The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey

The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey

The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey

The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey


Climate change is a defining issue in contemporary life. Since the Industrial Revolution, heavy reliance on carbon-based sources for energy in industry and society has contributed to substantial changes in the climate, indicated by increases in temperature and sea level rise.

In the last three decades, concerns regarding human contributions to climate change have moved from obscure scientific inquiries to the fore of science, politics, policy and practices at many levels. From local adaptation strategies to international treaty negotiation, 'the politics of climate change' is as pervasive, vital and contested as it has ever been.

On the cusp of a new commitment to international co-operation to rein in greenhouse gas emissions, this essential book intervenes to help understand and engage with the dynamic and compelling 'Politics of Climate Change'.

This edited collection draws on a vast array of experience, expertise and perspectives, with authors with backgrounds in climate science, geography, environmental studies, biology, sociology, political science, psychology and philosophy. This reflects the contemporary conditions where the politics of climate change permeates and penetrates all facets of our shared lives and livelihoods.

Chapters include the Politics of Climate Science, History of Climate Policy, the Cultural Politics of Climate Change: Interactions in the Spaces of Everyday, the Politics of Interstate Climate Negotiations, the Politics of the Carbon Economy, and Addressing Inequality.

An A - Z glossary of key terms offers additional information in dictionary format, with entries on topics including Carbon tax, Stabilization, Renewable technologies and the World Meteorological Organization.

A section of Maps offers a visual overview of the effects of environmental change.


Just over a decade ago I edited a book entitled The Politics of Climate Change – A European Perspective (with Jill Jager, Routledge, 1996). This looked at the journey taken by climate change science and politics in the European Union over the previous decade. At that time there was no Kyoto Protocol, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was mostly mysterious, and climate change had not hit the news waves. In essence, climate change as a political issue had not arrived.

It has been a remarkable period of rising attention and awareness since then. The notion of climate change has entered the consciousness of almost all citizens of the developed world, the IPCC is now deeply politicized yet the most powerful and effective voice of interdisciplinary science, and politicians cannot avoid the issue. The fact that climate change is part of day-to-day conversation, and that it appears almost ubiquitously in newspapers and television bulletins, as well as in the ‘blogosphere’, tells us that at least as a concept of profound social interest and of ordinary life, climate change has definitely arrived.

This evidence provides a necessary but incomplete beginning. What Maxwell Boykoff and his colleagues tell us in this important volume, The Politics of Climate Change: A Survey, is that all of this frenzy is by no means sufficient to generate the necessary action to wean us off our heretofore wholly indispensable carbon fix. What is so scary is that we probably have just a short time to clean out this habit of carbon dependency before the devastating consequences of global warming become unavoidable. There has never been a period of social and economic change where such a step in cultural transformation has had to be made in such a short period of time, involving so many.

In a whole series of ways climate change is testing our citizenship, our humanity and our globalism. I am not sure the body politic – the planetary human race – is ready and able to meet this call. Nor am I confident that our politicians can rise to meet the huge challenges we all face. This is a particularly stressful period in global markets in the aftermath of a truly profound recession, where jobs are on the line and where the resources for technological response are being sucked away by the need to overcome the huge indebtedness that our financial leaders have bequeathed to us. What is even more troubling is that the world is being populated annually by 70 million more stomachs to feed and 70 million more demands on already stretched planetary life support services.

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