Looking Ahead: Why Climate Politics Is Hard and How We Can Fix It
11 minute read
Updated on: 03 Jul 2021
How can domestic politics limit global climate politics?
While international cooperation is needed to solve climate change, domestic policy is critical for reaching any international climate agreements.
Climate change will impact different countries differently, which can influence a state’s position in global climate politics.
For example, low-lying island countries face an existential threat from rising sea levels. In contrast, some countries, such as the UK, China, and Canada, experienced a slight economic benefit from climate change between 1991 and 2010 .
This is largely due to the slight increase in agricultural productivity and labour productivity seen in these countries as a result of warmer temperatures. However, these benefits are likely to be outweighed by other, negative consequences of climate change .
Given the serious impacts of climate change, you would expect it to take centre stage in domestic and global politics. So why hasn’t it? Well, there are 3 key reasons why:
(1) Not all voters support action on climate change
For example, in many countries, there is not yet a social consensus on climate change. When people consider an issue like climate change, they tend to not just look at the science - instead, they are also influenced by the media, educators, and cultural and political leaders . Voters might also be focusing on other more visible and tangible issues, such as education, the economy, and health .
Deliberate climate change denial campaigns by major political, industrial and media leaders (e.g. fossil fuel businesses, conservative media and conservative think tanks) have increased political polarization and distrust in science.
For example, Donald Trump, President of the United States from 2016-2020, has expressed contradictory and confusing views on climate change. A similar denial of science occurred in the 1950s when the tobacco industry tried to go against the evidence of the link between cigarettes and lung cancer .
It is important to note that climate denial (rejecting all evidence of human-caused climate change) is distinct from scepticism, which is a healthy characteristic of science.