RESEARCH ON POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS AND THEIR RESPONSE TO THE PROBLEM OF INCREASING CO2 IN THE ATMOSPHERE
DEAN E. MANN
The focus of this paper is the agenda of research on political institutions and the roles those institutions might play in meeting the challenge and resolving the issues connected with increases in the concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere. Institutions are conceived broadly, encompassing those structures, processes and policy approaches for making public decisions and for influencing the behavior of private individuals, groups, and firms. Institutional analysis must incorporate the private structures and processes as they relate to the public decision-making process. In the United States and other countries with substantial private economies, the interdependencies between the public and private sectors make such comprehensive analysis essential.
1. Domestic and International Institutions and Politics
This paper will deal primarily with research on the domestic institutional structures and processes and policy approaches.(1) While the emphasis will be on the United States, the same kind of analysis appropriate to the United States may be appropriate, with modifications, to other nations as well. The problem of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is global in character and such global problems must be translated within each nation by domestic institutions into domestic policy. In a politically decentralized world, it is necessary to examine the domestic institutions of various societies to ascertain the institutional capability to cope with the threat and the reality of changing climate. State sovereignty will remain the pattern for the foreseeable future---indeed it may become even more powerful in the future--and climate policy, like virtually every other meaningful policy, will reflect this domestic institutional capability (Morganthau, 1978). Even though agreements may be made internationally, these agreements must be translated into practical political measures through domestic structures and processes (Hanrieder, 1978).
Moreover, it is inevitable that the institutional capacity will reflect specific political conditions within the various nations and blocs of nations (Bertsch et al., 1978). These political conditions at the most generalized level have to do with (1) the character of the economic system--whether essentially based on free markets or on state socialism; (2) the capability of the bureaucracy, especially if the bureaucracy has extensive authority to make decisions with respect to the allocation of scarce resources; (3) the configuration of private interest groups and their relationships to the government with respect to the latter's regulatory authority over them; (4) the condition of public opinion, whether attentive to issues of public policy or relatively uninformed and inattentive; (5) the character and quality of constitutional law, i.e., the limitations both substantive and procedural, under which authorities may act in making public policy; (6) not least of all, the specific economic and strategic interests that are damaged or benefited by the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere. Each state may be expected to act in its own self-interest as it defines it and that interest is a summation of the economic costs and benefits perceived, military advantages and disadvantages, and the myth structure accruing to productive enterprise in each country (Kelley et al.. 1976).
Agreement on approaches to the solution of the problems associated with the environment and more specifically with global warming will depend on the extent to which the representatives of nations affected by this trend are willing to negotiate their differences.(2) The study of the impacts of increasing CO2 must therefore include research on the international politics of such issues (Falk, 1971; Sprout and Sprout, 1971). Such issues include the definition of the stakes of each nation; the relationship of the global warming issue to other stakes of each individual nation; the general relationships among the major blocs of nations (the industrialized West plus Japan and the industrialized East; the Northern industrialized developed nations and the Southern less developed and less industrialized nations); the various regional systems; the resources of each nation or regional system to deal with the problems associated with global warming, either by countering the effects internally or by demanding compensation for costs imposed on them. Such studies should complement the research on the international law and institutions that might be devised or erected to make decisions in a formal way with respect to the global warming impacts.
As an international problem, the CO2 concentration problem cannot be divorced from the more general issue of the energy future of the United States and other nations that are presently dependent on oil from the Middle East and other producer areas of the world. Coal, like nuclear power. is often proposed as the alternative to foreign oil as the principal energy source during the transition from the fossil fuel to a non-fossil fuel economy---whatever that may be. Those who argue for increased nuclear development, and particularly the breeder reactor, see nuclear power as the alternative that may make the United States and the other developed nations less dependent on the Middle East and less likely to become embroiled in a major conflict--including the possibility of a thermonuclear conflict--either with Middle Eastern nations or with the Soviet Union. Similarly, despite the problem of increased CO2 concentrations, the burning of coal may be perceived as an alternative to major international conflicts over oil and the uncertainties associated with the supply of nuclear fuel, the safety of reactors, the possibilities of sabotage and the disposal of nuclear waste.
2. Relationship of This Agenda to Other Disciplines
This research agenda is likely to attract the skills and methodologies of political scientists. Indeed, there is hardly a facet of political science that would not be appropriate as an approach to understanding of the problem: political socialization, public administration, public law, political behavior, etc. This is part of the problem of drawing up an agenda; the CO2 issue cuts across every subdivision of the discipline. At the same time, it should be recognized that many of the research topics of interest to political scientists are also of interest to sociologists, geographers, psychologists, economists, anthropologists, and historians Some overlapping of research agendas is therefore inevitable, but these overlaps suggest both the recognition by representatives of several disciplines of the importance of the agenda items and perhaps the opportunity for multi-disciplinary research. Political scientists should scrutinize the research agendas of the other social sciences---psychology, anthropology, geography, and economics---for further emphasis on and elaboration of some topics on the research agenda assigned here for political scientists.
3. Skepticism of Existing Institutions
There exists a profound skepticism of existing political and economic institutions and their capability of resolving major public problems, whether concerned with the environment or other issues. Government, it is argued, tends to regulate where it should not, and spend more than it should, thus constituting a dual burden on all of society. Politicians and bureaucrats are viewed as lacking the appropriate incentives for problem solving; indeed, their incentive structure is viewed as leading them in the direction of perpetuation and aggravation of social problems. They tend to build large projects, usually in excess of need and with only casual relationship to some form of cost/benefit analysis (Niskanen. 1971). Critics often view the marketplace and its pricing system as the appropriate mode of decision-making on most resource questions (Anderson, 1977).
On the other hand, there are those who despair over the market as a device for making inter-generational decisions with regard to non-renewable resources or cumulative pollution effects that cannot easily be reversed. Reliance on the discount rate with a strong preference for current consumption and lack of concern for future values are seen as serious weaknesses in market economies. Inter-generational resource issues are found to be essentially moral issues where the role of government in establishing limits, norms and priorities is viewed as crucial (Daly, 1979). Whether government is capable of establishing standards that protect such long-term values is another matter.
Finally, there are those who see a profound need for government intervention but perceive little inclination on the part of the general public or its representatives to take anything but a short-term view of environmental/resource policy. There is evidence of persistence of a strong commitment to environmental protection among the general public (Mitchell, 1978, 1979, 1980) but it is uncertain how strong that commitment might be in the face of circumstances that portend a significant decline in real income. Moreover, there are those who believe that public support for environmental protection will wax and wane (Downs, 1972) or that the public pays serious attention to environmental issues only under conditions of crisis. The constitutional and electoral systems with relatively brief terms of office and the necessity for incumbents to satisfy pressing and current public demands lend themselves to emphasis on meeting present demands with little concern for the future environment (Cooley and Wandesforde-Smith, 1970). This same penchant for short-term problem-solving horizons leads to unspoken conspiracies between legislators and bureaucrats to build administrative structures and policy frameworks that are more to their mutual benefit and less to the benefit of the general public (Fiorina, 1977).
The appropriate role of government is controversial throughout the world, even in solidly socialist countries such as the Eastern European bloc and in the developing nations. Nevertheless, there is a clearly greater tendency to rely on public institutions for the major decisions in society in those regions of the world, in some cases because of doctrinal tenets and in others because the governmental apparatus has a virtual monopoly of capital, administrative skills and technical training. Of necessity decisions with respect to major capital investments such as the construction of centralized electrical energy facilities burning fossil fuels or the construction of nuclear plants are exclusively public decisions that require the use of public funds and public administrative machinery.
The level of support for government policy by the general public and by specific interest groups will vary from country to country. In many countries decisions will be made exclusively by government elites with little input or expectation of public participation in the political process. Where there are serious deficiencies in education and the concern of most people is to earn sufficient to feed oneself and one's family, it is unlikely that the general public will have much interest in or influence over such policy decisions. Indeed, the general public as well as major interest groups may consider an issue as problematic and uncertain as CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere to be so trivial in comparison with other more pressing issues that it may hardly find a place on the political agenda. On the other hand, in a country like Japan, it is clear that some environmental policies have had the benefit of strong support from a relatively cohesive economic and business elite.
The skepticism and uncertainty regarding the capacities of political institutions must be challenged if the consequences of climatic change are to be dealt with effectively. In effect, is there evidence that slow, cumulative and arguably irreversible changes in the environment that threaten not only the quality of life but the future habitability of the planet can be dealt with effectively by existing institutions (Moss, 1980)? Is public sentiment incapable of perceiving a public interest beyond its own immediate gratification? Specifically, can existing institutions deal effectively with the subtle and slow changes in climate and society that arise out of the gradual increases of CO2 in the atmosphere?
4. The Evidence of Experience and the Function of Analogy
Except as one monitors current efforts to deal with the CO2 problem. it is necessary largely to explore analogous situations involving slow, cumulative, potentially non-reversible changes. Do analogies exist and how close are the parallels? This is a researchable question that social scientists can and should address. The following suggests only some indicators of possible parallel or analogous policy-making.
It has been argued that the recent efforts to deal with air pollution in the United States are the result of "speculative augmentation", i.e., a radically new approach to air pollution that relied on untried technology and methodology and arose out of a profound dissatisfaction with the efforts that had been tried theretofore. Neither the costs, benefits nor the economic and political consequences were clearly foreseen because of the experimental character of the new approach. Nevertheless, under appropriate public leadership, pressure from well organized environmental groups, and public sentiment that was perceived to be favorable, this legislation was passed and was implemented with some success (Jones 1974; Jones. 1975). Recent evidence of postponements of deadlines and failure to impose strict standards suggests that this audacious policy was something less than a complete success but the experience is nevertheless instructive (Ingram and Mann, 1978; Walker and Storper, 1978).
Federal legislation dealing with DDT and other pesticides may provide additional evidence of a kind analogous to the CO2 situation. There appears to be a consensus on the impact of DDT on the food chain and the serious implications of the accumulation of that pesticide in the tissues of specific species, including human beings. Yet the evidence is not overwhelming and there remain those in the scientific community who are unconvinced. The situation is similar for a number of other pesticides. Yet the demand for control of the use of pesticides became sufficiently great to lead to its prohibition and has led to the prohibition of several others as well.
Current concern for radiation safety and storage of nuclear wastes suggests another possible policy situation not entirely dissimilar from the CO2 problem. Despite the fact that the record of nuclear power plant safety has been excellent, and no deaths have resulted from their operation, and despite the confidence expressed by most scientists in the energy community that storage of nuclear wastes is safe and reliable, public sentiment--and consequently the sentiments of many decision-makers---remains strongly resistant to expansion of the nuclear industry. California's action to make new nuclear plants virtually an impossibility is indicative of this mood.
A final example--the issue of the impact of super-sonic transports and fluorocarbons on the ozone layer--suggests another possible policy approach: legislation accompanied by and associated with exhortation. Recognition of the dangers created by the widespread use of fluorocarbons has led to legislation and a virtual cessation of the use of this substance as a propellant in spray cans. The problem is hardly resolved because of continued use throughout the world but the United States has virtually ceased to utilize it for this purpose, although continuing to use it in refrigerants in large quantities. A determined attack on the SST for its potential impact on the ozone layer along with a demonstration of the lack of economic viability of the program led to Congressional decisions not to continue development of the SST, with an almost one billion dollar loss in public investment (Segal, 1972). It is not beyond the realm of possibility that a strong public and private effort to alter certain practices that contribute to the CO2 problem or that exacerbate the consequences of climate change might achieve important results on a combined legislative and voluntary basis.
Illustrations could also be drawn from foreign experience--illustrations of both successes and failures comparable to those found in the United States. Other superpowers such as the Soviet Union and Japan have faced similar environmental issues with comparable difficulties and achievements in air, and water pollution control and waste disposal (Kelley et al., 1976). The efforts to deal with environmental issues in those nations reflect not only the seriousness of the problems encountered but the ideology and institutional structure for dealing with them. For example, the traditional authoritarian and paternalistic ideology, institutions and interpersonal relationships found in Japan are viewed as facilitative of environmental protection measures. A key industrial association played a major role in the success of a compensation plan for those who suffered ill health effects from pollution (Anderson et al., 1977, p. 51).
The number of examples could be extended, with more or less relevance to the CO2 situation. The purpose of analysis of analogous policy situations would be to ascertain the strategic and tactical possibilities for achieving policy goals with respect to climatic change. What was the objective condition of public sentiment? What leadership emerged to define the problem and its solutions? How was interest group mobilization accomplished? What were the problems with implementation? To what extent may the conditions at a given moment with respect to the CO2 problem be propitious for major advances in policy?
5. Politics as Cause and Effect
Political decisions and derivative policy may be both cause and effect with respect to climatic change. Decision-makers may clearly perceive that their actions lead to significant, although uncertain, impacts on individuals and society. A deliberate policy of requiring fossil fuel burning electric utilities to convert from oil to coal may be an example of this sort. Recent steps within the United States to convert power plants presently burning oil and natural gas to coal have been taken in full recognition of the potential climatic consequences that may be encountered in the long run. At the other end of the scale are political decisions that may be taken to deal with climatic change that are less the consequences of other political decisions than individual preferences for a given style of life. The intense preference for the use of the automobile in the United States is an excellent illustration. In the developing tropical nations, the burning of trees as fuel is a continuing practice of individuals who are certainly not cognizant of the climatic consequences of the aggregate level of burning. One might argue, of course, that continued acquiescence by governments in those modes of life and utilization of given means of transportation or practices of fuel consumption for heating is a causative political decision of the first magnitude.
Political decision-making with respect to climate change may be considered a second and in some cases a third-order consequence. Direct impacts are experienced by specific groups: farmers, operators of tourist and recreational facilities, cattle and sheep raisers, municipalities, an industry concerned with water supply, etc. These impacts are secondarily felt by businesses that depend on primary industry for their prosperity. These impacts are then transformed into political concerns and their expression as political demands.
These political demands are usually mediated by political interest groups such as trade associations, trade unions, local economic bodies such as chambers of commerce, professional associations, and other kinds of membership organizations. These organizations perform the function of articulating the interests of the affected individuals, preparing specific remedial proposals and transmitting the collective concerns to decisionmakers (Truman, 1951; Greenwald, 1977). In some instances, although probably to a lesser degree today, political parties may play an important role in this articulation process (Burnham, 1970; Sundquist, 1973).
As mediators of public policy concerns, it is important to ascertain the perceptions of interest group leaders of the issues associated with climate change and the policy options available for dealing with them. To a significant degree, these interest groups are veto groups; that is, they are able to impose a veto over specific formulations of public policy. The price of obtaining their consent is some form of compromise. Thus, their perceptions of the issues associated with climate change, the stakes they perceive---both theirs and their adversaries--the policy options they deem acceptable or anathema, and the mechanisms through which policy should be carried out are important information for those who are responsible for fashioning public policy. Information should be obtained on their level of knowledge of the issues, the intensity of concern that is exhibited, and the place climate change occupies in their scales of priorities.
The technical and unseen and unfelt nature of climate change, particularly as it is masked by natural perturbations and cyclical swings in rainfall and temperature, makes public opinion a less direct influence on the formulation of policy. Nevertheless, the attitudes and perceptions of the general public as well as specific publics can have a significant influence and impose major constraints on public policy-making. To what extent may their time preferences dictate the speed and direction of public policy? To what extent do they identify climatic change with nature or with actions of humankind? To whom do they attribute responsibility for climatic change and whom do they hold responsible for taking corrective action?
The extent to which private interest groups and public opinion play roles in policy formulation and implementation will naturally vary from nation to nation and culture to culture. In the ultimate sense, all nations must take public opinion and public support into account in making policy, but there are large differences in the discretionary authority of ruling elites and their bureaucratic subordinates. In a relatively closed society. it may be expected that an issue as subtle as climate change will hardly reach the surface of general public awareness, thus leaving the elite virtual plenary power to deal with the problem. On the other hand, it may be expected that some regimes may endeavor to incite or inflame public opinion over actual or potential adverse climate change if such stimulation seems appropriate in the circumstances.
6. Approaches to Policy Analysis and the CO2 Problem
A fundamental assumption of policy analysis is that policies often determine politics, i.e., that the political process reconfigures with the character of the policy issue under consideration. The politics of science, for example, are different from the politics of welfare which is in turn different from the politics of defense. Each kind of policy issue evokes the participation and the concern of different sets of actors who relate themselves to each other in characteristic ways. While the formal processes through which policy are made may be similar---or may be entirely dissimilar---the pattern of interaction among the participants in the process may be highly divergent. Lowi has distinguished among four kinds of politics: distributive, regulatory, redistributive and constituent politics. Each is distinguishable by the pattern of private group interaction and the roles of the formal institutions in the process, reflecting the kinds of issues the political system is dealing with (Lowi, 1972).
Briefly, in the distributive policy arena, local interests seek benefits from the public treasury by means of projects and programs of benefit to their locality and for which they bear little or none of the cost. Coalition formation is characteristic of this area, with the familiar triangular relationship of associated local interest, congressional committees and federal bureaus playing the instrumental roles in achieving legislative goals. In the regulatory area, the politics are sectoral in character, with major economic (or other well-organized) interests lined up against each other. The treasury is usually unavailable to pay the costs, so the outcome is of advantage to some interests and entails clear-cut losses to others. The major participants are the organized interests, regulatory agencies and the Congress that determines the rules of the games by which the participants play.
In the redistributive political arena, the issues have to do with general shifts in the benefits and burdens of society: taxes, tariffs, welfare, unemployment benefits. These issues involve transferring wealth from one large sector to another large sector of society and thus correspond most closely to class politics. The major private participants are the peak economic organizations such as the trade union congresses and the large business associations on the private side, and the President and the Congress as a whole on the public side. Finally, in constituent politics, the issues have to do with the structure of government and the basic assignments of political tasks and responsibilities in society. In an ultimate sense, all four forms of politics are redistributive--transferring benefits or advantage from one group or class to another.
In examining the issues raised by the increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, one must recognize that they will take varied forms and therefore will be dealt with through different political arenas as indicated above. Some will be dealt with through distributive politics, some through regulatory or redistributive or constituent politics, or a combination of the various modes (Mann, 1975). It will be important to examine the character of each policy issue to discern its characteristic political arena and the consequences that ensue from these two features.
The significance of such analysis lies in the strategic advantage given the analyst by an appreciation of these systematic relationships. While sounding deterministic in character, i.e., that a given policy issue determines political dynamics, in fact that designer of policy may deliberately intervene to alter the major characteristics of policy so as to alter the politics.
Another analytic approach distinguishes among three strategies for dealing with the increasing concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere: preventive, curative and adaptive (Corbett, 1979). The preventive strategy emphasizes the restriction and reduction of activities that contribute to the concentration in the first place. Thus, there would be few or no new fossil fuel plants constructed, some existing ones might be phased out, and an emphasis would be placed on fuels that do not make contributions to CO2 concentration. There might be restrictions on the kinds of activities that lead to demands for CO2 production. The approach would be largely regulatory in character and involve the imposition of strong enforcement machinery for its accomplishment.
A second strategy would be curative, i.e., designed to deal with the CO2 concentrations by effectively neutralizing it as it is produced. Stack scrubbers and afforestation projects have been suggested. The focus of such strategy would be largely technological and project-oriented. Such an approach would be both regulatory and expensive in terms of expenditures for new technology and resource programs. Those expenditures might be private or public but in either case they would increase substantially the social cost of producing energy.
The adaptive strategy assumes that CO2 concentrations are allowed to build up without significant intervention and then society develops mechanisms for adjusting to the changes in climate. These changes would come gradually and the adaptive process would be relatively slow and incremental. Such a strategy allows experience rather than predictions to guide the specific social and technological changes and feedback may be more useful than predictions. It allows costs to be spread over time. On the other hand, it presumes that adaptation can occur without undue social costs, that the changed climate will not impose such severe disruptions that they cannot be accommodated by existing institutions.
The preventive and curative strategies clearly have the disadvantage of concentrating most efforts to deal with the climate change problem at the beginning of the learning curve with respect to the character and severity of the problem. They assume certain deleterious consequences for society and impose major costs for society generally and for certain sectors of society in quite differential ways in a relatively compressed period of time. The adaptive strategy postulates that there are no changes that cannot be dealt with by technology and/or institutions but permits the costs to be distributed over longer periods of time and allows individual and group choices to determine much of the adaptation that occurs. All will impose costs and those costs must be examined carefully.
7. Political Models and the CO2 Issue
Political scientists and sociologists have developed various models to describe the political system of the United States and other societies. One set, chiefly used to analyze the politics of the United States, has three principal models within it: the elite model. the pluralist model and the radical democratic model (Dye, 1976; Prewitt and Stone. 1973). The principal distinguishing characteristics of the politics in each model concern the level and quality of participation by individuals and groups within society.
In the elite model, the principal actors are the wielders of economic power in the country. They are primarily the heads of large corporations, banks, utilities, and insurance companies who are considered to have relatively homogeneous interests and stakes. Political decision-makers are secondary actors in this model, responding to the preferences of the dominant economic interests. Those interests dominate by controlling the channels of communication, by their influence over ideology and through their direct intervention in the political process through campaigns and lobbying. They are able to suppress the issues the outcome of which might affect their interests detrimentally (Domhoff, 1978).
In the pluralist models, political power is more generally distributed among a host of groups that do not necessarily have similar interests. Political decisions are made through a very real contest among coalitions of actors and groups. The various interests gain access to government through innumerable channels that are relatively open to well-organized constituencies. Governmental actors are major participants in this group struggle at both the legislative and administrative levels and their decisions record the victories and defeats.
Finally, in the radical democratic model, political decisions are made by popular majorities in open and meaningful contests on issues. The public is assumed to be well-informed and participates at high levels in terms of both numbers and intensity.
There are adherents of all of these generalized models, although those who subscribe to the radical democratic model as an explanation of American politics and not a normative preference must be few indeed. The most reasonable view is to conclude that on some issues, well-structured and integrated elites in the business community have powerful if not completely controlling interests. On others, however, it would appear that political decisions are clearly the result of the interplay of many powerful and conflicting groups, some of which are clearly not part of what one would call a "power elite".
In other countries facing the problems of dealing with increased concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere, the regimes range from the most centralized, ruthless and primitive dictatorships to enlightened, liberal and decentralized democracies with the host of nations ranging somewhere between these two polar extremes. Moreover, the character of the regimes may change radically over time as new vectors of forces come into play and new groups gain ascendancy in those societies.
Among the industrialized nations, the political structures range from thoroughly authoritarian regimes such as the Soviet Union to liberal and socialist democracies such as the United Kingdom and Sweden. Among the less developed nations, the regimes may be classified in various ways: some are mobilization regimes, with an emphasis on centralized political structures, the inculcation of mass participation in politics, and revolutionary ideologies; some are more traditionalist, with laissez-faire economics and pluralist politics characteristic of the regimes. Others emphasize decentralization and worker control as in Yugoslavia. Still others are military dictatorships with varying approaches toward the solution of social problems.
These varying regimes are likely to differ substantially in their acceptance of scientific input with respect to an ecological problem such as climate change, the extent to which they are prepared to recognize the problem as an important one, their willingness to invest or to forego economic benefits in recognition of the problem, and therefore their acceptance of the need to engage in international agreements to deal with it. An understanding of how such regimes treat highly technical issues with profound social, economic and political implications will be important in evaluating the possibilities of dealing with climate change. Indeed, it may be found that many existing political structures are unlikely to deal at all with such a subtle, cumulative problem.
It is difficult to predict the political model most applicable to the emerging issue of the impacts of climate change in the United States or elsewhere. The future may bring sweeping changes in political structures as they respond to changing economic, military and ecological challenges. Leaving aside possible political transformations that may result from war or strategic considerations, it is argued by those who predict the need for the steady-state society that future political institutions will require the steadying hand of centralized decision-makers who do not respond to the pulling and the hauling of popular and pluralist forces but rather to the ecological requirements for saving the habitability of the planet (Ophuls, 1977). The rise of the philosopher-kings of an ecological persuasion---who would surely respond to the challenge of climate change--may lead to transformations of political systems throughout the world.
The issue of climate change is clearly embedded within the more general and sweeping issue of the energy future of the developed and developing worlds. It is now and increasingly in the future will be an issue in the struggle over whether the United States and other nations will emphasize nuclear energy, coal, or more exotic fuels. And in some ways, it cuts across the environmental movement in that movement tends to be anti-nuclear but may prefer coal. For those concerned with climate impacts, nuclear may be preferable to coal.
It seems unlikely, therefore, that the CO2 issue will be fought out on an isolated basis. It will be used as an issue in the battle over energy and that will be hotly contested among the various groups in society. It does not appear, given the virtual cessation of nuclear development in the United States, that the dominant economic interests will dictate the terms or the results in this battle or even that they are united in the struggle. The pluralist model would appear to be the most appropriate to explain both energy politics and the narrower issue of climate impacts.
At the initial stages of the discussion of the CO2 issue, however, an elite model may be far more useful in explaining how decisions are made. The elite involved, however, is not the concentrated economic interests of society but the elite within the government: the scientists and the administrators who make decisions about research budgets. They will determine the extent to which the society and its various groups learn more about the nature of the climatic threat (Price, 1965).
8. Approaches to Managing the Atmospheric and Climatic Commons
It is generally acknowledged that the atmosphere and the climate are common resources not subject to individual appropriation and ownership. Benefits accruing to individuals accrue to others as well. Ill effects of atmospheric or climatic change are felt by entire populations. One cannot "capture" the atmosphere or the climate in the form of property; to do so would violate the rights and interests of others.
Equally important to an understanding of the stresses that will be placed on political institutions is an appreciation of the differential effects of climate change on various sectors of society, various regions of the world, as well as various regions within the United States alone. Institutions must be capable of sorting out those differential effects, assessing public responsibility for them, and providing amelioration for the detrimental effects of those changes or reducing undeserved gains resulting from climatic changes. Moreover, institutions must be created to provide the precise formulas through which those benefits and burdens may be distributed.
The character of the atmospheric resource dictates an approach to problem-solving that necessarily involves government intention. To prevent individuals and groups from polluting the atmosphere or altering the climate to the detriment of others, it is necessary to establish rules that govern the way all parties may use the atmosphere. It is necessary that there be "mutual coercion, mutually agreed upon", to use Garrett Hardin's phrase (Hardin, 1968).
Public intervention, however, does not necessarily dictate a given approach to managing the commons. A preventive strategy would involve the imposition of controls over fossil-fuel burning and hence the reduction of CO2 emissions. This could be accomplished through a number of strategies that are thoroughly understood, ranging from air quality management, emissions standards and controls, and emission taxes (Stern, 1977). A strategy of adaptation, however, could utilize a much wider range of strategies, including a broad array of public policies and the possibilities of private decisions under market-like conditions to achieve societal goals. In other words, both rules and prices might be allowed to play roles in the achievement of societal adjustment to climatic change.
9. Potential Substantive Decisions to Deal with the CO2 Problem and the Political and Institutional Research Issues They Engender
In addition to the classification of policy approaches by their tendency to be distributive, redistributive, regulatory and constituent, or their focus on prevention, cure, and adaptation, it may be convenient to classify policy in terms of three time phases: problem recognition, problem avoidance and problem adaptation.(3) In a sense, this classification assists in the setting of priorities in research in that it suggests research that can and should be done at the time that society is beginning to perceive the existence of a problem, leaving for later consideration how society will adapt to circumstances that are only dimly perceived at the present time.
It is safe to say that the scientific community, and not without controversy, is presently in the problem identification or recognition stage. Numerous scientific uncertainties exist and will probably not be resolved for several decades: the rate of production of C02; the extent to which C02 will be absorbed in natural sinks; the precise impacts the increased concentrations will have on climate globally and regionally; the impact that those global and regional changes will have on agriculture and other economic and social sectors. Scientific research goes forward on a number of fronts while decision-makers are forced to make decisions that exacerbate or diminish the potential problem and the public gradually becomes aware that such a problem exists. The impact of changed climatic regimes on society only now has become a topic of serious consideration. Basically, this is a research phase with some emphasis on education of specialized groups such as members of Congress, bureaucratic decision makers, and representatives of private interest groups such as electric utilities and farm groups.
The problem avoidance phase may correspond to the preventive and curative strategies for dealing with climate change. Once convinced that the problem is real and serious, official decision-makers, the general public and actors in specific groups potentially affected by climate change may embark on actions to prevent or cure the problem: reduce the output of CO2 into the atmosphere by various technologies; or to change lifestyles in such a way as to reduce the demand for energy-induced CO2 production and adopt other energy strategies that will curtail the burning of fossil fuels. Actions taken to prevent or cure the problem are likely to occasion major political battles in that such actions challenge the status quo or the existing pattern of behavior or development. Electric utilities may not accept the view that they must not continue to build coal-fired steam plants because of the potential CO2 build-up (they certainly resist any implication that they are somehow responsible for the acid rain problem today). Large numbers of the general public may resist policies that curtail their present pattern of behavior that relies on ever-increasing quantities of electrical energy. Other sectors may view the status quo differently: they may opt for the continuation of existing climatic patterns and argue for policies that will ensure their continuation. Still others may prefer the status quo because of the climatic changes they may bring.
The problem adaptation phase is clearly associated with the previously discussed adaptation strategy. In this phase, incremental adjustments to climatic change are made in economic and social behavior over an extended period of time. The length of time involved and the greater knowledge of the precise nature of the impacts may make this phase less conflictive and more susceptible of solution through public policy or technology or both.
The political agenda of research necessarily focuses on an examination of the role of governmental institutions, processes and structures in achieving policy goals. But the decisions made by government may (1) prescribe a minimal role for government and a broad role for the private sector under governmental influence; (2) a narrowly defined but powerful role for government, as in the impositions of taxes for some purposes; (3) a broad role for government, cutting across many policy sectors such as regulation of production, controls of effluents, and subsidization of those adversely affected. A crucial decision made by government must be based on an examination of the capability of government to make appropriate decisions and to implement them.
Several conditions affect the possibility of achieving the goals of prevention, cure, or adaptation to climate change. One is the reality of conflicting policies. Very real and divergent interests will struggle over policies responding to climate in that those policies will conflict with other policies or changed conditions favorable to given interests. Those who benefit from climate change, those who oppose higher budgets, those who want more coal-fired steam plants, those opposed to policies that may affect their life style may all oppose given policies responding to climate change. Such conflicts may reveal the infeasibility of given programs or may suggest the need for compromises. Those compromises may or may not satisfy the requirements of a policy that intelligently and coherently deals with climatic change.
Another serious condition affecting the success of governmental programs is that of policy overload. It is argued that government has assumed so many diverse responsibilities in so many policy sectors that the chief task of future decision-makers is to sort out and remedy the errors resulting from contradictory policy (Wildavsky, 1979). One environmental responsibility overlaps another and one impact negates another (Andrews, 1979). Pollution policy overlaps with welfare policy: welfare policy has implications for manpower policy; manpower policy has an effect on educational policy; so on. All have impacts on fiscal policy. Policies are often made without recognition of and with little understanding of their implications for each other. And certainly there is no "comprehensive" plan that draws all of these disparate elements together. The critics of comprehensive planning assert that this lack of an overall plan simply reflects humankind's inability to grasp everything at once or, to put it another way, it provides decisionmakers with an opportunity to learn from past mistakes unconstrained by the dogma of a foreordained and rigidly prescribed set of goals and means.
There should be explicit recognition of the need for careful examination of the conditions necessary for implementation of climate change policy. The lessons of the twentieth century, in the United States and elsewhere, reveal that much policy remains merely symbolic or falls far short of the goals established by those who fashioned the policy. In some cases, the goal was only symbolic anyway (Edelman, 1964) but in many, if not most cases, there was sincere expectation that the goals would in fact be realized. Failure to achieve goals was often blamed on lack of zeal, poor organization or some other easy scapegoat when in fact the failure lay in the choice of strategy, the lack of resources, the conflicting interests brought into play, and numerous other factors (Wildavsky, 1973; Bardach. 1977).
Recognition of the potential and very real overloads of government, the conflicts among programs supported by various interest groups and the need for continuous learning from errors leads one concerned about the research agenda to examine the nature of the public policy in terms of implications for other policy, the possibilities of policy implementation, and the kind of societal commitment involved. Such a concern may lead to a preference for sharply focused policy that deals with climate change specifically, that imposes less than total societal commitment, and that is susceptible to alteration in view of changing conditions or outcomes. On the other hand, some sweeping reform may be called for, comparable to the enactment of the National Environmental Policy Act, which might affect the warp and woof of society. Whichever is chosen, it should not be by default in considering the matter.
. . . . . . . . . .
11. Alternatives to Government Intention: The Private Economy
The foregoing approaches to public policy-making emphasize direct government intervention in the economy either through funding of projects and programs, regulation or imposition of taxes and distribution of benefits. One major alternative is the achievement of public policy goals through the private economy, largely by the imposition of penalties and the offering of incentives to those whose behavior may affect the climate or affect the behavior of those who are affected by the climate. Many critics of current air and water pollution control policy argue that such a system of effluent charges would provide a more effective, efficient and economical method of achieving pollution goals than the current regulatory approach (Anderson et al., 1977).
Given the policy overload that arguably exists already in the federal bureaucracy it is essential to examine alternatives to policies that impose further burdens on it. Regulatory measures will undoubtedly be necessary but some combination of market incentives and regulatory requirements may be more effective in achieving the adjustment goals than any rigorous application of either. In any case, it is an important area of institutional design and the design effort would benefit from careful research and exploration of alternative mixtures.
It would be useful to examine the opportunities for utilizing this approach in achieving goals in response to potential or actual climatic change. As a part of a preventive strategy, it is clear that such a policy would work essentially like the policies recommended for dealing with air pollution. Firms would be charged fees in accordance with their production of effluent; the firms in turn would be in a position of selecting the precise means of achieving reductions of the costs associated with the charges. In some cases, it might be preferable to pay the charges; in most cases, firms would seek to reduce the charges by controlling output of the pollutant---in this case CO2.
It is somewhat more speculative to assert the form that a market-oriented strategy might follow in the context of an adaptive strategy. One could envisage incentive payments to individuals to assist them in migrating from regions affected detrimentally by climatic change but these are hardly market-oriented incentives. On the other hand, it is conceivable that grazing fees, already a part of the structure of the government land-management agencies, might be designed less to obtain revenue or to compensate the treasury for public investment than a device to achieve certain environmental goals in the light of climatic change. Individual entrepreneurs could evaluate the charges in terms of their structure of costs and make the necessary adjustments to reduce the impact of the charges on their operations.
Still another approach that would emphasize the private sector would be the inclusion of the insurance industry as a major actor in dealing with climate change. Either with or without government involvement, perhaps through some reinsurance arrangement, the private insurance industry might participate by insuring against the potential effects of the consequences of climatic changes (Kunreuther, 1973). The private sector presently insures against hail and other weather events, and it has all-hazard insurance as well. Just as rates are structured to reflect actual event and claim experience, and the probabilities that claims will occur, the insurance industry could insure those who are endangered by fluctuations that will occur as climate changes. The lack of scientific certainty is a major hindrance to this approach, as insurers tend to avoid such situations or charge prohibitive rates. The accumulation of additional scientific evidence regarding the climatic trends as well as the actual evidence from experience will determine the rates farmers as well as others would have to pay. To the extent that public policy wishes to encourage this approach, the federal and state governments may provide financial support for such an approach.
12. Conclusions and Recommendations
The conclusions and recommendations below are basically general observations about the priorities and principles that should govern the formulation of a research agenda in political science. The study of political responses to climatic change or political strategies for dealing with the threat of climatic change raise new substantive problems for public institutions but they are clearly related to the traditional objects of research in the discipline of political science. Thus, the study of political responses or strategies could conceivably encompass virtually every sub-field within political science: governmental structure and processes, constitutional law, international relations, political philosophy and ideology, etc. It is inconceivable that sufficient resources would be available to undertake a comprehensive study of the political implications of this one phenomenon and thus it is necessary to relate the investigation of political implications to a broader investigative strategy. The following are an effort to accomplish that goal.
(1) Research on the political implications of climatic change should be incorporated into larger research projects involving both the other social science disciplines and those of the natural sciences. The studies in the fields of psychology and anthropology, for example, have their focus on individual and group perceptions of climatic phenomena and the behavioral responses to those perceptions. Such perceptions and behavior often and predictably would have political and institutional consequences that would warrant investigation. The careful design of comprehensive projects that begin with the expectation that the results of one project would dove-tail with others would maximize the benefits to be derived from the overall effort. Such an effort toward an integrated research design would have the advantage of allowing investigators to develop a more precise focus rather than to respond to the tendency to study the implications of climatic change from every aspect of a given discipline.
(2) Given the fact that the predicted climatic change will be cumulative and gradual, it is important to study the preventative techniques first, leaving the adaptive techniques to a later time. As the discussion of potential projects makes clear, there are a number of tasks of immediate importance to undertake if an understanding of the role of political institutions in dealing with climatic threats is to be well understood. These projects have to do with scientific consensus, planning and organization, and communication and learning with respect to climatic change. These investigations have to do with general governmental processes for dealing with complex and conflicting values and demands upon society. But the problem of climatic change and its effects is hardly unique in the sense that there are a large number of long-term cumulative problems that society must address. Thus, a study of governmental response to climatic challenge, accompanied by studies of governmental responses to similar challenges, would have cumulative value in their own right. Obviously, studies of techniques of adaptation could wait until funds were available, and perhaps more importantly, until the parameters of climatic impacts are more clearly discernible than they are at the present time.
(3) As this research agenda has repeatedly pointed out, the investigation of domestic political institutions is crucial for success of any preventative or adaptive program, but such investigations must be made wherever the climatic challenge is encountered. The appropriate framework for political research is comparative, i.e., the study of political institutions across cultural and national boundaries and their comparative capacity for dealing with similar social phenomena. Control of and adaptation to climatic impacts will inevitably require an international effort but such efforts will be implemented through domestic institutions within each country. International processes and institutions may be instrumental in arriving at agreements and making fundamental decisions about the duties, obligations and prerogatives of each nation but each nation will in turn transform those qualities into domestic law and program to accomplish the purposes of those agreements and decisions. Domestic institutions respond to a wide variety of forces that may or may not be present in the international arena. Any reasonable expectations of achieving the goals upon which international agreements are predicated rely upon assumptions about the responsiveness and responsibility of those domestic institutions. The comparative advantage of various alternative institutional arrangements at the domestic level should receive thorough evaluation.
(4) The focus of political science research should be on decision-making arrangements and implementation strategies. Decisions with respect to responses to climatic change impacts will undoubtedly be made through the traditional processes of decision-making and administration within each society. The actual actors and agencies that participate in the process will depend on the specific issue. Part of the strategy with respect to decision-making, however, depends on the formulation of the specific issue because that formulation may, in effect, determine who the decision-makers are. If made an issue of general redistribution of the benefits and costs of society, the issue may incite leading decision-makers such as presidents and premiers and leading members of legislative institutions. Treated as a technical issue of modest importance. it may excite the interest of scientists and lower level bureaucrats only. Similarly, will the issues related to climatic impacts be drawn narrowly by specific sectors or will they constitute a broad frontal attack requiring extensive coordination? The formulation of the issues, then, may be a task requiring more than mere acceptance of fate.
In addition, those who are concerned with policy achievements must evaluate the alternative institutional arrangements through which decisions will be carried out. These issues concern such matters as assignments of principal tasks, coordination with agencies that have marginal but real stakes in the issue, ordering of priorities and achievement of agreement on them, procedural requirements to ensure conformity with laws and regulations of a more general sort, appropriate levels of funding, and other more technical matters. Realistic assessments should be made of such institutional arrangements in order to avoid the fate of much policy-making: symbolic statement of intention with little accomplishment. Part of this assessment clearly must involve the expectations of the behavior of both private and public actors and institutions. To what extent will private interests be encouraged to participate and to what extent will they resist efforts to obtain their cooperation?
(5) Finally, political science research should have a focus on improving the capacities of societies to learn, to modify behavior and to gain from cumulative experience. Public policy-making is not an exact science at best, is often experimental, and at worst is virtually a random series of efforts to deal with problems that are little understood and whose solutions can only be guessed at. This is true of present problems that are all too real, present and urgent. The climatic change problem is even more speculative in nature: its nature is little understood and controversial, and the effects that flow from it, both physical and social, can be the subject of intelligent estimation at best.
Institutional analysis should incorporate within it an awareness of the danger of early and false closure: the conclusion that the problem has been fully identified and the options narrowed before adequate scientific evidence is available. This may require a sensitivity to the need for building in redundancy, competition, as well as alternative approaches to research and policy. Such sensitivity is less concerned with neatness and order, with doctrine and ideology, than it is with gradual accomplishment of the nation's, and the world's, goals with respect to protection against the consequences of climatic change.
Dept. of Political Science, University of California
* I wish to express my appreciation to Jack Corbett, J. Clarence Davies and Lester Milbrath for their searching and detailed critiques of a draft of this manuscript. While they bear no responsibility for the final version, their suggestions resulted in improvements throughout the manuscript.
1 Edith Brown Weiss addresses the international, legal and institutional structure for dealing with the C02 in the following paper.
2 See the Weiss paper for an extensive discussion of international institutions for negotiation of differences.
3 I am grateful to Lester Milbrath for suggesting the appropriateness of this classification.
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