Title: "Cooperation and Discord on Climate Policy: Contributions from Political Science"
Speaker: Robert O. Keohane, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University
Commentator: Melissa Lane, Department of Politics, Princeton University
Robert O. Keohane is Professor of Public and International Affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University. He has served as President of the International Studies Association and the American Political Science Association, and he is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He is author of After Hegemony: Cooperation and Discord in the World Political Economy (1984), and co-author of Power and Interdependence (with Joseph S. Nye, Jr., 1977), and Designing Social Inquiry (with Gary King and Sidney Verba, 1994). He has received the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order; the Johan Skytte Prize; a Centennial Medal from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; and the James Madison Award from the American Political Science Association.
Deep cuts in the global warming emissions will require international cooperation. The field of international relations, a branch of political science, can help explain when cooperation will be effective and why so many past efforts at coordination, such as the Kyoto Protocol, have been designed to look impressive yet have little real impact. The underlying structure of climate policies makes deep cooperation difficult because countries will have strong incentives to avoid paying their share of the costs even as nearly all societies benefit from protecting the atmosphere. Over the last year, countries have begun to make official pledges for the policies that they will adopt—a key ingredient in a new “bottom up” style of international cooperation that could be more effective than Kyoto-style “top down” treaties because it relies on countries themselves to tailor their commitments to local preferences and capabilities. These pledges may also be a boon for researchers who have long struggled to measure accurately the true preferences of countries. Already those pledges reveal that most of the world’s emissions come from countries whose main motivation for cutting emissions is rooted in local concerns such as air pollution rather than contributing to global public goods.