The complex politics of global warming results from numerous cofactors arising from the global economy's interdependence on carbon dioxide (CO2) emitting hydrocarbon energy sources and because CO2 is directly implicated in global warming—making global warming a non-traditional environmental challenge.
- Implications to all aspects of a nation-state's economy: The vast majority of the world economy relies on energy sources or manufacturing techniques that release greenhouse gases at almost every stage of production, transportation, storage, delivery & disposal while a consensus of the world's scientists attribute global warming to the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. This intimate linkage between global warming and economic vitality implicates almost every aspect of a nation-state's economy;
- Perceived lack of adequate advanced energy technologies: Fossil fuel abundance and low prices continue to put pressure on the development of adequate advanced energy technologies that can realistically replace the role of fossil fuels—as of 2010[update], over 91% of the world's energy is derived from fossil fuels and non-carbon-neutral technologies. Developing countries do not have cost effective access to the advanced energy technologies that they need for development (most advanced technologies has been developed by and exist in the developed world). Without adequate and cost effective post-hydrocarbon energy sources, it is unlikely the countries of the developed or developing world would accept policies that would materially affect their economic vitality or economic development prospects;
- Industrialization of the developing world: As developing nations industrialize their energy needs increase and since conventional energy sources produce CO2, the CO2 emissions of developing countries are beginning to rise at a time when the scientific community, global governance institutions and advocacy groups are telling the world that CO2 emissions should be decreasing. Without access to cost effective and abundant energy sources many developing countries see climate change as a hindrance to their unfettered economic development;
- Metric selection (transparency) and perceived responsibility / ability to respond: Among the countries of the world, disagreements exist over which greenhouse gas emission metrics should be used like total emissions per year, per capita emissions per year, CO2 emissions only, deforestation emissions, livestock emissions or even total historical emissions. Historically, the release of CO2 has not been historically even among all nation-states and nation-states have challenges with determining who should restrict emissions and at what point of their industrial development they should be subject to such commitments;
- Vulnerable developing countries and developed country legacy emissions: Some developing nations blame the developed world for having created the global warming crisis because it was the developed countries that emitted most of the CO2 over the twentieth century and vulnerable countries perceive that it should be the developed countries that should pay to address the challenge;
- Consensus-driven global governance models: The global governance institutions that evolved during the 20th century are all consensus driven deliberative forums where agreement is difficult to achieve and even when agreement is achieved it is almost impossible to enforce;
- Well organized and funded special-interest lobbying bodies: Special interest lobbying by well organized groups distort and amplify aspects of the challenge (environmental lobbying, energy industry lobbying, other special interest lobbying);
- Politicization of climate science: Although there is a consensus on the science of global warming and its likely effects—some special interests groups work to suppress the consensus while others work to amplify the alarm of global warming. All parties that engage in such acts add to the politicization of the science of global warming. The result is a clouding of the reality of the global warming problem.
The focus areas for global warming politics are Adaptation, Mitigation, Finance, Technology and Losses which are well quantified and studied but the urgency of the global warming challenge combined with the implication to almost every facet of a nation-state's economic interests places significant burdens on the established largely-voluntary global institutions that have developed over the last century; institutions that have been unable to effectively reshape themselves and move fast enough to deal with this unique challenge. Rapidly developing countries who see traditional energy sources as a means to fuel their development, well funded aggressive environmental lobbying groups and an established fossil fuel energy paradigm boasting a mature and sophisticated political lobbying infrastructure all combine to make global warming politics extremely polarized. Distrust between developed and developing countries at most international conferences that seek to address the topic add to the challenges. Further adding to the complexity is the advent of the Internet and the development of media technologies like blogs and other mechanisms for disseminating information that enable the exponential growth in production and dissemination of competing points of view which make it nearly impossible for the development and dissemination of an objective view into the enormity of the subject matter and its politics.
Nontraditional environmental challenge
Traditional environmental challenges generally involve behavior by a small group of industries who create products or services for a limited set of consumers in a manner that causes some form of damage to the environment which is clear. As an example, a gold mine might release a dangerous chemical byproduct into a waterway that kills the fish in the waterway: a clear environmental damage. By contrast, CO2 is a naturally occurring colorless odorless trace gas that is essential to the biosphere. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is produced by all animals and utilized by plants and algae to build their body structures. Plant structures buried for tens of millions of years sequester carbon to form coal, oil and gas which modern industrial societies find essential to economic vitality. Over 80% of the worlds energy is derived from CO2 emitting fossil fuels and over 91% of the world's energy is derived from non carbon-neutral energy sources. Scientists attribute the increases of CO2 in the atmosphere to industrial emissions and scientists have linked CO2 to global warming. However, the scientific consensus is difficult for the average individual layperson to readily see and grasp. This essential nature to the world's economies combined with the complexity of the science and the interests of countless interested parties make climate change a non-traditional environmental challenge.
Carbon dioxide and a nation-state's economy
Main article: World energy consumption
The vast majority of developed countries rely on CO2 emitting energy sources for large components of their economic activity. Fossil fuel energy generally dominates the following areas of an OECD economy:
- agriculture (fertilizers, irrigation, plowing, planting, harvesting, pesticides)
- transportation & distribution (automobiles, shipping, trains, airplanes)
- storage (refrigeration, warehousing)
- national defense (armies, tanks, military aircraft, manufacture of munitions)
In addition, CO2 emitting fossil fuels many times dominate the utilities aspect of an economy that provide electricity for:
- heating & cooling
- production of products
- computing and telecommunications
Also, activities like cement production, deforestation, brick production, livestock raising, refrigeration and other industrial activity contributes greenhouse gases that together are believed to account for 1/3 of global warming.
Because CO2 emitting fossil fuels are intrinsically connected to a developed nation-state's economy, the taxation of fossil fuels or policies that decrease the availability of cost-effective fossil fuels is a significant political matter for fear that those taxes might precipitate a decrease in economic vitality. The replacement of cost-effective fossil fuels with more expensive renewable energy sources are seen by many as a hidden tax that would achieve the same result of depressing economic vitality and lead to impoverishment. Beyond the economic vitality of a single nation, some are concerned that taxation would depress economic activity in a manner that could affect the geopolitical order by providing incentives to one set of countries over another.
In developing countries the challenges are slightly different. Developing countries see CO2 emitting fossil fuels as a cost effective and proven energy source to fuel their growing economies. Sometimes renewable energy technologies are not readily available to developing countries because of cost or due to export restrictions from developed countries who own those technologies.
Perceived lack of adequate advanced energy technologies
See also: Peak Oil, Fossil Fuels, Solar Energy, Wind Energy, and Renewable Energy
Carbon dioxide emitting fossil fuels continue to be abundant and their prices are consequently low accounting in 2010 for over 80% of the world's energy needs. Advanced recovery technologies like horizontal drilling, offshore oil production, and oil sand recovery technologies continue to push back the threshold of Peak Oil and with it the high prices seen necessary to foster the development of viable alternative energy technologies that can replace fossil fuels in a post-hydrocarbon economy. Renewables in 2010 accounted for 16.7% of the world's energy, however Biomass energy accounted for 11.4% meaning that non-carbon dioxide producing renewables accounted for only 4.9% of the world's energy use with the vast majority of that renewable energy coming from hydroelectric production at 3.34% further leaving 1.56% of renewable energy derived from newer advanced technologies like ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, ocean power and geothermal (see graph to right).
The biomass-is-carbon-neutral proposal put forward in the early 1990s has been superseded by more recent science that recognizes that mature, intact forests sequester carbon more effectively than cut-over areas. When a tree's carbon is released into the atmosphere in a single pulse, it contributes to climate change much more than woodland timber rotting slowly over decades. Current studies indicate that "even after 50 years the forest has not recovered to its initial carbon storage" and "the optimal strategy is likely to be protection of the standing forest".
After adjustment, carbon neutral renewables account for 4.9% of the world's energy needs in 2010 with solar accounting for .23% and wind for 0.51% of total world energy need. Recent optimistic projections from the EIA and the IEA show that renewables will account for one sixth of global energy production in the next few decades (which includes Biomass energy), substantially below what is needed to significantly curtail CO2 emissions.
Without help developing countries usually do not have access to the advanced energy technologies like wind and solar that they require for development forcing them to rely on hydrocarbon energy sources like fossil fuels and biomass. Without adequate and cost effective post-hydrocarbon energy sources, it is very unlikely the countries in developed or developing world would accept policies that would materially affect their economic vitality or economic development prospects. To date, developing countries have resisted adopting verifiable CO2 targets for fear of impacts to their economies and the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Belarus and Ukraine have either not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, withdrawn from the Kyoto Protocol or have chosen to not accept a second commitment period leaving the Kyoto Protocol extension covering only 15% of global CO2 emissions. A strong contributor to these decisions is that the existing technologies are not yet adequate to replace the role of fossil hydrocarbon fuels.
Arguments have been made that fostering renewable energy through subsidies and other adoption-mechanisms are the path towards increasing the percentage of carbon-neutral renewable technologies that are used. According to IEA (2011) energy subsidies artificially lower the price of energy paid by consumers, raise the price received by producers or lower the cost of production. "Fossil fuels subsidies costs generally outweigh the benefits. Subsidies to renewables and low-carbon energy technologies can bring long-term economic and environmental benefits". In November 2011, an IEA report entitled Deploying Renewables 2011 said "subsidies in green energy technologies that were not yet competitive are justified in order to give an incentive to investing into technologies with clear environmental and energy security benefits". The IEA's report disagreed with claims that renewable energy technologies are only viable through costly subsidies and not able to produce energy reliably to meet demand. "A portfolio of renewable energy technologies is becoming cost-competitive in an increasingly broad range of circumstances, in some cases providing investment opportunities without the need for specific economic support," the IEA said, and added that "cost reductions in critical technologies, such as wind and solar, are set to continue."
By contrast, Fossil-fuel consumption subsidies were $409 billion in 2010, oil products ca half of it. Renewable-energy subsidies were $66 billion in 2010 and will reach according to IEA $250 billion by 2035. Renewable energy is subsidized in order to compete in the market, increase their volume and develop the technology so that the subsidies become unnecessary with the development. Eliminating fossil-fuel subsidies could bring economic and environmental benefits. Phasing out fossil-fuel subsidies by 2020 would cut primary energy demand 5%. Since the start of 2010, at least 15 countries have taken steps to phase out fossil-fuel subsidies. According to IEA onshore wind may become competitive around 2020 in the European Union.
Industrialization of the developing world
Main articles: Developing world and Newly industrialized country
The developing world sees economic and industrial development as a natural right and the evidence shows that the developing world is industrializing. The developing world is leveraging the use of CO2 emitting fossil fuels as one of the primary energy sources to fuel their development. At the same time the scientific consensus on climate change and the existing global governance bodies like the United Nations are urging all countries to decrease their CO2 emissions. Developing countries logically resist this lobbying to decrease their use of fossil fuels without significant concessions like:
- advanced energy technologies
- advanced adaptation technologies
- monies to adapt to climate change.
Metric selection and perceived responsibility / ability to respond
Main article: Political economy of climate change
There are significant disagreements over which metrics to use when tracking global warming and there are also disagreements over which countries should be subject to emissions restrictions.
While the biosphere is indifferent to whether the greenhouse gases are produced by one country or by a multitude, the countries of the world do express an interest in such matters. As such disagreements arise on whether per capita emissions should be used or whether total emissions should be used as a metric for each individual country. Countries also disagree over whether a developing country should share the same commitment as a developed country that has been emitting CO2 and other greenhouse gases for close to a century.
Some developing countries expressly state that they require assistance if they are to develop, which is seen as a right, in a fashion that does not contribute CO2 or other greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Many times, these needs materialize as profound differences in global conferences by countries on the subject and the debates quickly turn to pecuniary matters.
Most developing countries are unwilling to accept limits on their CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions while most developed countries place very modest limits on their willingness to assist developing countries. In addition, most developed countries would rather not participate in greenhouse gas reduction treaties if those would lead to decreased economic activity, transfers of wealth to developing countries, or significant shifts in the geopolitical balance of power of the world.
Vulnerable developing countries and developed country legacy emissions
See also: Political economy of climate change and Climate Vulnerable Forum
Some developing countries fall under the category of vulnerable to climate change. These countries involve small, sometimes isolated, island nations, low lying nations, nations who rely on drinking water from shrinking glaciers etc. These vulnerable countries see themselves as the victims of climate change and some have organized themselves under groups like the Climate Vulnerable Forum. These countries seek mitigation monies from the developed and the industrializing countries to help them adapt to the impending catastrophes that they see climate change will bring upon them. For these countries climate change is seen as an existential threat and the politics of these countries is to seek reparation and adaptation monies from the developed world and some see it as their right.
Global warming politics focus areas
See also: Adaptation to global warming and Mitigation of global warming
Government politics regarding climate change and many official reports on the subject usually revolve around addressing one of the following topic areas:
- Adaptation: social and other changes that must be undertaken to successfully adapt to climate change. Adaptation might encompass, but is not limited to, changes in agriculture and urban planning.
- Finance: how countries will finance adaptation to and mitigation of climate change, whether from public or private sources or from wealth/technology transfers from developed countries to developing countries and the management mechanisms for those monies.
- Mitigation: steps and actions that the countries of the world can take to mitigate the effects of climate change.
- Technology: the technologies that are needed lower carbon emissions through increasing energy efficiency or replacement or CO2 emitting technologies and technologies needed to adapt or mitigate climate change. Also encompasses ways that developed countries can support developing countries in adopting new technologies or increasing efficiency.
- Loss and damage: first articulated at the 2012 conference and in part based on the agreement that was signed at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun. It introduces the principle that countries vulnerable to the effects of climate change may be financially compensated in future by countries that fail to curb their carbon emissions.
Consensus-driven global political institutions
See also: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
The primary mechanism for the world to tackle global warming is through a process established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) treaty. The current state of global warming politics is that there is frustration over a perceived lack of progress with the establish UNFCCC overall process which has progressed over eighteen years but which has been unable to curb global greenhouse gas emissions. Todd Stern—the US Climate Change envoy—has expressed the challenges with the UNFCCC process as follows, "Climate change is not a conventional environmental issue ... It implicates virtually every aspect of a state's economy, so it makes countries nervous about growth and development. This is an economic issue every bit as it is an environmental one." He went on to explain that, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is a multilateral body concerned with climate change and can be an inefficient system for enacting international policy. Because the framework system includes over 190 countries and because negotiations are governed by consensus, small groups of countries can often block progress.
The eighteenth conference of the parties held in Doha, Qatar, 2012 United Nations Climate Change Conference, yielded minor to modest results. At the 2012 Doha climate change talks, Parties to the Kyoto Protocol agreed to an extension of the Kyoto Protocol to 2020. Participants in the extension to the Kyoto Protocol have taken on targets for the period 2013–2020, and include Australia, the European Union, and a number of other developed countries.Canada, which withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol in 2011, and the United States—which never ratified the Kyoto Protocol—have been joined by New Zealand, Japan, Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine who have stated that they would not sign up to a second Kyoto Protocol commitment period or extension due lack of commitments from the developing world which today include the world's largest CO2 emitters. Japan and New Zealand also added that their country's CO2 emissions are minor when compared to the emissions of China, The United States, and the European Union. These defections place significant pressures on the UNFCCC process which to date has not been able to curtail CO2 emissions, whose latest Kyoto Protocol extension only accounts for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions, and whose process is seen by some as slow, cumbersome, expensive and an inefficient use of taxpayer money: in the UK alone the climate change department has taken over 3,000 flights over the course of two years at a cost to the taxpayer of over ₤1,500,000. The outcome of the Doha talks has received a mixed response, with small island states critical of the overall package. Other results of the conference include a timetable for a global agreement to be adopted by 2015 which includes all countries.
As a result, some have argued that perhaps the consensus driven model could be replaced with a majority vote model. However, that model would likely drive disagreement at the country-level-ratification by countries who disagreed with any global treaties that might passed through a majority vote at such restructured institutions.
Voluntary emissions reductions
See also: Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants
The perceived slow process of efforts for countries to agree to a comprehensive global level binding agreements has led some countries to seek independent/voluntary steps and focus on alternative high-value voluntary activities like the creation of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants by the United States, Canada, Mexico, Bangladesh, and Sweden which seeks to regulate short-lived pollutants such as methane, black carbon and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which together are believed to account for up to 1/3 of current global warming but whose regulation is not as fraught with wide economic impacts and opposition. The Climate and Clean Air Coalition to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants (CCAC) was launched on February 16, 2012 to regulate short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) that together contribute up to 1/3 of global warming. The coalition's creation is seen as a necessary and pragmatic step given the slow pace of global climate change agreements under the UNFCCC.
As part of the 2010 Cancún agreements, 76 developed and developing countries have made voluntary pledges to control their emissions of greenhouse gases. These voluntary steps are seen by some as a new model where countries pledge to voluntarily take action against global warming outside of international treaties or obligations to other parties. This voluntary mechanism, while promising, does not address many of the challenges seen by the developing world in their efforts to mitigate global warming, adapt to global warming, and increasingly to deal with losses and damages that they directly attribute to global warming that they blame on the developed world's historical emissions.
Special interests and lobbying by non-country interested parties
There are numerous special interest groups, organizations, corporations who have public and private positions on the multifaceted topic of global warming. The following is a partial list of the types of special interest parties that have demonstrated an interest in the politics of global warming:
- Financial Institutions: Financial institutions generally support restrictive policies regarding global warming, particularly the implementation of carbon trading schemes and the creation of market mechanisms that associate a price with carbon. These new markets would require trading infrastructures which banking institutions are well positioned to provide. Financial institutions would also be positioned well to invest, trade and develop various financial instruments that they could profit from through speculative positions on carbon prices and the use of brokerage and other financial functions like insurance and derivative instruments.
- Environmental groups: Environmental groups generally take ideological positions on global warming and favor strict restrictions on CO2 emissions. Environmental groups, as activists, engage in raising awareness and attracting investment into the advocacy movement to further raise awareness.
- Fossil fuel companies: Traditional fossil fuel corporations could benefit or lose from stricter global warming regulations. A reduction in the use of fossil fuels could negatively impact fossil fuel corporations. However, the fact that fossil fuel companies are a large source of energy, are also the primary source of CO2, and are engaged in energy trading might mean that their participation in trading schemes and other such mechanisms might give them a unique advantage and makes it unclear whether traditional fossil fuel companies would all and always be against stricter global warming policies. As an example, Enron, a traditional gas pipeline company with a large trading desk heavily lobbied the government for the EPA to regulate CO2: they thought that they would dominate the energy industry if they could be at the center of energy trading.
- Alternative energy companies: alternative energy companies like wind and solar generally support stricter global warming policies. They would expect their share of the energy market to expand as fossil fuels are made more expensive through trading schemes or taxes.
- Nuclear energy companies: nuclear energy companies could see a renaissance in a world where fossil fuels are taxed directly or through a carbon trading mechanism. For this reason, it is likely that nuclear energy companies would likely support stricter global warming policies.
- Traditional retailers and marketers: traditional retailers, marketers, and the general corporations respond by adopting policies that resonate with their customers. If "being green" helps a general corporation, then they could undertake modest programs to please and better align with their customers. However, since the general corporation does not make a profit from their particular position, it is unlikely that they would strongly lobby either for or against a stricter global warming policy position.
- Governments: On the Australian Sunday morning political discussion show The Bolt Report, Richard Lindzen said in a 2011 interview that governments might use global warming as a rationale for additional taxes.
The various interested parties sometimes align with one another to reinforce their message. Sometimes industries will fund specialty nonprofit organizations to raise awareness and lobby on their behest. The combinations and tactics that the various interested parties use are nuanced and sometimes unlimited in the variety of their approaches to promote their positions onto the general public.
Interaction of climate science and actual policy
Main articles: Global warming controversy, Politicization of science, and Knowledge policy
In the scientific literature, there is a strong consensus that global surface temperatures have increased in recent decades and that the trend is caused primarily by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases. With regard to the global warming controversy, the scientific mainstream puts neither doubt on the existence of global warming nor on its causes and effects.
The politicization of science in the sense of a manipulation of science for political gains is a part of the political process. It is part of the controversies about intelligent design (compare the Wedge strategy) or Merchants of Doubt, scientists that are under suspicion to willingly obscure findings. e.g. about issues like tobacco smoke, ozone depletion, global warming or acid rain. However, e.g. in case of the Ozone depletion, global regulation based on the Montreal Protocol has been successful, in a climate of high uncertainty and against strong resistance while in case of Climate Change, the Kyoto Protocol failed.
While the IPCC process tries to find and orchestrate the findings of global (climate) change research to shape a worldwide consensus on the matter it has been itself been object of a strong politicization. Anthropogenic climate change evolved from a mere science issue to a top global policy topic.
The IPCC process faces currently a paradox lockstep where having built a broad science consensus does not hinder governments to follow different, if not opposing goals. In case of the ozone depletion challenge, there was global regulation already being installed before a scientific consensus was established.
A linear model of policy-making, based on a more knowledge we have, the better the political response will be does therefore not apply. Knowledge policy, successfully managing knowledge and uncertainties as base of political decision making requires a better understanding of the relation between science, public (lack of) understanding and policy instead.Michael Oppenheimer confirms limitations of the IPCC consensus approach and asks for concurring, smaller assessments of special problems instead of large scale attempts as in the previous IPCC assessment reports. He claims that governments require a broader exploration of uncertainties in the future.
History of global warming politics
Historically, the politics of climate change dates back to several conferences in the late 1960s and the early 1970s under NATO and President Richard Nixon. 1979 saw the world's first World Climate Conference. 1985 was the year that the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer was created and two years later in 1987 saw the signing of the Montreal Protocol under the Vienna convention. This model of using a Framework conference followed by Protocols under the Framework was seen as a promising governing structure that could be used as a path towards a functional governance approach that could be used to tackle broad global multi-nation/state challenges like global warming.
One year later in 1988 the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was created by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme to assess the risk of human-induced climate change. Margaret Thatcher 1988 strongly supported IPCC and 1990 was instrumental to found the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in Exeter.
1991 saw the publishing of the book The First Global Revolution by the Club of Rome report which sought to connect environment, water availability, food production, energy production, materials, population growth and other elements into a blueprint for the twenty-first century: political thinking was evolving to look at the world in terms of an integrated global system not just in terms of weather and climate but in terms of energy needs, food, population, etc.
1992 was the year that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro and the framework entered into force 21 March 1994. The conference established a yearly meeting, a conference of the parties or COP meeting to be held to continue work on Protocols which would be enforceable treaties
1995 saw the creation of the phrase preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system (also called avoiding dangerous climate change) first appeared in a policy document of a governmental organization, the IPCC's Second Assessment Report: Climate Change 1995. and in 1996 the European Union adopt a goal of limiting temperature rises to a maximum 2 °C rise in average global temperature.
1997 saw the creation of the Kyoto Protocol under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in a very similar structure as the Montreal Protocol was under the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer which would have yearly meetings of the members or CMP meetings. However, in the same year, the US Senate passed Byrd–Hagel Resolution rejecting Kyoto without more commitments from developing countries.
Since the 1992 UNFCCC treaty, eighteen COP sessions and eight CMP sessions have been held under the existing structure. In that time, global CO2 emissions have risen significantly and developing countries have grown significantly with China replacing the United States as the largest emitter of greenhouse gases. To some, the UNFCCC has made significant progress in helping the world become aware of the perils of global warming and has moved the world forward in the addressing of the challenge. To others, the UNFCCC process has been a failure due to its inability to control the rise of greenhouse gas emissions.
A number of proposals for a Global Climate Regime are currently discussed, as the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action calls for a comprehensive new agreement in 2015 that includes both Annex-I and Non-Annex-I parties.
Selective historical timeline of significant climate change political events
- 1969, on Initiative of US President Richard Nixon, NATO tried to establish a third civil column and planned to establish itself as a hub of research and initiatives in the civil region, especially on environmental topics.Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixons NATO delegate for the topic named acid rain and the greenhouse effect as suitable international challenges to be dealt by NATO. NATO had suitable expertise in the field, experience with international research coordination and a direct access to governments. After an enthusiastic start on authority level, the German government reacted skeptically. The initiative was seen as an American attempt to regain international terrain after the lost Vietnam War. The topics and the internal coordination and preparation effort however gained momentum in civil conferences and institutions in Germany and beyond during the Brandt government.
- 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, leading role of Nobel Prize winner Willy Brandt and Olof Palme, Germany saw enhanced international research cooperation on the greenhouse topic as necessary
- 1978 Brandt Report, the greenhouse effect dealt with in the energy section
- 1979: First World Climate Conference
- 1987: Brundtland Report
- 1987: Montreal Protocol on restricting ozone layer-damaging CFCs demonstrates the possibility of coordinated international action on global environmental issues.
- 1988: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change set up to coordinate scientific research, by two United Nations organizations, the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to assess the "risk of human-induced climate change".
- 1992: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was formed to "prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system"
- 1996: European Union adopts target of a maximum 2 °C rise in average global temperature
- 25 June 1997: US Senate passes Byrd–Hagel Resolution rejecting Kyoto without more commitments from developing countries
- 1997: Kyoto Protocol agreed
- 2001: George W. Bush withdraws from the Kyoto negotiations
- 16 February 2005: Kyoto Protocol comes into force (not including the US or Australia)
- 2005: the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme is launched, the first such scheme
- July 2005: 31st G8 summit has climate change on the agenda, but makes relatively little concrete progress
- November/December 2005: United Nations Climate Change Conference; the first meeting of the Parties of the Kyoto Protocol, alongside the 11th Conference of the Parties (COP11), to plan further measures for 2008–2012 and beyond.
- 30 October 2006: The Stern Review is published. It is the first comprehensive contribution to the global warming debate by an economist and its conclusions lead to the promise of urgent action by the UK government to further curb Europe's CO2 emissions and engage other countries to do so. It discusses the consequences of climate change, mitigation measures to prevent it, possible adaptation measures to deal with its consequences, and prospects for international cooperation.
- 26 June 2009: US House of Representatives passes the American Clean Energy and Security Act, the "first time either house of Congress had approved a bill meant to curb the heat-trapping gases scientists have linked to climate change."
- 12 December 2015: World leaders meet in Paris, France for the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC. One hundred eighty seven countries eventually signed on to the Paris Agreement. As of September 2016, 187 UNFCCC members have signed the treaty, 60 of which have ratified it. The agreement will only enter into force provided that 55 countries that produce at least 55% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions ratify, accept, approve or accede to the agreement; although the minimum number of ratifications has been reached, the ratifying states do not produce the requisite percentage of greenhouse gases for the agreement to enter into force.
- 1 June 2017: PresidentDonald Trumpwithdraws the United States from the Paris Agreement
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Energy Consumption Linked to CO2 Emissions
source: USDOE EIA IEO 2011
Economic development linked to energy consumption
source: USDOE EIA IEO 2011
Robert Costanza | Rudolf de Groot | Paul Sutton | Sander van der Ploeg | Sharolyn J. Anderson | Ida Kubiszewski | Stephen Farber | R. Kerry Turner
In 1997, the global value of ecosystem services was estimated to average $33. trillion/yr in 1995 $US ($46. trillion/yr in 2007 $US). In this paper, we provide an updated estimate based on updated unit ecosystem service values and land use change estimates between 1997 and 2011. We also address some of the critiques of the 1997 paper. Using the same methods as in the 1997 paper but with updated data, the estimate for the total global ecosystem services in 2011 is $125. trillion/yr (assuming updated unit values and changes to biome areas) and $145. trillion/yr (assuming only unit values changed), both in 2007 $US. From this we estimated the loss of eco-services from 1997 to 2011 due to land use change at $4.3-20.2. trillion/yr, depending on which unit values are used. Global estimates expressed in monetary accounting units, such as this, are useful to highlight the magnitude of eco-services, but have no specific decision-making context. However, the underlying data and models can be applied at multiple scales to assess changes resulting from various scenarios and policies. We emphasize that valuation of eco-services (in whatever units) is not the same as commodification or privatization. Many eco-services are best considered public goods or common pool resources, so conventional markets are often not the best institutional frameworks to manage them. However, these services must be (and are being) valued, and we need new, common asset institutions to better take these values into account. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd.
Marjolijn Haasnoot | Jan H. Kwakkel | Warren E. Walker | Judith ter Maat
A new paradigm for planning under conditions of deep uncertainty has emerged in the literature. According to this paradigm, a planner should create a strategic vision of the future, commit to short-term actions, and establish a framework to guide future actions. A plan that embodies these ideas allows for its dynamic adaptation over time to meet changing circumstances. We propose a method for decisionmaking under uncertain global and regional changes called 'Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways'. We base our approach on two complementary approaches for designing adaptive plans: 'Adaptive Policymaking' and 'Adaptation Pathways'. Adaptive Policymaking is a theoretical approach describing a planning process with different types of actions (e.g. 'mitigating actions' and 'hedging actions') and signposts to monitor to see if adaptation is needed. In contrast, Adaptation Pathways provides an analytical approach for exploring and sequencing a set of possible actions based on alternative external developments over time. We illustrate the Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways approach by producing an adaptive plan for long-term water management of the Rhine Delta in the Netherlands that takes into account the deep uncertainties about the future arising from social, political, technological, economic, and climate changes. The results suggest that it is worthwhile to further test and use the approach. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Vanesa Castán Broto | Harriet Bulkeley
Cities are key sites where climate change is being addressed. Previous research has largely overlooked the multiplicity of climate change responses emerging outside formal contexts of decision-making and led by actors other than municipal governments. Moreover, existing research has largely focused on case studies of climate change mitigation in developed economies. The objective of this paper is to uncover the heterogeneous mix of actors, settings, governance arrangements and technologies involved in the governance of climate change in cities in different parts of the world. The paper focuses on urban climate change governance as a process of experimentation. Climate change experiments are presented here as interventions to try out new ideas and methods in the context of future uncertainties. They serve to understand how interventions work in practice, in new contexts where they are thought of as innovative. To study experimentation, the paper presents evidence from the analysis of a database of 627 urban climate change experiments in a sample of 100 global cities. The analysis suggests that, since 2005, experimentation is a feature of urban responses to climate change across different world regions and multiple sectors. Although experimentation does not appear to be related to particular kinds of urban economic and social conditions, some of its core features are visible. For example, experimentation tends to focus on energy. Also, both social and technical forms of experimentation are visible, but technical experimentation is more common in urban infrastructure systems. While municipal governments have a critical role in climate change experimentation, they often act alongside other actors and in a variety of forms of partnership. These findings point at experimentation as a key tool to open up new political spaces for governing climate change in the city. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
R. M. Wise | I. Fazey | M. Stafford Smith | S. E. Park | H. C. Eakin | E. R.M. Archer Van Garderen | B. Campbell
© 2013 The Authors. The need to adapt to climate change is now widely recognised as evidence of its impacts on social and natural systems grows and greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. Yet efforts to adapt to climate change, as reported in the literature over the last decade and in selected case studies, have not led to substantial rates of implementation of adaptation actions despite substantial investments in adaptation science. Moreover, implemented actions have been mostly incremental and focused on proximate causes; there are far fewer reports of more systemic or transformative actions. We found that the nature and effectiveness of responses was strongly influenced by framing. Recent decision-oriented approaches that aim to overcome this situation are framed within a "pathways" metaphor to emphasise the need for robust decision making within adaptive processes in the face of uncertainty and inter-temporal complexity. However, to date, such "adaptation pathways" approaches have mostly focused on contexts with clearly identified decision-makers and unambiguous goals; as a result, they generally assume prevailing governance regimes are conducive for adaptation and hence constrain responses to proximate causes of vulnerability. In this paper, we explore a broader conceptualisation of "adaptation pathways" that draws on 'pathways thinking' in the sustainable development domain to consider the implications of path dependency, interactions between adaptation plans, vested interests and global change, and situations where values, interests, or institutions constrain societal responses to change. This re-conceptualisation of adaptation pathways aims to inform decision makers about integrating incremental actions on proximate causes with the transformative aspects of societal change. Case studies illustrate what this might entail. The paper ends with a call for further exploration of theory, methods and procedures to operationalise this broader conceptualisation of adaptation.
Jan Weinzettel | Edgar G. Hertwich | Glen P. Peters | Kjartan Steen-Olsen | Alessandro Galli
Increasing affluence is often postulated as a main driver for the human footprint on biologically productive areas, identified among the main causes of biodiversity loss, but causal relationships are obscured by international trade. Here, we trace the use of land and ocean area through international supply chains to final consumption, modeling agricultural, food, and forestry products on a high level of resolution while also including the land requirements of manufactured goods and services. In 2004, high-income countries required more biologically productive land per capita than low-income countries, but this connection could only be identified when land used to produce internationally traded products was taken into account, because higher-income countries tend to displace a larger fraction of land use. The equivalent land and ocean area footprint of nations increased by a third for each doubling of income, with all variables analyzed on a per capita basis. This increase came largely from imports, which increased proportionally to income. Export depended mostly on the capacity of countries to produce useful biomass, the biocapacity. Our analysis clearly shows that countries with a high biocapacity per capita tend to spare more land for nature. Biocapacity per capita can be increased through more intensive production or by reducing population density. The net displacement of land use from high-income to low-income countries amounted to 6% of the global land demand, even though high-income countries had more land available per capita than low-income countries. In particular, Europe and Japan placed high pressure on ecosystems in lower-income countries. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Michelle T H Van Vliet | Wietse H P Franssen | John R. Yearsley | Fulco Ludwig | Ingjerd Haddeland | Dennis P. Lettenmaier | Pavel Kabat
Climate change will affect hydrologic and thermal regimes of rivers, having a direct impact on freshwater ecosystems and human water use. Here we assess the impact of climate change on global river flows and river water temperatures, and identify regions that might become more critical for freshwater ecosystems and water use sectors. We used a global physically based hydrological-water temperature modelling framework forced with an ensemble of bias-corrected general circulation model (GCM) output for both the SRES A2 and B1 emissions scenario. This resulted in global projections of daily river discharge and water temperature under future climate. Our results show an increase in the seasonality of river discharge (both increase in high flow and decrease in low flow) for about one-third of the global land surface area for 2071-2100 relative to 1971-2000. Global mean and high (95th percentile) river water temperatures are projected to increase on average by 0.8-1.6 (1.0-2.2). °C for the SRES B1-A2 scenario for 2071-2100 relative to 1971-2000. The largest water temperature increases are projected for the United States, Europe, eastern China, and parts of southern Africa and Australia. In these regions, the sensitivities are exacerbated by projected decreases in low flows (resulting in a reduced thermal capacity). For strongly seasonal rivers with highest water temperatures during the low flow period, up to 26% of the increases in high (95th percentile) water temperature can be attributed indirectly to low flow changes, and the largest fraction is attributable directly to increased atmospheric energy input. A combination of large increases in river temperature and decreases in low flows are projected for the southeastern United States, Europe, eastern China, southern Africa and southern Australia. These regions could potentially be affected by increased deterioration of water quality and freshwater habitats, and reduced water available for human uses such as thermoelectric power and drinking water production. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Henk Westhoek | Jan Peter Lesschen | Trudy Rood | Susanne Wagner | Alessandra De Marco | Donal Murphy-Bokern | Adrian Leip | Hans van Grinsven | Mark A. Sutton | Oene Oenema
Western diets are characterised by a high intake of meat, dairy products and eggs, causing an intake of saturated fat and red meat in quantities that exceed dietary recommendations. The associated livestock production requires large areas of land and lead to high nitrogen and greenhouse gas emission levels. Although several studies have examined the potential impact of dietary changes on greenhouse gas emissions and land use, those on health, the agricultural system and other environmental aspects (such as nitrogen emissions) have only been studied to a limited extent. By using biophysical models and methods, we examined the large-scale consequences in the European Union of replacing 25-50% of animal-derived foods with plant-based foods on a dietary energy basis, assuming corresponding changes in production. We tested the effects of these alternative diets and found that halving the consumption of meat, dairy products and eggs in the European Union would achieve a 40% reduction in nitrogen emissions, 25-40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and 23% per capita less use of cropland for food production. In addition, the dietary changes would also lower health risks. The European Union would become a net exporter of cereals, while the use of soymeal would be reduced by 75%. The nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) of the food system would increase from the current 18% to between 41% and 47%, depending on choices made regarding land use. As agriculture is the major source of nitrogen pollution, this is expected to result in a significant improvement in both air and water quality in the EU. The resulting 40% reduction in the intake of saturated fat would lead to a reduction in cardiovascular mortality. These diet-led changes in food production patterns would have a large economic impact on livestock farmers and associated supply-chain actors, such as the feed industry and meat-processing sector. © 2014 The Authors.
George MacKerron | Susana Mourato
Links between wellbeing and environmental factors are of growing interest in psychology, health, conservation, economics, and more widely. There is limited evidence that green or natural environments are positive for physical and mental health and wellbeing. We present a new and unique primary research study exploring the relationship between momentary subjective wellbeing (SWB) and individuals' immediate environment within the UK. We developed and applied an innovative data collection tool: a smartphone app that signals participants at random moments, presenting a brief questionnaire while using satellite positioning (GPS) to determine geographical coordinates. We used this to collect over one million responses from more than 20,000 participants. Associating GPS response locations with objective spatial data, we estimate a model relating land cover to SWB using only the within-individual variation, while controlling for weather, daylight, activity, companionship, location type, time, day, and any response trend. On average, study participants are significantly and substantially happier outdoors in all green or natural habitat types than they are in urban environments. These findings are robust to a number of alternative models and model specifications. This study provides a new line of evidence on links between nature and wellbeing, strengthening existing evidence of a positive relationship between SWB and exposure to green or natural environments in daily life. Our results have informed the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA), and the novel geo-located experience sampling methodology we describe has great potential to provide new insights in a range of areas of interest to policymakers. © 2013 .
Christian A. Klöckner
To address global environmental challenges it is crucial to understand how humans make decisions about environmentally relevant behaviour, since a shift to alternative behaviours can make a relevant difference. This paper proposes a comprehensive model of determinants of individual environmentally relevant behaviour based on a combination of the most common theories in environmental psychology. The model is tested using a meta-analytical structural equation modelling approach based on a pool of 56 different data sets with a variety of target behaviours. The model is supported by the data. Intentions to act, perceived behavioural control and habits were identified as direct predictors of behaviour. Intentions are predicted by attitudes, personal and social norms, and perceived behavioural control. Personal norms are predicted by social norms, perceived behavioural control, awareness of consequences, ascription of responsibility, an ecological world view and self-transcendence values. Self-enhancement values have a negative impact on personal norms. Based on the model, interventions to change behaviour need not only to include attitude campaigns but also a focus on de-habitualizing behaviour, strengthening the social support and increasing self-efficacy by concrete information about how to act. Value based interventions have only an indirect effect. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Andreas Schmidt | Ana Ivanova | Mike S. Schäfer
Climate change is a global phenomenon, and its outcomes affect societies around the world. So far, however, studies on media representations of climate change have mostly concentrated on Western societies. This paper goes beyond this limited geographical scope by presenting a comparative analysis of issue attention in 27 countries. The sample includes, among others, countries that have committed themselves to greenhouse gas emission reductions under the Kyoto Protocol such as Germany as well as countries that are strongly affected by the consequences of climate change like India. In a first step, it describes the development of media attention for climate change in these countries from 1996 to 2010. Second, it compares the amount of media attention and explores whether it corresponds with indicators measuring the relevance of climate change and climate policies for a country. The analyses show that climate change coverage has increased in all countries. Still, overall media attention levels, as well as the extent of growth over time, differ strongly between countries. Media attention is especially high in carbon dependent countries with commitments under the Kyoto Protocol. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Karen Akerlof | Edward W. Maibach | Dennis Fitzgerald | Andrew Y. Cedeno | Amanda Neuman
For most people, the direct and personally observable signals of climate change should be difficult to detect amid the variability of everyday weather. Yet, previous research has shown that some people believe they have personally experienced global warming. Through four related studies, our paper sheds light on what signals of global warming some people believe they are detecting, why, and whether or not it matters. These studies were conducted using population survey and climatic data from a single county in Michigan. Study 1 found that 27% of the county's adult residents felt that they had personally experienced global warming. Study 2 - based on content analysis of people's open-ended responses - found that the most frequently described personal experiences of global warming were changes in seasons (36%), weather (25%), lake levels (24%), animals and plants (20%), and snowfall (19%). Study 3 - based on NOAA climatic data - found that most, but not all, of these detected signals are borne out in the climatic record. Study 4 - using the survey data - found that personal experience of global warming matters in that it predicts perceptions of local risk of global warming, controlling for demographics, political affiliation, and cultural beliefs about national policy outcomes. We conclude that perceived personal experience of global warming appears to heighten people's perception of the risks, likely through some combination of direct experience, vicarious experience (e.g., news media stories), and social construction. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Caroline Howe | Helen Suich | Bhaskar Vira | Georgina M. Mace
© 2014 The Authors. Ecosystem services can provide a wide range of benefits for human well-being, including provisioning, regulating and cultural services and benefitting both private and public interests in different sectors of society. Biophysical, economic and social factors all make it unlikely that multiple needs will be met simultaneously without deliberate efforts, yet while there is still much interest in developing win-win outcomes there is little understanding of what is required for them to be achieved. We analysed outcomes in a wide range of case studies where ecosystem services had been used for human well-being. Using systematic mapping of the literature from 2000 to 2013, we identified 1324 potentially relevant reports, 92 of which were selected for the review, creating a database of 231 actual or potential recorded trade-offs and synergies. The analysis of these case studies highlighted significant gaps in the literature, including: a limited geographic distribution of case studies, a focus on provisioning as opposed to non-provisioning services and a lack of studies exploring the link between ecosystem service trade-offs or synergies and the ultimate impact on human well-being. Trade-offs are recorded almost three times as often as synergies and the analysis indicates that there are three significant indicators that a trade-off will occur: at least one of the stakeholders having a private interest in the natural resources available, the involvement of provisioning ecosystem services and at least one of the stakeholders acting at the local scale. There is not, however, a generalisable context for a win-win, indicating that these trade-off indicators, although highlighting where a trade-off may occur do not indicate that it is inevitable. Taking account of why trade-offs occur (e.g. from failures in management or a lack of accounting for all stakeholders) is more likely to create win-win situations than planning for a win-win from the outset. Consequently, taking a trade-offs as opposed to a win-win approach, by having an awareness of and accounting for factors that predict a trade-off (private interest, provisioning versus other ES, local stakeholder) and the reasons why trade-offs are often the outcome, it may be possible to create the synergies we seek to achieve.
Martina Flörke | Ellen Kynast | Ilona Bärlund | Stephanie Eisner | Florian Wimmer | Joseph Alcamo
To enhance global water use assessment, the WaterGAP3 model was improved for back-calculating domestic, manufacturing and thermoelectric water uses until 1950 for 177 countries. Model simulations were carried-out on a national scale to estimate water withdrawals and consumption as well as cooling water required for industrial processes and electricity production. Additionally, the amount of treated and untreated wastewater as generated by the domestic and manufacturing sectors w as modeled. In the view of data availability, model simulations are based on key socio-economic driving forces and thermal electricity production. Technological change rates were derived from statistical records in order to consider developments in water use efficiency, which turned out to have a crucial role in water use dynamics. Simulated domestic and industrial water uses increased from ca. 300km 3 in 1950 to 1345km 3 in 2010, 12% of which were consumed and 88% of which were discharged back into freshwater bodies. The amount of domestic and manufacturing wastewater increased considerably over the last decade, but only half of it was untreated. The downscaling of the untreated wastewater volume to river basin scale indicates a matter of concern in East and Southeast Asia, Northern Africa, and Eastern and Southern Europe. In order to reach the Millennium Development Goals, securing water supply and the reduction of untreated wastewater discharges should be amongst the priority actions to be undertaken. Population growth and increased prosperity have led to increasing water demands. However, societal and political transformation processes as well as policy regulations resulting in new water-saving technologies and improvements counteract this development by slowing down and even reducing global domestic and industrial water uses. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
E. F. Lambin | H. K. Gibbs | L. Ferreira | R. Grau | P. Mayaux | P. Meyfroidt | D. C. Morton | T. K. Rudel | I. Gasparri | J. Munger
Previous estimates of the land area available for future cropland expansion relied on global-scale climate, soil and terrain data. They did not include a range of constraints and tradeoffs associated with land conversion. As a result, estimates of the global land reserve have been high. Here we adjust these estimates for the aforementioned constraints and tradeoffs. We define potentially available cropland as the moderately to highly productive land that could be used in the coming years for rainfed farming, with low to moderate capital investments, and that is not under intact mature forests, legally protected, or already intensively managed. This productive land is underutilized rather than unused as it has ecological or social functions. We also define potentially available cropland that accounts for trade-offs between gains in agricultural production and losses in ecosystem and social services from intensified agriculture, to include only the potentially available cropland that would entail low ecological and social costs with conversion to cropland. In contrast to previous studies, we adopt a "bottom-up" approach by analyzing detailed, fine scale observations with expert knowledge for six countries or regions that are often assumed to include most of potentially available cropland. We conclude first that there is substantially less potential additional cropland than is generally assumed once constraints and trade offs are taken into account, and secondly that converting land is always associated with significant social and ecological costs. Future expansion of agricultural production will encounter a complex landscape of competing demands and tradeoffs. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Roland W. Scholz | Friedrich Wilhelm Wellmer
This paper elaborates in what way a dynamic perspective on reserves, resources and geopotential is necessary to provide robust estimates on resource availability. We introduce concepts of essentiality, criticality and economic scarcity and discuss for the case of phosphorus (P) how they are defined and may be measured. The case of P is considered in detail as P an essential element for global food security with a highly dissipative use and is geographically unevenly distributed across the globe. We distinguish and relate the complementarity between physical and economic scarcity and discuss limits and potential of static indicators such as static lifetime, Hubbert curve applications, and the Herfindahl-Hirschman-Index of P for predicting future availability of these resources. We reveal that these static indicators are - in general - not valid approaches to predict physical scarcity of resources. Geological data show that though the P reserves have not been systematically and completely assessed on a global scale, the static lifetime of P is high. When acknowledging socio-economic and technological dynamics, and available geological facts, statements predicting physical scarcity or a peak in P production within a few decades are unlikely to be accurate or valid. We elaborate that some simplified indicators such as static lifetime or the Hubbert curve based prediction of peaks may serve as screening indicators preceding early warning research, which may induce increased mining activities, technology innovation or other actions. However, in general, these simplified indicators are not valid approaches to predict physical scarcity of resources. Although one day there may be a supply-driven P production peak, demand-driven production plateaus and multiple peaks are probable in the near future. Given its geopotential, essentiality, and the learning curve of efficient fertilizer use, P is subject to demand-driven market dynamics. Thus, a symmetric decline and unavoidable shortage of P in the next decades are unlikely. This insight does not refute the need to close the anthropogenic P loop. Activities associated with P production and consumption use has a significant pollution potential in part because of the dissipative nature. The paper reveals the necessity to mitigate risks (such as economic scarcity, especially for poor farmers) of both short-term price peaks and longer lasting step-changes in price, e.g. due to knowledge gaps of technological adaptation in energy and water management or other reasons of insufficient supply-demand dynamics management. The complexity of this task necessitates a transdisciplinary approach. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.
Tom Hargreaves | Sabine Hielscher | Gill Seyfang | Adrian Smith
Community energy projects are attracting increasing attention as potential sources of innovation to support sustainable energy transitions. Research into 'grassroots innovations' like community energy often recognises the difficulties they face in simply surviving let alone in growing or seeding wider change. Strategic niche management theory is potentially helpful here as it highlights the important roles played by 'intermediary actors' in consolidating, growing and diffusing novel innovations. This paper presents the first in-depth analysis of intermediary work in the UK community energy sector. New empirical evidence was gathered through interviews with 15 community energy intermediaries and a content analysis of 113 intermediary-produced case studies about community energy projects. Analysis finds intermediaries adopting a variety of methods to try and diffuse generic lessons about context-specific projects, but that trying to coordinate support for local projects that exist amidst very different social and political circumstances is challenging. This is exacerbated by the challenges of building a coherent institutional infrastructure for a sector where aims and approaches diverge, and where underlying resources are uncertain and inconsistent. Applications of relatively simple, growth-oriented approaches like strategic niche management to grassroots innovations need to be reformulated to better recognise their diverse and conflicted realities on the ground. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.
Yang Yu | Kuishuang Feng | Klaus Hubacek