• Dhruti Pattabhi

The Politics of Climate Change

Updated: Jan 13


In September 2017, a fire was started on the Eagle Creek trail, spreading through the dry vegetation of Washington and Oregon. Similar fires along the West Coast have elicited alarm and concern about the role of climate change in natural disasters such as fires. (Luke Flynt/Unsplash)


In light of abnormal weather patterns and erratic shifts in the environment, scientists have observed the surfacing issue of climate change. In witnessing this crisis unfold, we must consider the politics that incite and impede climate change.


How do Politics Affect Climate Change?


The political game of climate change is quite a dangerous one. Drastic measures to hamper climate change could affect the country’s fragile political and economic structures. If the issue is not approached with care, dire consequences could result, both politically and environmentally.


Presently, there are 2,323 laws and policies passed by a total of 164 countries to impede climate change. Of the most effective ones, the Montreal Protocol (1982) — although not originally enacted to curtail climate change — exemplifies how politics may positively influence climate issues without severely damaging the economy. The Montreal Protocol obligated participating countries to hinder the production of chemicals that damage the ozone layer. It was eventually ratified by every country in the world; consequently, 99 percent of the concerned ozone-depleting substances were eliminated. In present times, the Montreal Protocol stands as a model for climate change diplomacy.


Opinions on Climate Change Policies


However, climate change remains a sensitive issue, arousing disparate opinions from the public. In the United States, the majority of the Democrats agree that the federal government should do more for the climate. On the contrary, the perspectives of Republicans tend to vary depending on age, gender, and ideologies.


Per a survey on the U.S. consensus, an overall 90 percent of Democrats and 30 percent of Republicans concur that the government is doing far less than it should to curb climate change. Comprehensively, among younger Republicans, 52 percent would like the federal government to do more for the climate. However, 26 percent of conservative Republicans believe the government is doing too much for climate change. In total, 15 percent of American adults assert that policies involving climate change harm the environment, while 29 percent say they make no difference, and 54 percent say the policies institute improvement.


The primary concern of Republicans lies in the harm that new climate policies may generate. Conversely, Democrats are mainly concerned with the good the laws will do. It is palpable that — unlike some other countries — U.S. politicians view climate change as a political issue, with a severe partisan divide, a view derived from the perspectives observed in the survey.


When considering international opinion, there is more ambiguity. Predominantly, people advocated for climate policies beyond the current circumstances. According to a survey conducted by the United Nations Development Program, “Nine out of ten of the countries with the most urbanized populations backed more use of clean electric cars and buses, or bicycles.” In addition, younger people (under eighteen) were far more likely to say that climate change is a prevailing emergency. However, this claim was followed suit by 65 percent of those aged 18 to 35, and 66 percent of those aged 36 to 59. Notably, the majority of the public favored the passing of more climate laws.


Current Climate Policies


Recently, President Biden rejoined the Paris Agreement and commenced a new program via his National Climate Task Force. This initiative, known as the Nationally Determined Contribution — or NDC, strives to fulfill a 50-52 percent decrease in net greenhouse pollution by 2030.


In August 2021, Turkey legislated The Green Deal Action Plan — aiming to procure a green shift in all sectors of the Turkish economy. It aligns Turkey with the EU Green Deal.


The UK’s Hydrogen Strategy integrates a “low carbon hydrogen sector” concerning the rudimentary framework of the carbon-hydrogen production capacity and job opportunities. Additional financial, environmental, and economic targets include: “ 5GW of low carbon hydrogen production capacity by 2030, provision of £240m (330.4 million dollars) for the Net Zero Hydrogen Fund out to 2024/2025, deliver hydrogen for heat trials, and provide up to £120 million (165.2 million dollars) this year towards 4,000 new zero-emission buses, either hydrogen or battery electric, and infrastructure needed to support them.” These Executive orders were passed in August, setting 2021 as the base year and 2030 as the end year.


It is safe to say that newer climate policies will continue to emerge in the ensuing years. However, the public response may not be as foreseeable and will likely continue to divide over the merits of climate change legislation.


 

Sources & Further Reading

Patterson, Matthew; Grub, Micheal. “The International Politics of Climate Change” International Affairs. Volume 68, Issue 2. 1992. Pages 293-310

https://climate-laws.org/

https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/paris-global-climate-change-agreements

https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2019/11/25/u-s-public-views-on-climate-and-energy/

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2021/07/23/on-climate-change-republicans-are-open-to-some-policy-approaches-even-as-they-assign-the-issue-low-priority/

https://www.undp.org/press-releases/worlds-largest-survey-public-opinion-climate-change-majority-people-call-wide

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/04/22/fact-sheet-president-biden-sets-2030-greenhouse-gas-pollution-reduction-target-aimed-at-creating-good-paying-union-jobs-and-securing-u-s-leadership-on-clean-energy-technologies/

https://climate-laws.org/geographies/turkey/policies/green-deal-action-plan-approved-by-presidential-circular-2021-15

https://climate-laws.org/geographies/united-kingdom/policies/uk-hydrogen-strategy