Global warming and climate change Dissertation Example

Category: Ecology
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Level: PhD
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Global warming and climate change.


According to climate scientists’ consensus, the root to changes in climate and continuous global warming is anthropogenic. This agreement is further seconded by the “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC) that humans are the dominant cause of increase in global temperature since 1950s.Being a critical human and global issue, climate change and global warming is the epitome of contemporary global diplomacy. Of note, this poster child is arguably one of the intricate issues in global policy. This intricacy in the comprehension of a climate change political economy is depicted in its spatial, temporal, and conceptual facets. Notably, this problem can be referred to as a stock pollution problem rather than flow pollution concern. Historical emissions during the industrialization age in most of the now-developed countries is being mixed up with current environmental pollution from developing nations. Per se, with this, it is evident that the impact of these anthropogenic activities will be visible in the future and affect the coming generation immensely. According to Gardiner, climate change is a ‘perfect moral storm’ which forms a foundation of his ‘theoretical ineptitude’. In line with this, the focus of this paper is to conceptualize global warming and climate change using two primary theories of international relations: realism and neoliberal institutionalism.

Realism and Climate Change

Realism is a classical theory in international relations. At its basic, realism takes into consideration assumptions concerning morality, human nature, and power. According to this theoretical perspective sovereign states are regarded as principal entities in the international political system. As principal actors, the states exercise authority by virtue of their autonomy and legitimacy. It is worth noting that under the realism theoretical perspective, states do operate and exist in an anarchic system. This is attributed to the premise that there is no world government in the international system. As a result, realist believes that frugal foreign policy is one that is centric to state survival protection, security of national interest, and obtains extra power. The converse of this is regarded as imprudent by the realist. As such, a realist may argue that a foreign policy that is moral may leave a nation vulnerable to externalities. Nonetheless, the ability of a policy to diverge from the externalities is “an iron law of necessity”.As such, moral values, ethics, and justice have no place in international politics and are considered “oxymoronic expressions”.
Taking the above fact into account, a rational theorist may lobby and support a climate agreement with mandatory confines to greenhouse gas emissions only if the provisions of the treaty are in line with national interests. This may be the same case with assistance in climate change adaptation among developing countries. As an illustration, the Copenhagen Accord was designed by the representatives of China, Unites States, India, and Brazil. This accord has been viewed by scholars as a return of realism despite the fact that the agreement is a significant architect of mitigation and adaptation measures. From this accord, one may urge the feasibility of international cooperation for climate change adaptation and the need for equal allocation of US$30 billion in pledges between climate change mitigation and adaptation .Vanderheiden put forth that climate change effect on other individuals with no ripple effect on a realist is of no concern to the realist. From this perspective, it is evident that adaptation to climate dynamics in developing nations is not the concern of developed nations since it implies their national interests.

Taking into consideration the realist worldview, policies that are being developed to deal with the global warming and climate change concerns need to ensure that all states need to feel that they are in an advantageous position. Additionally, the policies to combat climate change need to be cost-effective and efficient. To achieve this, it is important that policies meet the where-efficiency requirement. This is a requirement of climate change policy means that the “marginal costs of emissions reductions be equalized across sectors and across countries”. Ideally this may be realized by enforcing carbon prices that are harmonized and is applicable everywhere, with no exceptions, favoritism and exclusion of certain sectors and states. Some of the strategies of realizing this objective is the imposition of “universal carbon taxes” and cap-and-trade system.

Furthermore, with the realist point of view being the center of international relations, it is also important to come up with policies of climate change that give independence to local authorities. This will ensure that states protect their own interest while solving the climate change issue. For instance, in the United States policies and laws that govern emission are developed and enacted by states. As such, states have the power to define methods that they will utilize to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases.

Neoliberal Institutionalism and Climate Change

Neoliberal institutionalism is a theoretical perspective that is based on the neoliberal point of view. However, this theory is relatively less optimistic about cooperation and progress compared to classical liberal views. Despite the fact that nation’s powers have remained a core reality of international relations, neoliberal theorists focus on those variables that foster cooperation among nations on concerns of global significance . According to this theory, there are various assumptions that need to be considered. One is the fact that states are essential variables in the decision of international politics. As key factors, states tend to use rational behaviors in all facets of international discussions. Through rational consideration, states aspire to maximize their gains through cooperation in the event of tough completion. Another assumption of neoliberals is that states are not the sole actors but the most significant actors. Non-state actors include local authorities, companies, social groups, financial institutions, and individuals. Lastly, neoliberals also hold the assumption that international cooperation is an unpredictable occurrence and there is always chances of noncompliance and cheating on the part of nations to the regulations, rules, and norms developed and changed by institutions.

Subscribers of the neo-liberal institutionalism believe that its essential to develop functional international organizations, nongovernmental organization and other institutions with the objective of coming up with an answer to the global environmental concerns of global warming and change in climate. The rationale of this perspective is that international politics concerning environmental issues required both state and non-state actors. Conversely to the realist school of thought of legitimacy and autonomy of states in diplomatic deliberation, formed supranational organizations and other non-state actors have been playing a critical role in the international politics surrounding the environment. The non-state actors are instrumental in agenda appropriation through the integration of technical and political consensus about global warming and climate change. They mediate in the interstate bargains and thus contribute to the formulation of specific and comprehensive international policies regarding climate change.

To get a critical analysis of a climate change policy from a neoliberal perspective, the Kyoto Protocol can be analyzed. From a realist perspective, this protocol and its extended version has been deemed weak because the carbon process have been determined as different for various countries. This ranges from relatively high carbon price in Europe to zero in some the United States and developing nations. Contrary, from a neoliberal institutionalist perspective there are actors apart from the nations who have critical role of bringing together states with the aim of fostering cooperation in matters of common interest such as climate dynamics and global warming. In this regards, the initial Kyoto protocol and its extended version were products of international cooperation. Regardless of the United States not being a signatories of this protocol, there is a substantial number of countries that established that climate change is a common interest and the protocol has to be promoted widely. In an effort to cooperate, states around the world had to subdue the transaction cost and associated interstate mistrust and develop a global system where each state recognized that others will ultimately cooperate in this common objective.


From the above discussion, it is clear that there is a wide range of theories that dictate the discourse around global warming and change in climate. Realism takes into consideration assumptions concerning morality, human nature, and power. According to this theoretical perspective sovereign states are regarded as principal actors in the international political system. On the other hand, neoliberal institutionalism believes that state and non-state actors are equally important in international cooperation.


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