regarding the complex linkages between climate change and broader ecological as well as economic and political consequences of both the effects of climate change and policies designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or remove them from the atmosphere. As we enter the 2020s, a new debate has emerged related to the implications of the posited transition to the Anthropocene Epoch and the future of climate politics. Normative and policy debates surrounding climate change politics remain contentious without a clear path to meaningful political action.

Article

The Politics of Climate Change  

Loren R. Cass

Climate politics presents difficulties for study given its interdisciplinary nature and the scientific complexities involved in climate change. Climate change politics had got its start in the mid- to late 1980s, as climate science became more and more accessible to policy makers and the general public. Yet prior to 2008, climate politics was only touched upon in major publications on international relations, with the exception of policy journals. Climate change was frequently referenced in articles on a range of topics, but it was not the primary focus of analysis. The recent years have seen an explosion in literature focusing on the topic, however. The potential for massive economic, political, and ecological dislocation from the consequences of climate change as well as from the potential policies to address the problem have since resulted in an extensive literature, with scholars addressing aspects of climate politics from every paradigm within international relations, as well as drawing on research in numerous other related disciplines. In addition, efforts to address the consequences of climate change have evoked controversial ethical and distributive justice questions that have produced an important normative literature. Overall, the literature on climate politics centers on two issues: how we can explain the international political response to climate change, as well as how the international community should respond to climate change.

Article

International Relations of the Pacific Islands  

William Waqavakatoga and Joanne Wallis

The Pacific Islands region occupies 15% of the world’s surface, yet there have been relatively few analyses of the international relations of the Pacific Island countries (PICs). Existing analyses tend to view the region through the lens of the interests of major and metropolitan powers. They consequently focus on how geopolitical competition between those powers is likely to develop in the region but afford little consideration to the agency of PICs to shape how that will occur. This article reimagines the international relations of the Pacific Islands to capture how Pacific Island countries are exercising their agency in pursuit of their interests and to manage the behaviour of great and metropolitan powers. This reimagining involves three analytical moves. First, it subverts stereotypes of “smallness”, “weakness”, and “fragility” which tend to dominate the policy and academic literature of metropolitan powers about the region. Second, it better recognises the agency and activism of Pacific Island countries captured by the concept of the “Blue Pacific”. Third, it accounts for the dynamism and diversity of the nature and interests of the entities and actors that make up, and are involved in the Pacific region.

Article

The Coloniality of the Scientific Anthropocene  

Vishwas Satgar

The discipline of International Relations is not at the cutting edge of dealing with planetary ecological problems such as the worsening climate crisis. The notion of the Anthropocene developed by earth scientists highlights the extent to which humans are a geological force shaping earth’s ecosystems. This official scientific discourse has gained traction in the United Nations climate negotiations process and is beginning to shape the knowledge project even in the academy. However, the discipline of International Relations has not engaged in any serious way with the Anthropocene discourse. Its claim that the Anthropos, the human as a species, and more generally 7.8 billion people on the planet are responsible causally for dangerous impacts such as climate change clashes with how the discipline of International Relations understands and seeks to explain global politics through its theoretical frameworks, relations, dynamics, and institutions. This claim warrants critical engagement from the International Relations discipline. However, mainstream International Relations epistemology reinforces coloniality in international relations such that an oppressive and relational hierarchy between the Global North and South is reproduced while being oblivious to how the ecological substratum of our lifeworld is being destroyed through replicating modes of living central to global modernity. Ecological relations are not part of mainstream International Relations thinking. Within mainstream International Relations, its hegemonic theories and frameworks are the problem. The conception of the international and international relations operating within the Anthropocene discourse also reproduces coloniality. Although the science it furnishes to understand the human–nature relationship is compelling and important, its human-centered explanation of how global power works is inadequate and reinforces the subordination of the Global South. To overcome these problems, a decolonized approach to the discipline of International Relations is crucial. At the same time, given the urgency of the climate crisis, countries in the Global South need to remake the world order and its future through decolonized International Relations. Several Southern decolonial thinkers are crucial for this task.

Article

Globalization and the Environment: There Must Be Some Way Out of Here  

Ronnie D. Lipschutz and Felicia A. Peck

Even as globalization offers new opportunities to many and opens numerous political opportunities for social movements and other forms of political organizations, globalization also often disrupts existing forms of beliefs, values, and behaviors, as well as the global environment. The impacts of human activities on the global environment have become increasingly evident. Tangible evidence of global climate change is now becoming apparent in many places, as glaciers and permafrost melt, rainfall patterns change, and species move or die out. Indeed, the scale of human activity has seriously altered the biogeophysical state of planet Earth. The shifting patterns of industrial and intellectual production associated with globalization have also resulted in the relocation of environmental externalities from one country to another. The growth in global trade has made it easier to “export” negative environmental impacts to countries less able to afford strict regulation and less willing to impose it. Moreover, the “commodification of everything” has changed more traditional patterns of pollution and waste production in unforeseen ways, especially through cultural globalization—that is, the worldwide diffusion of high-consumption norms that put a premium on things. As such, there has been a growing turn toward efforts to use market tools and mechanisms to “globalize” environmental remediation. The three general categories for such “solutions” include the commodification of the “right to pollute”; ecological modernization, or reducing externalities throughout a commodity chain; and altering consumer preferences and motivating “virtuous” consumption.

Article

Neoliberalism and Its Critics  

Patrick Bond

Neoliberalism refers to a set of market-based ideas and policies ranging from government budget cuts and privatization of state enterprises to liberalization of currency controls, higher interest rates and deregulation of local finance, removal of import barriers (trade tariffs and quotas), and an emphasis on promotion of exports. While the effects of these policies have been quite consistent, they have sparked sharp criticism from the left. Critics pointed out the elites’ consistent failure in areas such as development aid, international financial regulation, Bretton Woods reform, the World Trade Organization’s Doha Agenda, and United Nations Security Council democratization. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, the G20 held a summit in 2009 to discuss policy issues pertaining to the promotion of international financial stability. G20 leaders vowed to, among other promises, strengthen the longer term relevance, effectiveness and legitimacy of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, and to seek agreement on a post–2012 climate change regime. However, many intellectual critics of neoliberalism insisted that the G20 represented nothing new. Instead, they emphasize several urgent political priorities, such as: immediately recall and reorganize campaigning associated with defense against financial degradation; reconsider national state powers including exchange controls, defaults on unrepayble debts, financial nationalization and environmental reregulation, and the deglobalization/decommodification strategy for basic needs goods; and address the climate crisis by rejecting neoliberal strategies in favor of both consumption shifts and supply-side solutions.

Article

Risk and Security in International Relations  

Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen

Considerations of risk are pervasive in the contemporary security environment. A risk is a scenario followed by a policy proposal for how to prevent the scenario from becoming real. When policy makers approach security questions in terms of risk, they no longer seek to address specific and calculable threats like the Red Army during the Cold War. Instead, they focus on trends that give a future significance to present challenges—trends that give future significance to present challenges include (a) the personalization of risk, (b) the establishment of political community based on risk, and (c) existential risk where the fate of humanity is at stake. In his 1958 book War and Industrial Society, Raymond Aron claimed that industrial society had shaped not only the way in which war was fought in the 20th century, but also the expectations of what force could achieve and how peace could be made. A number of sociologists argue that the industrial society described by Aron is changing into what Ulrich Beck terms a risk society. Risks are associated with a decision. Risk is inside politics, not outside—both internationally and domestically. Risk studies therefore often focus on the difficulties and dilemmas confronting policy makers as they struggle to provide security in a post-secure society. Risks are continuously identified by scenarios pre-empted by military actions or other acts of security—only for the results of these actions to produce, in turn, new risks. The article seeks to explain why risk studies have never coalesced into a coherent research program, as perhaps some of the scholars engaging with risk theory hoped it would. Having concluded that risk theories remain fragmented and more engaged with particular subfields than with each other, it makes sense to deal with the substantial contribution of risk theory by focusing on particular trends in security policy in which the risk perspective has something important to say.