Articles and Posts from ISQ

Pope Francis's encyclical Laudato Si' has understandably made waves across the globe for its strong warning on climate change, which the Pope called a global crisis with potentially devastating consequences for our natural and social worlds. Environmental degradation is no stranger to the realm of international relations scholarship, but the Catholic Church's current call to action - particularly as it is geared towards developed states - clearly has important political implications. Domestically, we've already seen a number of Republican presidential candidates trip over their tongues as they attempt to reconcile the legitimacy inherent to the Church with a strong base of [religious] "climate skeptics". Internationally, though, the ramifications of the Pope's message have yet to reveal themselves.  Below is a compilation of scholarly articles published in International Studies Quarterly that might give readers better insight into how this might play out. 

Whose fault is it anyway?

The Pope's encyclical urges developed, primarily Western, countries to pay their fair share, since it is they who produce most of the harmful greenhouse gases. Yet some research indicates that Western democracies - by dint of their democratic-ness - actually reduce environmental degradation across a host of areas. [Li & Reuveny, 2006]

One fear of globalization is that it will result in a "race to the bottom" as industries look for the least politically and fiscally costly way to produce their goods. Once again, however, evidence suggests that this might not be true. With China as their case study, [Zeng & Easton, 2007] find that increased trade and foreign investment actually encourage businesses to adopt and maintain stronger environmental standards.

What are the potential adverse political effects of climate change on states?

As many of us have experienced, climate change brings with it an increase in natural disasters including: earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, heat waves, floods, and volcanic eruptions. And while such events in and of themselves are dangerous, they also greatly increase the chances of violent civil unrest, particularly in less-developed states. [Nel & Righarts, 2008]

How do we work together, globally, to address the problem?

[Aklin & Urpelainen, 2014] argue that the democratizing process within a state allows international actors, such as other states or NGOs, to promote the creation of a domestic environmental ministry, particularly when environmental concerns are already prevalent. These local ministries are then linked together in a broader international network promoting global environmental governance. 

A dominant theme in IR is the question of sovereignty and whether a state is willing to cede some of that authority to work collectively with other states. One finding suggests that countries, especially in the Global South, invoke their sovereignty more on issues involving social and cultural values. [Hochstetler, Clark & Friedman, 2000]

Although the fear exists that the proliferation of NGOs working at the global level will infringe on the sovereignty of states, evidence suggests that the more NGOs there are, the greater the likelihood that states will engage in international environmental cooperation. [Raustiala, 1997]


States are also more likely to work together and form regimes when they share intelligence about the specific cross-border consequences of particular issues, as opposed to just sharing more general scientific data. [Dimitrov, 2003] suggests this is because such knowledge helps states define their interests and make calculated choices.

[Grundig, 2006] builds an n-actor relative gains model, which statistically demonstrates that there is a lower level of state cooperation on global warming than on other international issues such as trade. Categorizing this behavior as neo-realist, he argues that power politics plays an important role in [not] addressing climate change.

Additionally, another study finds that transnational networks working to battle climate change are motivated less by the sharing of information and the crafting of norms than by the political and financial benefits for the individual members. [Betsill & Bulkeley, 2004]

What have we done about it?

An examination of how the Kyoto Protocol came into existence indicates that bargaining outcomes did not affect its ratification, nor did ratification constraints limit actors' bargaining power. The reason? Although its member states ratified the Protocol individually, the European Union was able to work as a single actor and thereby leverage immense power in agenda-setting.  [McLean & Stone, 2012] 


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The International Studies Association

Representing 100 countries, ISA has over 6,500 members worldwide and is the most respected and widely known scholarly association in this field. Endeavoring to create communities of scholars dedicated to international studies, ISA is divided into 7 geographic subdivisions of ISA (Regions), 29 thematic groups (Sections) and 4 Caucuses which provide opportunities to exchange ideas and research with local colleagues and within specific subject areas.
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