In 1997, both the United States (U.S.) and the European Union (EU) signed the Kyoto Protocol, the first legally binding international treaty with targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. However, in 2001, the United States withdrew from the Protocol. This thesis seeks to understand some of the reasons why the European Union embraced the Kyoto Protocol while the United States did not. Using an overall framework of comparative politics, research is undertaken through three lenses. First, an overview of public opinion toward global warming and climate change in the U.S. and the EU analyzes potential differences or similarities from surveys carried out in each area. Second, I examine the prevailing political ideology in each polity, with emphasis on the period when climate change arose as a major global challenge. Finally, two case studies examine the theory of environmental federalism and how it might affect climate change policy action. I obtained the following results. Public opinion research has revealed that, on average, the American public is nearly as concerned with climate change as the European public. However, the overarching political ideology in the U.S. was one of conservatism, while that in Europe was one of social democracy, with left and center-left governments, contributing to a greater or lesser degree, and through indirect mechanisms, to the political stances adopted. Finally, the case of Germany shows that member state actions, such as the implementation of ambitious reductions targets, can still play a crucial role in leadership even in the presence of action at the central government level (EU). The California case study shows that state-level efforts can rise to fill a vacuum created by the absence of central government action. In the end, behavior of each polity regarding international climate agreements, particularly the Kyoto Protocol, cannot be explained in simple terms.; The complexity of the issues revolving climate change require further interdisciplinary research and collaboration among multiple actors including scientists, policymakers, nongovernmental organizations, and other stakeholders.
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Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
College of Sciences
International and Global Studies
Dissertations, Academic -- Sciences; Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic
Length of Campus-only Access
Honors in the Major Thesis
Breuer, Astrid, "Leaders and laggards climate change mitigation policy in the European Union and the United States" (2011). HIM 1990-2015. 1110.