Article

Global Environmental Politics

Loren Cass

in International Relations

ISBN: 9780199743292
Published online March 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199743292-0014
Global Environmental Politics

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Global environmental politics is a relatively new field of study within international relations that focuses on issues related to the interaction of humans and the natural world. As early as the mid-19th century, there were scholars writing about the role of natural resources in global security and political economy. However, much of the literature prior to the 1980s related specifically to resource extraction and development issues. It was only in the 1980s and into the 1990s that global environmental politics began to establish itself as a distinct field with its own dedicated journals and publishers, and the focus of study expanded to include global environmental problems such as ozone depletion, climate change, biodiversity loss, deforestation, and desertification. It has emerged as a center of interdisciplinary work that integrates research from a range of fields including geography, economics, history, law, biology, and numerous others. The interdisciplinary approach makes it difficult to define the boundaries in this rather immense field of study. The focus in this entry will be on global environmental politics research that falls primarily within the larger field of international relations. Global environmental problems present many unique challenges and have thus spawned a range of subfields of study. Global environmental problems frequently involve substantial scientific complexity and ambiguity. This has produced a wide-ranging scholarship on the relationships between science and policy. The very long timeframes of both the consequences of environmental problems as well as the efforts to address them create a number of governance challenges given the much shorter political timeframes of politicians and diplomats. In addition, because environmental problems typically do not respect borders, they pose challenges for international cooperation, which has thus produced a growing literature on global environmental governance. The widespread potential for massive economic, political, and ecological dislocation from the consequences of global environmental problems as well as from the potential policies to address those problems have led scholars to study global environmental politics from every paradigm within international relations as well as drawing on research in numerous other disciplines. Finally, efforts to address the consequences of environmental problems have produced controversial ethical and distributive-justice questions that have produced an important philosophical literature within global environmental politics. Global environmental politics has thus emerged as a very rich and diverse area of scholarship.

Article.  14879 words. 

Subjects: International Relations

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