Climate change is an issue that, perhaps more than any other, exemplifies the complexity of intergovernmental cooperation and international policymaking. For decades, climate change has been debated and discussed in the forum of international politics, most notably since the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was negotiated in 1992. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988, produces reports on the status of climate change based on the latest in peer-reviewed scientific literature on the topic. Since its inception, the IPCC has published four major reports on the status of climate change, each of which have been heavily relied upon by policymakers worldwide in creating environmental policy at the national and international levels.
This week, the IPCC released Working Group I of the Fifth Assessment Report (Working groups II, III, and the Final Synthesis Report will be released in 2014.) The report states that it is “extremely likely” that human activities have been a contributing factor to climate change in the last 60 years. This shows an increase in certainty of human involvement in climate change since the IPCC’s last report in 2007. The report provides projections of future climate change, with four scenarios of future greenhouse gas emissions. It also provides a peak “target” level of greenhouse gas emissions, at which climate changes will become irreversible.
Since becoming a topic of international discussion, as well as grounds for national and international environmental policy, the science of climate change has often been mired in public skepticism. The IPCC itself came under attack by skeptics in 2009, when thousands of emails between IPCC scientists were leaked to the public. Critics claimed that the emails showed negligence and even deliberate tampering of climate data. While eight independent committees found no evidence of fraud or scientific misconduct in the emails, public distrust of climate science remains an issue and influences environmental policy.
Nevertheless, international leaders are certain to draw upon the findings of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report in negotiating a new treaty to reduce emissions. Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General, plans to assemble a panel of world leaders in 2014 to negotiate just such a treaty, and once again the world will watch as climate change becomes a forum for international debate and policymaking.
Official releases on the new study:
Summary of the UN Committee’s finding for policymakers
IPCC Press Release
IPCC “More Info” page about AR5
Press coverage of AR5:
Official government policies on climate change:
EU Summary of policy on climate change
EPA website on climate change
Selected Books at UIUC Library on Climate Change/Politics:
Boasson, Elin Lerum; Wettestad, Jørgen. (2013) EU Climate Policy: industry, policy interaction and external environment. Farnham, Surrey, England : Ashgate.
Kellow, Aynsley J.Boehmer-Christiansen, Sonja. (Eds.) (2010) The international politics of climate change. Cheltenham, UK : Edward Elgar.
Osofsky, Hari M.; McAllister, Lesley K. (2012) Climate change law and policy. New York : Wolters Kluwer.
Wang, Weiguang; Zheng, Guoguang; Pan, Jiahua. (Eds.) (2012) China’s climate change policies. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon ; Routledge.
Scholarly articles on politics of climate change:
Andonova, L. B., Betsill, M. M., & Bulkeley, H. (2009). Transnational Climate Governance. Global Environmental Politics, 9(2), 52-73.
Compston, H. (2010). The Politics of Climate Policy: Strategic Options for National Governments. Political Quarterly, 81(1), 107-115.
Davidson, S. (2010). Climategate hits the IPCC. Institute Of Public Affairs Review, 62(1), 26-28.
Ravindranath, N. H. (2010). IPCC: accomplishments, controversies and challenges. Current Science, 99(1), 26-35.
Zajko, M. (2011). The Shifting Politics of Climate Science. Society, 48(6), 457-461.