Jun 252008

Josh Busby & Alexander Ochs

We examine the sources of the transatlantic climate divide between the US and Europe. First, we take up the proposition that differences in the material conditions of the US and Europe are responsible for the dustup over global warming. We argue that relative power positions do not determine a nation’s choice of broad climate policy approaches. Moreover, we emphasize that mitigating climate change will ultimately require wrenching policy adjustments for both the US and Europe. While there may be short-run differences in cost profiles, these should not pose such a hindrance that careful policy design cannot overcome them. Next, we evaluate the claim that a difference in values or culture is responsible for the rift. A highly oversimplified version of the argument holds that Europeans just care about climate change more than the Americans. We find evidence for this to be mixed. We suggest that differences between the US and Europe derive not so much from material interests or cultural values but from different political systems that shape the interests and values that have influence on policy. America’s political system permits certain interests—namely climate skeptics and business interests—to exercise veto power over external environmental commitments. European decision makers, by contrast, face environmental movements more capable of exercising influence over electoral politics. The interaction of the two systems internationally has hobbled global climate policy cooperation. Negotiations are complicated by inadequate sensitivity to each other’s internal political conditions. Better understanding of each other’s domestic politics and more careful institutional design of climate change policies may yet overcome these obstacles. 2005 SAIS-BROOKINGS BOOK CHAPTER

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