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Climate policy, global politics and the nasty habit of breathing…

April 26, 2009

I came across an article I found interesting the other day regarding international climate policy and political ideologies. Harris (2009) discusses global trends with regard to environmental politics and hones in specifically on U.S. policies within the context of comparable global policies. The article examines past energy policies and environmental policies of the U.S. and its global counterparts and posits the outcome of the new leadership of the U.S. and what impact that leadership will have on reformed policies. Harris (2009) states “A change in US policy is not only essential for effective international climate policy; it is also the morally right thing for the United States and its people to do” (p. 966). Harris (2009) recounted the environmental policy history of the U.S., portraying it as more of an obstacle to international environmental legislation than a facilitator.

Harris (2009) states that the U.S. is somewhat skeptical of other nations due to its desire to retain its sovereignty and endeavors to avoid mandates from international organizations for fear of forsaking its own interests. The author states that the U.S.’s leadership with regard to environmental issues has been somewhat inconsistent in that sometimes it desires to lead and sometimes it resists action. Harris (2009) cites parallels with the patterns of U.S. diplomacy on environmental issues with other types of diplomacy matters and that any creep toward a multilateral environmental agreement faded during the George HW Bush administration.

The Clinton administration, per the author, led a shift in U.S. policy with regard to international environmental policy changes. The Clinton administration also established that the U.S. must lead the necessary changes with regard to environmental practices and policies so that other nations might follow. After the Kyoto Protocol was signed (despite China’s non-committal) the U.S. found that contrary to its past pattern of diplomatic achievements, it was going to be held of a higher standard of environmental conformity as a developed nation. George W. Bush’s administration continued the non-progress route of previous Republican administrations and put its efforts mainly into blocking international diplomacy with regard to environmental issues rather than continuing Clinton’s path.

Harris (2009) points out that it is unlikely with or without a new administration that the U.S. can persist in blocking active efforts by the rest of the world to limit GHGs and take an active role in mitigating the damage. The author cites the importance of the shift of the U.S. public opinion and states it will be important to recognize that the people of the U.S. are now driving the mandate as much as others (such as the EU) are. The author posits that it is possible that the U.S. could utilize its influence to muster support for GHG cuts that the EU is considering.

It is frustrating that the debate over the facts about the harm humans have done and will continue to do takes center stage along with political interests. As a consumer of information I find it most difficult to determine what information is reliable and what information is tainted with opinion or motive. When statistical information is presented I receive it with little to no trust, and having no ability to go back and recreate the statistical calculations and analyses I feel that over time the reality will eventually surface. This is problematic from the standpoint of buy in to larger efforts that transcend politics and vested interests in commercial. I hope the new administration gets it right and whether or not I vote Democratic or Republican (which is irrelevant) I am one who prefers to breathe.

Harris, P. (2009). Beyond Bush: Environmental politics and prospects for US climate policy. Energy Policy, 37(3), 966. Retrieved February 22, 2009, from Research Library database. (Document ID: 1644928691).


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