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Matthew Paterson: The centrality of politics to climate change and the problem of climate politics

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10:50 AM, Wednesday 26 May 2021 EDT (1 hour 15 minutes)
Integrating the social sciences into knowledge production about climate change is widely recognized as difficult, for various reasons. But political science presents a particular sort of problem for such integrated knowledge production. When produced for policy-oriented processes, where policy-makers may themselves get to revise and approve the text of a document (as is the case for IPCC reports), knowledge focused on explaining and evaluating the performance of political systems on climate change is a particularly difficult sell. Policy-makers are reluctant to accept analyses that explain why their country has worse performance than another. This presentation focuses on this twin character of political science knowledge on climate change: everyone knows politics is central to how effectively we respond to climate change, but everyone has institutional incentives to avoid talking about it. It also outlines the central elements of how we should understand the political dynamics of climate change.

  • Hughes, Hannah and Matthew Paterson, ‘Narrowing the Climate Field: The Symbolic Power of Authors in the IPCC’s Assessment of Mitigation’, Review of Policy Research, 34(6), 744-766, 2017.
  • Erick Lachapelle and Matthew Paterson, ‘Drivers of national climate policy’, Climate Policy, 13(5), 547-571, 2013.
  • Paterson, Matthew and Xavier P-Laberge, ‘Political economies of climate change’, Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 9(2), e506, 2018.

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