chapter  8
31 Pages

People and Politics

Climate Policy Concern about climate change is not new. Scientists have known for decades that rising greenhouse gas emissions present a growing threat to society and the environment. Despite this knowledge, there was no substantial political progress toward reducing emissions until a growing environmental movement finally succeeded in mobilizing international concern in the late 1980s. Early negotiations hosted by the United Nations toward an international climate treaty made rapid progress. Many people and nations recognized global warming as a problem that required an international solution, and the political pathway towards such a solution was much easier following the end of the Cold War. Since those first days of UN negotiations, however, strong corporate, industrial, and energy interests have tried to derail negotiations and counter the influence of the environmental movement. Together with their political allies, they are concerned that the cost of reducing emissions will limit economic growth at a time of increasing competition from China and India. They helped to form a strong anti-environmental countermovement that has succeeded in blocking most climate legislation in the United States for the past 30 years (Figure 8.1).