Category: Environment/Energy (page 1 of 2)

WPTPN: An Inconvenient Post-Truth Post

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Robert Y. Shum, an Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Studies at The College at Brockport, State University of New York (SUNY).

Does the Paris Agreement, and the likely withdrawal therefrom by the Trump administration, matter? On the surface, the current situation is not so different from George W. Bush’s withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol. Probing deeper, however, important differences come to the fore. Many independent observers saw the Kyoto Protocol as fundamentally flawed in its lack of obligations applying to developing countries, including China and India. In contrast, an understanding between China and the United States lay at the center of the Paris Agreement.

Critics of the Paris approach to internationally-negotiated national emissions targets nonetheless argue that its effectiveness is limited compared to that of policies made at and by domestic institutions, regardless of the Parisian promise to broaden participation at the international level so as to include developing-country emitters. With the prospect that US participation in the international climate regime will be reduced under a Trump administration, the question regarding the value of participation in international agreements now shifts to the effect of US (non-)participation on the global climate regime. Minimizing this effect has become a source of hope and optimism. Thus, ironically, following Trump’s election, the critical view of Paris takes on a new function as both consolation for environmentalists and apologia for skeptics.

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Climate and Security in the Trump Era

I’ve been asked by some reporters about the significance of Donald Trump’s victory for the agenda of climate and security, the emergent concern that climate change is likely to produce consequences that rise to the level of security challenges for the United States and rest of the world (some background here and here).  Some of my initial thoughts were quoted today in Scientific American and I’ve expanded on them here.  As I noted in my last post, we’ve already seen considerable speculation about what the Trump administration might yield on climate change and wider environmental policy.

We’re kind of entering in to  Kremlinology territory here. We don’t really know what is going to happen, and I think assuming the worst might actually be strategically counter-productive. Donald Trump has already signaled that he was going to walk away from a number of his previous hardline policy commitments like the border wall.

To the extent that he does possess an inner pragmatist as President Obama has suggested, then those baby steps in the direction of the light out to be encouraged. True, it is easy to read too much in to ambiguous statements like Trump’s apparent open mind on climate change policy in his New York Times interview last week.

My general sense is that yes we have reasons to be concerned, but we should also wait to see what Trump intends to do, who he actually appoints to key positions,and whether some of the more out there ideas — like zeroing out NASA’s earth science efforts — actually get taken up in policy.  I also think we need a theory of how to influence Donald Trump personally and the Trump administration broadly. Let me speak to both issues and the significance for the climate and security agenda.

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What Does Trump’s Victory Mean for the Environment?

Much has already been written about the significance of Donald Trump’s victory for the environment, with particular emphasis on climate change. There is some speculation that Trump, based on campaign promises, will try to undo some of President Obama’s signature achievements, namely some scuttle that he’s looking for a fast exit from the 2015 Paris climate agreement that recently entered into force.

The noted climate denier Myron Ebell was named to lead Trump’s transition at the EPA. President Obama in his press conference today made a vigorous case for why his efforts to green the economy could and should live on under a Trump administration. Most analysts fear the worst, though a few see some of the changes, like the fading role of coal, as more long-lived and less subject to presidential influence. I’m going to focus on climate change here.  Continue reading

Why does IR shun global water governance?

I’ve been invited to join the cast of guest bloggers here at Duck of Minerva, and as you may have expected, the first thing I thought of was “well, I’ve made it, and… now what am I supposed to blog about?” On my personal (yet research-focused) blog, I write about a very broad range of topics: academic writing, time management, literature reviews, surviving academia, and heck, even my own research! But here at the Duck of Minerva I wondered aloud whether I could bring more attention to research issues I’ve been concerned about that I haven’t seen resolved (don’t you worry, you may get an occasional blog post on tenure dossiers, or avoiding overwork). So here we go…

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Open Thread on International Development Syllabi

In previous posts on the environment and health, I highlighted lacunae in the field, which I attributed in part to there being few courses in those substantive areas. By providing a few exemplar syllabi, I thought more of us might find it easier to offer courses on those topics. At the very least, some might find inspiration for courses and mine these syllabi for readings.

Another potentially under-studied area is international development. Here, there may be more course offerings and crossover with IPE, but I’m going to start an open thread with development syllabi because I can. Again, while I had graduate training in IPE,  my knowledge of international development comes from a second bachelor’s degree in England, my experience in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, and a subsequent internship at the Multilateral Investment Fund. Most of my development specific knowledge I picked up along the way.

I still think this is an understudied area in political science, though the politics of foreign aid and international organizations do get some coverage. My syllabus on the topic is gear towards MA students and helping them become better practitioners, particularly through manipulation of data and simple Excel graphical applications. 2016 syllabus here.

I’ll post additional exemplar syllabi in the comments thread.

Is there a connection between the Northwest Passage and the South China Sea?

This is a guest post from Hannes Hansen-Magnusson, a Lecturer in International Relations at Cardiff University (contact by email: Hansen-Magnusson”at” or via twitter: @HansenMagnusson)

For centuries the political struggle over the legal status of global oceans was presented as one of mare clausum vs. mare liberum. These concepts concerned the possibility of movement as well as rights and responsibilities of seafaring nations and coastal states which had sometimes been the subject of small-scale physical confrontations at sea, such as the so-called Cod or Turbot Wars, but also of judicial processes, such as the Corfu Channel or Fisheries cases, which followed earlier conflicts. Overcoming confrontations such as these, progress was achieved after nine long years of negotiating the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) between 1973-1982. Since entering into force in 1994 UNCLOS has provided a constitution-like framework with which to quell physical confrontations and opened an institutionalized path for settling disputes and open questions through one of its three organizations (the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, the International Seabed Authority, and the Committee on the Limits of the Continental Shelf) or through the Permanent Court of Arbitration. Given these developments during the last two decades, it may be possible to speak of mare iudicatum or administratum as the new development towards a peaceful use of global oceans.

The point of this contribution is to remind ourselves as academics and practitioners that as progressive as this development may appear, it should be clear that the new order does not assert itself through an invisible force that is inherent in the provisions of UNCLOS and the procedural rules of different organizations charged with its implementation. Much depends on what happens in the day-to-day instantiation of it through the activity of seafarers and their states. Although these activities may be small-scale and local events, there is a chance of global reverberations, which is what this contribution is arguing: because in a global framework there can be no extra-ordinary events and localities, they all matter for the overall architecture.

In order to demonstrate this, I will revert to two current examples: the passage of the Crystal Serenity through the Northwest Passage (NWP), on the one hand, and politics in the South China Sea (SCS), on the other. Remote as they may seem in geographical terms and as they are treated as such by area specialists, there is a wider issue at stake which connects them, centering on the peaceful use of global oceans. Continue reading

Global Environmental Governance Syllabi – Open Thread

As I blogged earlier today, climate change has not gotten sufficient attention from political scientists. Part of the problem is that few people teach graduate classes on the environment. I didn’t take one in graduate school and basically had to teach myself the topic. This past spring, I taught a full 15 week graduate class for MA students on global environmental governance, expanding a previous global health and environment class in to two separate classes.

There are potentially large start-up costs for someone who wants to teach a class in this space. So, I’m going to start an open thread and collect some syllabi, starting with mine.  If you know of good graduate or undergraduate syllabi on the global environment, post a link in the comments thread. I’ll edit this post periodically and feature them here.

My syllabus

Let’s hope that five years from now that there are more people teaching classes in this space, which I hope should generate some new interest in dissertation projects on the environment. Watch this space.

Climate Change and #APSA2016

With the G20 set to commence in Hangzhou, the United States and China today ratified the Paris Agreement, making it increasingly likely that it will enter into force by year’s end. This is a momentous occasion in climate diplomacy and speaks to the increasing political salience of this topic.

Yesterday, here at APSA, there was a fantastic roundtable on what political science has to say about this issue. The roundtable included some of the leading up and coming scholars writing about climate change including Jennifer Hadden, Johannes Urpelainen, Jessica Green, David Konisky, and Steven Vanderheiden.

Several of us Live-tweeted the event, which I’ve Storify-ied below. The panelists identified some of the important contributions in this space from David Victor, Matthew Hoffmann, Sikina Jinnah, Michelle Betsill, Robyn Eckersley,  among others.

They also identified big questions that merit more attention such as the need for more research on the politics of adaptation and maladaptation, studies of comparative domestic climate politics particularly in emerging economies, more research to leverage the extensive body of work on natural disasters, and understanding how public opinion can change and lead to behavior change.

The panelists also lamented how few scholars write on energy and the environment as their core issue. Jessica Green and Tom Hale have a forthcoming piece in PS that examines TRIP data to support these claims. Panelists talked about the challenges for PhD students to choose this line of work without senior faculty teaching and writing to pave the way and reliable funding to support academic work in this space. Interestingly, universities, other funders, and other disciplines are perhaps more interested than political scientists are in studying climate change.

The topic’s interdisciplinary nature and heavy start-up costs pose additional barriers to entry, but the discipline risks being left behind in what panelists regard as the overarching political challenge for the planet going forward. I hope junior scholars will see this is an opportunity for important research because this issue is not going away. See my Storify-ied tweets after the jump. Continue reading

The Paris Agreement: When is a treaty not a treaty?

Tomorrow is Earth Day, and there is a push in the climate community to encourage states to sign and ultimately ratify the Paris Agreement on climate change. With each of the last 11 months having been the hottest months on record and 93% of Australia’s Great Barrier reef experiencing “coral bleaching” from record-breaking hot ocean temperatures, the stakes for the world are high.

April 22 is the first day the Paris Agreement is open for signatures. In late March, on the margins of the recent nuclear security summit in DC, President Obama and President Xi of China  pledged publicly to sign the accord on April 22nd, upping the pressure on other states to do the same. Now, 150 countries are slated to sign the agreement tomorrow in a ceremony. That said, the agreement won’t enter into force until 55 countries representing 55% of global emissions ratify it.

This raises some interesting questions about what kind of accord the Paris Agreement is. Is it a new treaty? Don’t treaties have to go to the U.S. Senate for advice and consent? Continue reading

The Anthropocene and the End of Large Fauna? Will Political Scientists Show Up?

Geologists now say that humans have had such an impact on the earth that we have entered in to a new age, what has been termed the Anthropocene. On some level, this is a political statement, but on another level, it could be an observable layer in the physical surface of the earth that future generations will excavate to find plastics and garbage.

This era, and soon, may also spell the end of large fauna. Elephants. Rhinos. Giraffes. Vultures. Lions. Tigers. Leopards. Polar bears. These could be all be extinct before I die. And that would be an unimaginable travesty against nature.

I’ve written about this topic before on this blog, but in this post, I want to lay down a marker for why this is an important area for political science that extends well beyond scholars of environmental politics. Continue reading

India, Air Pollution, and Climate Change

Over the winter break, I spent ten days in India, in the capital New Delhi and Mumbai. I was immediately struck by the awful air quality as I walked out of the airport in New Delhi. Delhi’s air quality is as bad or worse than Beijing’s, though perhaps that fact isn’t as widely known.

The air was visible and thick. I thought my glasses were dirty but then I realized that it was the haze which crept in to the interior halls of the hotel. I couldn’t capture the air quality in a photo but I found a perfect encapsulation reading Tom Hale’s fine book on global governance policy gridlock. I was struck by an excerpt he and his co-authors quoted from Charles Dickens’ Bleak House on 19th century London and the remarkable similarity of its acrid air to India’s:

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ’prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

The air pollution in Delhi was like this and underscored for me that the strongest impetus for action to deliver climate benefits will come because people in major cities across India such as Delhi, Lucknow, and Ahmedabad demand cleaner air.  Continue reading

Climate Change and Rethinking Success

Last week, at the invitation of colleagues in the Center for European and Transatlantic Studies and the Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy I participated on a panel discussing the 21st Conference of Parties (CoP21) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the resulting Paris Agreement. My comments focused on thinking about the nature of success in international negotiations over climate change.

In a number of ways, if we go by the standard of previous environmental pollution treaties the Paris Agreement does not look like a notable success, hedging as it does in terms of a binding commitment on the part of the signatories. Continue reading

What Role for Non-State Actors in the New Climate Governance?

This is a guest post from Jennifer Hadden, an Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland’s Department of Government and Politics. I had the pleasure of editing a reviews exchange on her new book,  Networks in Contention. The exchange just came out in the latest issue of International Politics Reviews  and features reviews from me (Josh), Thomas Hale, and Johannes Urpelainen, as well as a response from Hadden herself. Ungated access here.  

World leaders adopted a global agreement on climate change in Paris last month, as was widely reported. Less well know is that in parallel to the inter-state negotiations, the Paris conference included a high-level “Action Agenda” to recognize the commitments of non-state actors to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Action Agenda raised the profile of non-state actors within the UNFCCC, highlighting the critical role of cities, regions, businesses, faith groups, and NGOs in raising ambition, building knowledge, and supporting implementation.

The warm reception for non-state actors in Paris differs dramatically from the highly contentious environment of the Copenhagen climate summit, which I describe in my recent book Networks in Contention: The Divisive Politics of Climate Change. How has the role of non-state actors in climate governance evolved from Copenhagen to Paris? Continue reading

Climate Change and Rhetorical Entrapment

Late last month the New York Times ran an interesting piece about the power of language and climate change. Central to the story is the concept of a carbon budget. On its face, the concept is simple. Drawing on complex models of the atmospheric and energy effects of carbon dioxide and other heat trapping gases, climate scientists have proposed a global carbon budget: the amount of carbon dioxide (or, we should add, the equivalent in other gases which can be far more potent) that can be emitted into the atmosphere without breaking the two degree Celsius mark. Turns out the numbers are not pleasant (like just about everything else with respect to climate change). In the latest IPCC report (the fifth, 2013), climate modelers estimate that humans have a total carbon budget of about 800 billion tons, of which humans have used about 530 billion tons, which means we only have 270 billion tons left. Given the average emissions rate of 10 billion tons a year, looks like humans and the rest of the planet have a little less than 30 years left, and that assumes that carbon emissions stay constant. If they grow, of course, the time shrinks. Continue reading

PETA’s Shock Tactics: Irresponsible Advocacy or Strategy and Positioning?-Part 2

[As two fellow NGO researchers, Wendy and Maryam are going to collaborate on some posts to provide contrasting views on hot-button issues related to NGOs. Think of us as the Siskel and Ebert of NGOs – we definitely agree on certain things, but clearly not on others (and don’t ask who’s who). Our points of view will not always reflect what we personally think of an issue–we need drama and suspense!–but we will always provide food for thought.]

By now everyone is well aware of the recent tragic killing of Cecil the lion by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Josh shared a post about this incident here on the Duck, as have countless others. One opinion from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA), no stranger to controversial statement, has caught plenty of attention:

“If, as has been reported, this dentist and his guides lured Cecil out of the park with food so as to shoot him on private property, because shooting him in the park would have been illegal, he needs to be extradited, charged, and, preferably, hanged.”

Needless to say, calling for Palmer to be hanged has generated a public outcry of its own.  We weigh in here.


 Irresponsible Advocacy

PETA is a firebrand, their statement is not out of character for the type of militant activism they exercise and their other campaigns and advertisements have been shocking as well. As Wendy argues, being a provocateur is part of their brand, they raise awareness by making noise. They completely own their shock tactics as a deliberate organizational strategy:

“We will do extraordinary things to get the word out about animal cruelty because we have learned from experience that the media, sadly, do not consider the terrible facts about animal suffering alone interesting enough to cover. It is sometimes necessary to shake people up in order to initiate discussion, debate, questioning of the status quo, and, of course, action.”

As advocates, NGOs like PETA do not need to be fair, impartial or neutral; they advocate for a position or course of action that reflects or advances the interests of their members. They do, however, need to be responsible. Continue reading

A Storify post on Cecil the Lion

People who follow this blog know that I’m not jumping on the wildlife conservation bandwagon. I taught a course on global wildlife conservation and have blogged about it repeatedly here on the Duck.

So, here are my thoughts on Cecil the Lion, the lion killed by an American hunter in Zimbabwe, where I wade in to advocacy, sport hunting, the value of animal life compared to human life, why we have an emotional reaction to iconic wildlife but not animals we eat, Internet vigilantism, and more. These include a series of tweets and exchanges I had with others over the past several days. My main concern is that I hope some good can come from this in terms of wildlife conservation. Continue reading

4 Things the US Can Do to Reinforce China’s Actions on Climate Change

Sarang Shidore and I have a new paper for the Paulson Institute on what the US can do to encourage China to do more on climate change (in English and Mandarin).  China recently reaffirmed its pledge to peak emissions around 2030 and to increase non-fossil energy to 20% by the same year. China also announced a new target to reduce CO2 emissions per unit of GDP (its carbon intensity) by 60 to 65 percent below 2005 levels. How can the US ensure that China sustains and even accelerates progress in this direction?

Our starting premise is that air pollution is a more salient issue in China than climate change and that the country is likely to take more heroic and costly measures to reduce the threat of air pollution for Chinese citizens than they are to contribute to the global public good of climate change mitigation. From this perspective, much of the discussion of using climate change to produce co-benefits for air pollution is misplaced. We need to ensure that air pollution policies create co-benefits for the climate. As we note, some actions, reducing the use of coal, will be beneficial for both air pollution and climate goals. Other policies, such as producing synthetic gas from coal or relocating coal plants to the interior, might produce benefits for air pollution but make the climate problem worse.

The US has limited leverage over this domestic dynamic in China, but we identify 4 strategies the US can engage in to make it more likely that China will choose policies that produce co-benefits for climate change. These include: 1) the US keeping its own climate commitments (2) fostering transparency through research partnerships (3) pursuing complementary processes to the UNFCCC and (4) considering border tax adjustments.  Let me say a bit more about each one of these ideas. Continue reading

Additional Arguments Against Legalizing the Trade in Rhino Horn Pt. 3

In my last two posts (here, here), I wrote about a recent Foreign Affairs piece that proposed lifting the ban on trading rhino horn and the political and substantive reasons why such an idea is problematic.

Are there reasons to think that a one-off sale or even a permanent normalization of the trade might go well? While Save the Rhino is against one-off sales, it is a little more equivocal on a semi-permanent regulation of the trade (though I doubt this is where other NGOs are):

Save the Rhino International is generally in favour of sustainable use, believing that conservation efforts must, as far as possible, be income-generating in order to avoid over-reliance on international donor support (and any undue strings attached to funding support by those donors). In reality, we recognise that some rhino conservation field programmes have very few options for income generation (unlike, for example, government wildlife departments that derive income from National Park fees), so we accept that there will continue to be a need for donor funding in many cases. However, we have not yet reached a position on the debate over a (semi) permanent legalisation of the trade in rhino horn.

On the demand side, South Africa (if it is to propose a legal trade at the next CITES CoP in 2016) still needs to establish a credible trading partner. Neither Vietnam nor China nor any other country has yet come forward. Being a credible trading partner will entail a much higher level of law enforcement and political will to combat the illegal trade in rhino horn than has been evidenced so far. Who knows how rising affluence in other Asian countries will affect the demand for rhino horn? And who knows how many more Vietnamese or Chinese will want to buy rhino horn once the stigma of buying illegal products is removed.

Will either regulated trade or a one-off sale of rhino horn incentivize demand?

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Arguments Against Legalizing the Rhino Horn Trade Pt. 2

In my last post, I reacted to a Foreign Affairs piece that suggested lifting the ban on rhino horn, as South Africa has toyed with in the lead up to the 2016 CITES meeting it will host. Whether or not this would be a one-off sale like the one for ivory in 2008 or more of a permanent lifting of the trade ban is uncertain. A committee in South Africa is currently reviewing evidence and accepting testimony on the topic. Though South Africa is home to nearly 3/4  of the world’s remaining rhinos, lifting the ban in some capacity  would require 2/3 of the voting members at CITES’ approval. In this post, I review some of the main arguments advocates have mustered to oppose legalization of the trade, with which I largely concur.

I admit that the current situation is untenable, but I’m not convinced that the legalization argument is politically or substantively wise.

What is the political argument against lifting the ban?

It’s not going to  happen. Getting 2/3 of the countries in the world to approve lifting the ban in 2016 is a heavy lift. Will Travers of the Born Free Foundation makes a pretty strong case that this legalization discussion is a non-starter and counter-productive:

“Let’s say SA does put through its proposal, and that it has a central selling organisation as part of its proposal with lots of safeguards built in. Perhaps there’s even some designated trading partners. That has to be approved by 66 percent or more of the attending parties to COP17. In total, there are 180 parties to Cites. But let’s say 160 parties turn up at the meeting.

“That means SA will have to get 107 votes for that to fly. At the moment, my understanding is the EU is against trade. That’s 28 votes. I don’t think the US is going to take it. Australia is going to say no. Kenya too. There’s a whole raft of countries against. We only have to tip up to 55 votes against, and the blocking minority prevents it.

“You know what I’d say to SA? ‘Don’t bother. Don’t do it.’ It’s hugely embarrassing to go to the conference and get 30 votes on the table. It’s happened in the past where people walk out sweating and feeling ill. And you’re the host country.

What are the substantive arguments against lifting the ban? Continue reading

Legalizing the Rhino Horn Trade: A Terrible Idea? Pt. 1

Two weeks ago, I came cross a provocative piece  (paywall, free version here) Foreign Affairs published earlier this year by Alexander Kasterine from the UN/WTO International Trade Center on legalizing the trade in wildlife, namely for rhino horn, but conceivably for other species that are currently illegal to trade under the Convention on the International Trades in Endangered Species (CITES). Indeed, South Africa, host to the 2016 CITES meeting and home of the majority of the world’s remaining rhinos, is angling to legalize the trade in rhino horn in the face of an unprecedented onslaught of poaching that the current is facing. Is legalization of the trade in these species a good idea? In the first of several posts, I’m going to begin to analyze this question. My initial take on this question is that legalizing the trade is not a good idea, but I’m using these posts to try to work through the arguments for and against the idea, beginning with rhinos but then I’ll assess some other species.

Kasterine’s main argument is that the ban is failing Africa’s wildlife:

Continue reading

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