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Article

The Politics of Trade and Climate Change  

Daniel Yuichi Kono

Both trade and climate change policies affect the international competitiveness of carbon-intensive industries. This suggests that policy changes in one area may affect politics in the other. Does openness to international trade affect climate change politics? Do climate change policies affect the politics of trade? Does formally linking trade and climate policies via trade sanctions affect the prospects for cooperation in each domain? There are good theoretical reasons to believe that the answer to these questions is yes. Theoretically, each set of policies should affect the other, but these interactions could either encourage or discourage trade and climate cooperation. How trade and climate politics interact is thus an empirical question. Empirically, the overall picture is of a nascent but promising field of research. Extant studies provide indirect tests and suggestive evidence, but little in the way of firm conclusions. Only one point emerges clearly: progress in this area will require more and better data on national climate policies.

Article

Climate Change and Justice  

Christopher Armstrong

Understanding the complex set of processes collected under the heading of climate change represents a considerable scientific challenge. But it also raises important challenges for our best moral theories. For instance, in assessing the risks that climate change poses, we face profound questions about how to weigh the respective harms it may inflict on current and future generations, as well as on humans and other species. We also face difficult questions about how to act in conditions of uncertainty, in which at least some of the consequences of climate change—and of various human interventions to adapt to or mitigate it—are difficult to predict fully. Even if we agree that mitigating climate change is morally required, there is room for disagreement about the precise extent to which it ought to be mitigated (insofar as there is room for underlying disagreement about the level of temperature rises that are morally permissible). Finally, once we determine which actions to take to reduce or avoid climate change, we face the normative question of who ought to bear the costs of those actions, as well as the costs associated with any climate change that nevertheless comes to pass.

Article

Public Opinion and Religion: Environmental Attitudes in the United States  

Jason M. Pudlo

The study of the relationship between religion and attitudes on the environment is a growing area of academic inquiry and combines research from political scientists, sociologists, and religious historians. Researchers in this area seek to better understand how religion influences attitudes on the environment or environmental policy and if religion motivates environmental action or behaviors. Key to this area of study is defining what religion is and deciding how to measure environmental attitudes. Is religion identified through religious affiliation, religious beliefs, religious networks and communication, or other criteria? Relatedly, are environmental attitudes understood as support for particular environmental policies, willingness to sacrifice to protect nature, or personal environmental behaviors such as recycling? Social scientists have attempted to answer these questions through an overview of key works in the study of religion and the environment in the United States. For additional perspective, these works are placed into their religious and international context to show where, if at all, religiously motivated environmental attitudes in the United States differ from those around the world.

Article

Climate and Environmental Crises  

Victor Galaz

Climate change is increasingly being framed as a “climate crisis.” Such a crisis could be viewed both to unfold in the climate system, as well as to be induced by it in diverse areas of society. Following from current understandings of modern crises, it is clear that climate change indeed can be defined as a “crisis.” As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 1.5oC special report elaborates, the repercussions of a warming planet include increased food insecurity, increased frequency and intensity of severe droughts, extreme heat waves, the loss of coral reef ecosystems and associated marine species, and more. It is also important to note that a range of possible climate-induced crises (through, e.g., possible increased food insecurity and weather extremes) will not be distributed evenly, but will instead disproportionally affect already vulnerable social groups, communities, and countries in detrimental ways. The multifaceted dimensions of climate change allow for multiple interpretations and framings of “climate crisis,” thereby forcing us to acknowledge the deeply contextual nature of what is understood as a “crisis.” Climate change and its associated crises display a number of challenging properties that stem from its connections to basically all sectors in society, its propensity to induce and in itself embed nonlinear changes such as “tipping points” and cascading shocks, and its unique and challenging long-term temporal dimensions. The latter pose particularly difficult decision-making and institutional challenges because initial conditions (in this case, carbon dioxide emissions) do not result in immediate or proportional responses (say, global temperature anomalies), but instead play out through feedbacks among the climate system, oceans, the cryosphere, and changes in forest biomes, with some considerable delays in time. Additional challenges emerge from the fact that early warnings of pending so-called “catastrophic shifts” face numerous obstacles, and that early responses are undermined by a lack of knowledge, complex causality, and severe coordination challenges.

Article

Behavioral Analysis in the Study of Politics: The Conflict Laboratory  

Alessandro Del Ponte, Reuben Kline, and John Ryan

Behavioral economics is an interdisciplinary field of inquiry that incorporates insights from psychology to enrich standard economic models that assume perfectly rational individuals. Empirical research in behavioral economics typically employs incentivized experiments that use economic games with real money on the line. In these experiments, subjects are awarded financial payoffs based on the decisions they make (either individually or as part of a group) in an institutional context designed by the researcher. Behavioral economics is well suited for political science because behavioral economics is interdisciplinary by nature and political science is not bound by any particular research paradigm. At the same time, the method is still novel to many political scientists despite many years of its use to study political topics in a variety of research areas. What unites the application of the method to these areas is the explicit consideration of conflict. For instance, scholars have uncovered social conflict between groups (e.g., voter polarization in the United States) using behavioral games as measures, or they have designed experiments around elections to test theories of candidate and voter behavior. Because of the clear financial incentives, economic experiments are especially useful for studying people’s actual preferences in areas such as redistribution as opposed to their stated preferences. Finally, the method can be used to design institutions that will help overcome conflict over scarce resources. In sum, the strengths of behavioral economics include: (a) the ability to vary institutional contexts; (b) clear incentives that ensure valid measures of preferences; (c) direct measures of behaviors instead of stated intentions which could be confounded by outside pressures such as social desirability.

Article

Geography and Foreign Policy  

Steve Pickering

The relationship between geography and foreign policy is deep and fundamental. Yet it is far more complex than many recognize, and many authors, including scholars who should know better, fall into the trap of determinism. This article will describe the ways in which critical approaches can help us to look at geography and foreign policy by building the frameworks for analyses including religion, popular geopolitics, and feminism. Additionally, it will argue that once we have understood the dangers of an overly simplistic approach to geography, we need to apply new, cutting-edge geospatial methods to better understand how geography and foreign policy are related. By doing so, we can deal with important international issues, such as war and peace, and climate change.

Article

Mitigation: Learning From and Anticipating Crises  

Elyse Zavar and Brendan Lavy

Mitigation activities seek to lessen the impact of a hazard on a community, or eliminate the hazard altogether. Mitigation activities, techniques, and the policies that govern them have evolved over time as human populations learned from and anticipated future crises. Mitigation strategies in the early 1900s relied heavily on structural mitigation in the form of large public works projects, such as dams and sea walls, to control environmental systems and limit human exposure to environmental extremes. Yet these practices encouraged development in high-risk hazard-prone areas. Beginning in the 1950s and peaking in the 1990s, emphasis shifted to the use of non-structural mitigation techniques, including land use regulations and hazard insurance, to steer development away from high-risk landscapes. Policies enacted during this time period and large-scale disasters of the 21st century provide important lessons for mitigation and building resilience to future events. Studies of hurricane damage in the United States led to improved building codes, and underscore the importance of nature-based mitigation strategies. Nature-based solutions, such as ecological engineering, ecological restoration as well as blue and green infrastructure development, harness the environment’s own defenses to protect human populations. For example, after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and earthquake, research showed that strategically placed vegetation could slow and dissipate tsunami waves. The European Commission has also encouraged protecting, restoring, and enhancing environmental features to mitigate against hazards. Moreover, the emergence of the climate change crisis and its ongoing impacts have led environmental scientists, ecologists, and disaster scientists to associate mitigation with emerging concepts such as sustainability, adaptation, and resilience. This association has resulted in the incorporation of mitigation efforts in a variety of planning tools, including sustainability and climate adaptation plans. This shift has produced mitigation strategies that prioritize equity and justice in climate hazard mitigation policy and planning. The future of mitigation will rely on collaboration and cooperation across many allied fields to build sustainable and resilient communities that can adapt and respond to future crises.

Article

Climate Change Politics in Latin America and the Caribbean  

Matías Franchini

What is the role of the Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) countries in the global governance of climate change? Are they contributing to the intensification of the climate crisis or mitigating it? To answer these questions, we must examine these countries’ participation in international climate negotiations, the path of their domestic climate policies, and the trajectory of their greenhouse gas emissions. The LAC region is a moderate conservative actor in climate governance because it is not a major emitter (8% of the world total) and its average level of per capita emissions is slightly lower than the world’s average. However, the diverse climate policy experiences in the LAC region have not been able to significantly reduce emissions or change the path of development toward a low emission future. In the international realm, the region has failed to meaningfully cooperate in the United Nations climate change negotiations or incorporate climate change into their regional integration initiatives. However, the patterns of diversity and fragmentation in terms of climate commitment are probably more visible than the common ones, as LAC countries vary widely in terms of volume and trajectory of emissions, climate political instruments at the domestic level, and cooperative efforts in the international arena. As the climate crisis deepens, LAC countries will face a monumental test to adapt to increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, enhanced climate variability, and extreme weather events. It is also imperative for the region’s countries to increase their level of climate commitment and implement stronger measures both nationally and internationally, finding deeper ways to cooperate in managing one of the major global governance problems facing humanity.

Article

Energy Policy  

Jale Tosun

Energy policy comprises rules concerning energy sources, energy efficiency, energy prices, energy infrastructure, and climate and environmental aspects of energy production, utilization, and transit. The main theme in this policy domain, especially in the European context, concerns the trade-offs between affordable, secure, and clean energy. Energy policy is a cross-sectoral—or boundary-spanning—policy domain, and as such, it is affected by decisions taken in other policy domains as well as affects what is decided there. The cross-sectoral character of energy policy is reflected in how it is proposed, adopted, implemented, and evaluated. The analytical perspectives on energy policy depend on the energy source of interest. Research concentrating on fossil energy sources (i.e., coal, oil, and natural gas) has traditionally adopted the analytical lens of international relations and international political economy. These lenses have also been important for the study of unconventional fossil energy sources (i.e., oil shale, oil sands, and shale gas) and nuclear power, for which, however, risk and uncertainty also play an important role. Questions concerning the supply and management of energy infrastructure have received attention from public administration scholars. The promotion of renewable energy as a central means for mitigating climate change has become one of the most intensely researched themes in the broader political science literature.

Article

Natural Resources, Climate Change, and Conflict  

Vally Koubi and Gabriele Spilker

What is the relationship between resource scarcity and abundance, on the one hand, and intrastate conflict, on the other? Under what conditions do natural resources cause conflict? Which types of resources can better predict the onset, intensity, and duration of intrastate conflict? These questions and other related questions are needed to discuss how renewable as well as non-renewable resources influence the onset, intensity, and duration of intrastate conflict. In particular, there are two strands of the literature: the first strand deals with renewable resources, such as water, cropland, forests, fish stocks, etc., and examines how the scarcity of such resources leads to resource completion and subsequently to a greater risk of conflict. In this context, it also discusses the more recent literature on climate change and conflict. The second strand deals with non-renewable resources that tend to have a high value-to-weight ratio, such as fossil fuels and minerals, and evaluates how abundance of such resources affects potential “greed” and “grievance” motives of rebels to take up arms as well as a state’s capacity to put down a rebellion, both of which can lead to civil conflicts. Overall, with the exception of the very recent empirical work on climate change as a “threat multiplier,” the bulk of the empirical evidence provides non-robust and often even contradictory results and thus does not allow for a clear-cut conclusion: while some studies support the link between resource scarcity/abundance and armed conflict, others find no or only weak links. The inconclusiveness of the results might be due to various factors, such as the inability/failure of the extant literature to adequately address the mechanisms via which resource scarcity and abundance could lead to conflict as well as which types of natural resources, including climatic changes, matter most. Moreover, empirical studies differ with regard to the type of conflict under study, ranging from violence against the government (civil wars [1,000 deaths], civil conflict [25 deaths], and low-intensity conflict [protests and riots]) to intercommunal violence (conflict that occurs between competing groups within a state), the operationalization and/or measurement of the types of resource scarcity and abundance, and the appropriate level of analysis (individual, household, subnational, national).