The project on Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks
examines factors that account for cross-national variation in efforts to mitigate climate change. Nations have sufficient natural scientific information on the subject, but lack the social and political will to respond seriously. The COMPON project currently has teams in over 15 societies (developed, developing, and transitional) and at the international level collecting equivalent empirical data on these processes using content analysis, interview, and inter-organizational network survey.

If there is interest in forming a research group to look at the Eastern Mediterranean, or some part of it, please contact Stuart Schoenfeld at York University.

A fuller description of the project, from its director Jeff Broadbent, University of Minnesota:

Global climate change (GCC) threatens all nations of the world with increasing risk of severe disasters. Reducing these risks requires the rapid reduction (mitigation) of greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the global atmosphere. Absent the perfect cheap non-polluting energy source, this reduction will require severe changes in production, consumption and distribution in numerous nations and at a global scale. Such changes will gore many oxen, raising many points of resistance. While the vast majority of experts identify the major causes of GCC as human-induced, reactions by nations have ranged from acceptance and a degree of action to denial and inertia. Some nations have made a little progress in reducing or stabilizing their GHG outputs, while others have steadily increased. Overall, global atmospheric GHG concentrations are rising following the “worst case” projections. This global situation constitutes a “natural experiment” to answer the following questions: Why, in the face of high risk predicted by the vast majority of credible experts, has the world done so little to avert the risk? Why have international agreements been so weak? The answer, it has become apparent, lies not primarily in finding the right international policy mechanisms (rules and institutions). More deeply, the answer lies in the reactions of nations. Why have nations reacted more or less effectively to the call for mitigation? How have their reactions affected the possibilities for international agreements? And how, in the coming decades, will intensifying climate disasters affect these national and international processes? Regardless of one’s stance on anthropogenic GCC, it is undeniable that these momentous questions will sway our world for a long time to come — and are a worthy subject of objective research.
The on-going international research project–Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (Compon, PI Jeffrey Broadbent) — is designed to address these questions, with the current focus on the first two. The project has academic research teams at the level of international negotiations and in over 15 significant or exemplary national or area cases: US, China, India, Brazil, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Mexico, Germany, United Kingdom, Austria, Greece, Canada, New Zealand (NSF and otherwise funded), with others in formation (Australia, Ireland, Portugal). Another group (CIFOR) is using our method to investigate climate-related forestry protection (REDD) in Bolivia, Brazil, Indonesia, and the Cameroons. These cases vary in factors hypothesized to cause variation in their mitigation reactions, policies and outcomes (and consequently, in international stances). According to this research design, comparative case analysis will indicate the causal factors causing the cross-case variation. The hypothesized social factors include: egalitarian stakeholder participation; culture of science, nature and authority; demand profiles of strong interest groups; opportunities offered by political institutions; role of scientists as mediators; and network patterns of coalitions. Other factors include geophysical vulnerability, fossil fuel dependency, levels of development and prosperity.
In each case, the teams use identical methods to collect three types of data: media content analysis (newspapers and legislative reports); in-depth interviews; and quantitative network survey of (50 to 100) organizations engaged in mitigation issue (governmental and public). The data covers both discourse (policy stances, rationales, opinions) and action (coalitions, lobbying, movements, policy-engagement, policy-making events) by organizations in the field of climate change engagement. The analysis of networks among and between organizations and discourses greatly enhances the capacity to study the social flows and processes that generate case reactions to climate change mitigation. The AAAS panel papers will present analyses of the media data, as that has been collected during the first stage of this on-going project.
To explain in a bit more detail, the causal hypotheses derive from both theory and observation. Theories of societal/political power differ in their evaluation of the relative effectiveness of conflictual versus persuasive tactics by change agents. The latter indicates that “The more the political system provides venues for broadly representative and egalitarian stakeholder participation, the more the nation will mitigate CC.” In contrast, a conflict-oriented hypothesis argues, “The more that national interest groups defend fossil fuel consumption, the less the nation will mitigate CC.” Bringing in cultural theory, a resultant hypothesis states that “The more implicit the cultural acceptance of a rational-scientific worldview, the more the nation will mitigate CC.” Combining cultural and persuasion theory yields “The more centrality CC scientists have in policy communications networks, the more the nation will mitigate CC.” Project capacity to examine the different networks among the discrete organizations composing the climate change field will enable more reliable testing of such process-oriented hypotheses than hitherto possible. The attached paper by the PI describes 11 hypotheses in detail.
The Compon project is modular; new national cases are always welcome. The plan is to repeat the data collection at 5 year intervals in order to provide time-series data to study the third question–how will intensifying climate disasters affect national and international efforts at mitigation? This data base will become open for use by scholars around the world, administered by national training, research and teaching centers on the social science of climate change.