The risks of climate change are potentially immense. The benefits of taking action are also clear: we can see that economic development, reduced emissions, and creative adaptation go hand in hand. A committed and strong low-carbon transition could trigger a new wave of economic and technological transformation and investment, a new era of global and sustainable prosperity. Why, then, are we waiting? In this book, Nicholas Stern explains why, notwithstanding the great attractions of a new path, it has been so difficult to tackle climate change effectively.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. Congress passed a series of laws that were milestones in environmental protection, including the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act. But by the 1990s, it was clear that environmental benefits were not evenly distributed and that poor and minority communities bore disproportionate environmental burdens. The Clinton administration put these concerns on the environmental policy agenda, most notably with a 1994 executive order that called on federal agencies to consider environmental justice issues whenever appropriate.
In this book, Walter Baber and Robert Bartlett explore the practical and conceptual implications of a new approach to international environmental governance. Their proposed approach, juristic democracy, emphasizes the role of the citizen rather than the nation-state as the source of legitimacy in international environmental law; it is rooted in local knowledge and grounded in democratic deliberation and consensus. The aim is to construct a global jurisprudence based on collective will formation.
Far-reaching efforts to address environmental issues rarely seem to resonate with citizens of the United States or other wealthy postindustrial societies. In Engaging the Everyday, John Meyer considers this impediment to action on environmental problems—which he terms “the resonance dilemma”—and argues that an environmental agenda that emerges from everyday concerns would resonate more deeply with ordinary citizens.
Humans are no longer spectators who need to adapt to their natural environment. Our impact on the earth has caused changes that are outside the range of natural variability and are equivalent to such major geological disruptions as ice ages. Some scientists argue that we have entered a new epoch in planetary history: the Anthropocene. In such an era of planet-wide transformation, we need a new model for planet-wide environmental politics. In this book, Frank Biermann proposes “earth system” governance as just such a new paradigm.
Secretariats—the administrative arms of international treaties—-would seem simply to do the bidding of member states. And yet, Sikina Jinnah argues in Post-Treaty Politics, secretariats can play an important role in world politics. On paper, secretariats collect information, communicate with state actors, and coordinate diplomatic activity. In practice, they do much more. As Jinnah shows, they can influence the allocation of resources, structures of interstate cooperation, and the power relationships between states.
How do Americans think about energy? Is the debate over fossil fuels highly partisan and ideological? Does public opinion about fossil fuels and alternative energies divide along the fault between red states and blue states? And how much do concerns about climate change weigh on their opinions? In Cheap and Clean, Stephen Ansolabehere and David Konisky show that Americans are more pragmatic than ideological in their opinions about energy alternatives, more unified than divided about their main concerns, and more local than global in their approach to energy.
Recent developments suggest that well-intended climate policies--including carbon taxes and subsidies for renewable energy—might not accomplish what policy makers intend. Hans-Werner Sinn has described a “green paradox,” arguing that these policies could hasten global warming by encouraging owners of fossil fuel reserves to increase their extraction rates for fear that their reserves will become worthless. In this volume, economists investigate the empirical and theoretical support for the green paradox.
The notion of ever-expanding economic growth has been promoted so relentlessly that “growth” is now entrenched as the natural objective of collective human effort. The public has been convinced that growth is the natural solution to virtually all social problems—poverty, debt, unemployment, and even the environmental degradation caused by the determined pursuit of growth. Meanwhile, warnings by scientists that we live on a finite planet that cannot sustain infinite economic expansion are ignored or even scorned.
Before Fukushima, the most notorious large-scale nuclear accident the world had seen was Chernobyl in 1986. The fallout from Chernobyl covered vast areas in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Europe. Belarus, at the time a Soviet republic, suffered heavily: nearly a quarter of its territory was covered with long-lasting radionuclides. Yet the damage from the massive fallout was largely imperceptible; contaminated communities looked exactly like noncontaminated ones. It could be known only through constructed representations of it.