'Public will and the political response to climate change in developed, liberal democracies'
A Political Science and International Relations programme seminar
Event type: Seminars14 March 2018 from 1.00 pm - 2.00 pm
Speaker: Sam Crawley, PhD candidate in Political Science
Climate change is a problem that requires urgent action, particularly by national governments, to avoid the possibility of catastrophic damage to human civilisation. In most developed nations, the public are concerned about climate change. However, the political response in many of these countries has so far been inadequate, and their national emissions have continued to climb. Some authors have used this apparent lack of policy responsiveness to the public’s concern about climate change as evidence that economic elites have excessive influence over climate change policy. But this perspective does not fully account for the complexity of the public’s climate change views. For instance, many who are highly concerned about it still rank it as a low priority compared with issues such as the economy. Climate change opinions can therefore be better understood by applying the concept of “public will”, which moves beyond the simpler concept of “public opinion”, incorporating other dimensions of opinion, such as issue salience and preferences for action. Moreover, public will decomposes public opinion into different “publics”, with members of each public having a shared understanding of the issue, similar preferences for solving it, and similar
resolve to address it. Investigating public will – as opposed to public opinion – on climate change can give a clearer account of the reasons for the adoption of inadequate climate change policy in many countries, as it properly accounts for the complexity of climate change views. To this end, I consider the nature of public will to address climate change (including the composition of the various publics), the forces that influence it, and the relationship between public will and climate change policy in developed, liberal democracies.
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