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Abstract

There is overwhelming consensus about the science of climate change. Climate politics, however, remains volatile, driven by perceptions of injustice, which motivate policy resistance and undermine policy legitimacy. We identify three types of injustice. The first pertains to the uneven exposure to climate change impacts across countries and communities within a country. Socially, politically, and economically disadvantaged communities that have contributed the least to the climate crisis tend to be affected the most. To address climate change and its impacts, countries and subnational units have enacted a range of policies. But even carefully designed mitigation and adaptation policies distribute costs (the second justice dimension) and benefits (the third justice dimension) unevenly across sectors and communities, often reproducing existing inequalities. Climate justice requires paying careful attention to who bears the costs and who gets the benefits of both climate inaction and action. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Political Science, Volume 25 is May 2022. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.

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Climate change policy is generally modeled as a global collective action problem structured by free-riding concerns. Drawing on quantitative data, archival work, and elite interviews, we review empirical support for this model and find that the evidence for its claims is weak relative to the theory’s pervasive influence. We find, first, that the strongest collective action claims appear empirically unsubstantiated in many important climate politics cases. Second, collective action claims—whether in their strongest or in more nuanced versions—appear observationally equivalent to alternative theories focused on distributive conflict within countries. We argue that extant patterns of climate policy making can be explained without invoking free-riding. Governments implement climate policies regardless of what other countries do, and they do so whether a climate treaty dealing with free-riding has been in place or not. Without an empirically grounded model for global climate policy making, institutional and political responses to climate change may ineffectively target the wrong policy-making dilemma. We urge scholars to redouble their efforts to analyze the empirical linkages between domestic and international factors shaping climate policy making in an effort to empirically ground theories of global climate politics. Such analysis is, in turn, the topic of this issue’s special section.
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A key obstacle to nuclear energy as a decarbonization policy is the public perception of risks of radiation leaks from reactors. In particular, the “not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY)" syndrome suggests that individuals oppose nuclear reactors in their neighborhoods because they overestimate their risks. Arguably, such perceptions would be acute for those who have lived in the vicinity of a nuclear accident. We conducted a survey-embedded experiment in Japan (N = 2574) to assess how the NIMBY syndrome influences public support for restarting nuclear reactors when health, economic, and climate change benefits of nuclear energy are highlighted. We focus on Japan because the risks of nuclear energy became salient after the 2011 Fukushima accident. We test for two types of NIMBY effect, (1) respondents’ proximity to any nuclear power plant and (2) respondents’ place of residence in 2011 and its proximity to Fukushima. We do not find support for either the NIMBY syndrome or the Fukushima effect. On the contrary, we find support for a “reverse-NIMBY” among low-income residents, when they are treated with information on nuclear energy’s low local air pollution (health). Our findings suggest that support for nuclear energy varies across population groups and depends on how its local benefits and costs are framed.
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This perspective piece makes a case for a more rigorous treatment of managed retreat as a politically, legally, and economically distinct type of relocation that is separate from climate migration. We argue that the use of both concepts interchangeably obfuscates the problems around climate-induced mobilities and contributes to the inconsistencies in policy, plans, and actions taken by governments and organizations tasked with addressing them. This call for a disentanglement is not solely an academic exercise aimed at conceptual clarity, but an effort targeted at incentivizing researchers, practitioners, journalists, and advocates working on both issues to better serve their constituencies through alliance formation, resource mobilization, and the establishment of institutional pathways to climate justice. We offer a critical understanding of the distinctions between climate migration and managed retreat grounded in six orienting propositions. They include differential: causal mechanisms , legal protections, rights regimes and funding structures, discursive effects, implications for land use, and exposure to risks. We provide empirical examples from existing literature to contextualize our propositions while calling for a transformative justice approach to addressing both issues.
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This paper considers the possibilities and challenges facing international criminal law as a method of meaningfully responding to environmental destruction. Noting the interconnections between environmental destruction and the causes, conduct and impacts of mass violence, scholars have explored multiple ways in which international criminal law might be better equipped to respond to such harms. These have ranged from using existing provisions to introducing a new crime against the environment. This paper examines the evolution of these approaches and considers the capacity of international criminal law to respond to environmental destruction. In light of the challenges associated with introducing a new crime, it focuses on the possibilities associated with ‘greening’ the Rome Statute. Building on this approach, the paper considers whether the reparation framework adopted by the International Criminal Court offers an opportunity to meaningfully respond to environmental destruction and related human rights violations. It argues that there are three main ways in which this might be done: (i) by introducing the concept of ‘eco-sensitivity’ to reparations designed to respond to other anthropocentric harms; (ii) by awarding reparations that explicitly recognise the harm caused by environmental destruction when possible; and (iii) by exploring the possibilities of an environmental approach towards ‘transformative reparations’.
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Assets in the fossil fuel industries are at risk of losing market value due to unanticipated breakthroughs in renewable technology and governments stepping up climate policies in light of the Paris commitments to limit global warming to 1.5 or 2°C. Stranded assets arise due to uncertainty about the future timing of these two types of events and substantial intertemporal and intersectoral investment adjustment costs. Stranding of assets mostly affects the 20 biggest oil, gas, and coal companies who have been responsible for at least one-third of global warming since 1965, but it also affects carbon-intensive industries such as steel, aluminum, cement, plastics, and greenhouse horticulture. A disorderly transition to the carbon-free economy will lead to stranded assets and legal claims. Institutional investors should be aware of these financial risks. A broader definition of stranded assets also includes countries reliant on fossil fuel exports and workers with technology-specific skills. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Resource Economics, Volume 12 is October 5, 2020. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
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What drives a developing country's government to provide access to clean drinking water in urban and rural areas? Because creating water infrastructure is expensive, practicality and efficiency considerations might motivate governments to locate such infrastructures in urban areas with high population density. In contrast, we provide a political explanation of how political incentive shapes where governments locate water infrastructures which, in turn, shapes citizens' water access. In our perspective, developing countries' governments consider the competing pressures of industrialization and democratization. Industrialization enables urban collective action and incentivizes governments to listen to the voice of urban residents. Democratization, in contrast, gives the right to vote to rural residents and incentivizes government to provide water access in rural areas. This means that in nondemocracies, rural areas suffer when the country is undergoing industrialization. Importantly for the policy community, we show that foreign aid does not alter such fundamental political dynamics. Foreign aid accentuates the pro‐urban bias in industrializing nondemocracies. Our analysis of 112 developing countries for the period 1991–2010 provides support for our argument about the critical role of regime type in ensuring equitable drinking water access to rural areas.
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Racial/ethnic minorities and lower-socioeconomic (SES) groups in the U.S. face disproportionate environmental risks, which may hold implications for how these groups construe environmental issues, relative to other segments of the public. We explored this possibility with a diverse sample of 1191 U.S. adults, hypothesizing that, relative to White and higher-SES respondents, non-White and lower-SES respondents would rate a greater number of pressing societal issues as also “environmental.” Across 18 issues, ranging from ecological issues more traditionally the focus of environmental advocacy and scholarship (e.g., pollution; eco-oriented issues) to issues that also constitute human social determinants and consequences of environmental risk (e.g., poverty; human-oriented issues), non-White and lower-income respondents rated human-oriented issues as more “environmental.” Environmental justice perceptions partially mediated group differences in issue conceptualization. Results hold implications for the measurement of environmental attitudes and efforts to broaden public engagement within racially and economically diverse communities.
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As scores of climate change adaptation measures are implemented around the world, there have been growing calls among academics and practitioners to also address the processes that underpin human vulnerability to climate change. However, there is mounting evidence that adaptation and vulnerability are linked, such that ostensibly adaptive responses can have negative consequences and augment people’s vulnerability. We analyzed several climate change responses at various scales and developed a typology of five discrete but related modes by which the vulnerability of already vulnerable populations is being [re]produced. Crucially, this work suggests that for at least one of these modes, the vulnerability of other groups is perversely inverted, such that relatively secure populations perceive themselves to be at risk. The cases we present illustrate that people’s vulnerability is being used against them, or put another way, is being weaponized―exacerbating their precarity by excluding them from much needed and due assistance, while directing resources instead to bolstering the well-being of those already well-positioned to respond to climate threats. Our typology provides a theoretical intervention by illustrating how climate vulnerability and security are co-produced, as well as a practical tool to help decision makers to adopt more just and equitable climate policies.
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Climate action has two pillars: mitigation and adaptation. Mitigation faces collective action issues because its costs are focused on specific locations/actors but benefits are global and nonexcludable. Adaptation, in contrast, creates local benefits, and therefore should face fewer collective action issues. However, governance units vary in the types of adaptation policies they adopt. To explain this variation, we suggest conceptualizing adaptation-aspolitics because adaptation speaks to the issues of power, conflicting policy preferences, resource allocation, and administrative tensions. In examining who develops and implements adaptation, we explore whether adaptation is the old wine of disaster management in the new bottle of climate policy, and the tensions between national and local policy making. In exploring what adaptation policies are adopted, we discuss maladaptation and the distinction between hard and soft infrastructure. Finally, we examine why politicians favor visible, hard adaptation over soft adaptation, and how international influences shape local policy. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Environment and Resources Volume 43 is October 17, 2018. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
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This article employs a close reading of documents related to the permitting process for the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) and ensuing legal battle in order to argue that extant regulatory frameworks for environmental decision-making are insufficient to promote environmental justice outcomes. By analyzing the US Army Corps of Engineer's responses to comments made during the public comment phase of the NEPA evaluation of the DAPL, I argue that regulatory frameworks may exacerbate environmental justice concerns by incentivizing decision makers to prioritize justification for their decisions and avoiding legal battles over meaningfully engaging with communities. This finding leads me to call for more engagement with energy democracy's orientation toward community-led processes as a corrective to current regulatory systems. This article expands on extant work in environmental communication by more thoroughly investigating the flaws in extant regulatory frameworks and calling for a perspectival shift in environmental decision-making.
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New goods and expanding product variety are thought to provide enormous welfare gains. New products can influence the pricing of competing products, but often the most important way that new products improve the welfare is through their direct consumption value. The demographic profile of the buyers of new goods suggests those welfare gains are unequally distributed. For supermarket products in the US, expenditures on new goods are disproportionately concentrated among high earners and younger consumers.
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Can information about adaptation costs influence citizens’willingness to support climate change mitigation? Some scholars are concerned that policy discussions on adaptation might present climate change as a more manageable problem, and therefore crowd out mitigation efforts.On the other hand, providing information on adaptation costs may sensitize citizens to these costs, thereby increasing their willingness to support mitigation. To assess these conflicting predictions, we fielded a web-based survey experiment using a sample of 2,000 US-based respondents. We presented the respondents with a hypothetical newspaper article regarding a proposed gasoline tax (a mitigation strategy) and measured the support for this proposal across different treatment groups. In the control group, the respondents were told that failure to mitigate climate change could result in a potentially catastrophic outcome, whereas in each of the treatment groups the respondents were provided with information concerning possible adaptation costs. The respondents were then asked about their willingness to support a gasoline tax. Our key finding is that the provision of information about adaptation costs leads to a small increase in the respondents’willingness to support mitigation efforts.Furthermore, we find that this effect becomes larger when the information regarding adaptation costs is made more specific.