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The United States in a Warming World: The Political Economy of Government, Business, and Public Responses to Climate Change Paperback – September 22, 2014
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"Thomas Brewer is one of the world's leading experts on the political economy of international trade and related policies. Now, in this new book, he brings his calm, analytical and typically balanced approach to an important and timely issue, the political economy of global climate change policy in the United States. Professor Brewer's assessment merits a careful look by scholars and practitioners alike."
Robert N. Stavins, Albert Pratt Professor of Business and Government, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
"Brewer's book fills a big gap in the literature about climate change. It is a thoughtful, thorough and balanced account of the science, economics, technology and politics of climate policy in the US and globally. And it is clear and very easy to read. For college and graduate students, this book is the place to start. It would be an excellent text for a course on climate change - the foundation for robust discussion, debate and research. The book also provides an excellent place for fresh thinking about how to address climate change - which is badly needed these days as the Kyoto FCCC process seems to have stalled. Everyone can learn something important from this book."
Dewitt John, Thomas Shannon Distinguished Lecturer in Environmental Studies, Bowdoin College
"This book provides a much needed deeper insight into the economics and politics of decision making by a diversity of actors in the US in relation to climate change. It tries to explain, both to the domestic and international audience, why the US has taken a fairly isolated position for such a long time in the global climate governance arena. With its clear and simple communication style and supported by detailed appendices, this book will be very useful for policy-makers and students of climate economics." Joyeeta Gupta, University of Amsterdam
"Brewer vividly describes past efforts to forge ahead on environmental and climate policy, providing a compelling historical backdrop for today's climate policy battles. And for students and professionals who want to probe even deeper, Brewer offers a valuable list of resources at the end of each chapter."
Vicki Arroyo, Executive Director, Georgetown Climate Center; Professor from Practice, and Environmental Law Program Director, Georgetown Law
Written for audiences both outside and within the United States, this accessible book addresses the widespread desire to better understand how climate change issues are addressed in the US by providing an unparalleled analysis of the political and economic factors that shape its responses to climate change.
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Because the source of the problem is human actions, rather than random atmospheric or climate fluctuations, human societies share a collective responsibility for alleviating it. Ultimately, the key questions are political rather than scientific. Does the political will exist to confront the scientific challenges?
Thomas L. Brewer, a political scientist, provides a broad-focus assessment of the political responses to climate change. In some ways, his findings are encouraging. International awareness of the problem is far higher than ever before. The UN-sponsored conferences at Kyoto in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009, and Paris in 2015 moved close to limiting the production of greenhouse gases. Meanwhile solar and wind alternatives to fossil fuels rapidly are becoming more competitive.
Brewer’s focus, however, is the most problematic and recalcitrant player on the stage—the United States. He asks why the US has so conspicuously fallen behind other countries in its efforts to address the problem. His findings are detailed and deeply researched. Some business interests favor action to slow or reverse climate change, but the large umbrella organizations—the National Association of Manufacturers and the US Chamber of Commerce—do not. Some state and local governments (principally in the Northeast and the Pacific Coast) likewise have taken steps to cut emissions, but others (principally in the Midwest, the Mountain states, and the South) have sat on their hands.
It will come as no surprise to many readers that national efforts regarding climate change are hamstrung by partisan paralysis. Efforts to pass a national cap-and-trade system foundered in Congress in 2009-10, even though Democrats still held a majority of seats. The culprit proved to be the loosely-structured federal system in the US, which held hostage Democrats who represented energy-producing and automobile-manufacturing states. Since then the resurgent Republicans have stymied all climate-related legislation. The Obama administration has countered with administrative initiatives—interpreting the Clean Air Act to tighten regulations on greenhouse emissions, and promising to heed UN protocols even though ratification by Congress is out of the question.
Brewer faults the Obama administration for giving priority to health care and immigration reforms rather than climate change legislation during the brief window in 2009-10 when it held majorities in Congress. (Energy-related projects did constitute a significant part of the so-called “stimulus”—the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.) He also regrets Obama’s inability at Copenhagen to accept the “specific emissions targets and timetables” advanced by our European allies (233). But Brewer recognizes that Obama has placed greater emphasis on climate change during his second term.
On balance, Brewer sketches a discouraging picture. The US, to date, has been “inadequate to the challenge” (278). But he remains hopeful that we may soon see “more widespread and more rapid transformations in how Americans think about the problem of climate change and in actions they take to solve it” (278). As with almost every other aspect of public policy, much hinges on the outcome of the 2016 elections.