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The Tragedy of Climate Change

  • Author(s): Stoughton, Christopher Stephen
  • Advisor(s): Matthew, Richard
  • et al.
Abstract

This Dissertation develops a Neorealism theory of climate change to provide a deeper, power-based, explanation for why global efforts have largely failed to limit climate change over the last thirty years. Nearly all of the literature on climate change is based within a Neoliberalism framework. No published study to date has provided a comprehensive examination of climate change from a Neorealism perspective. This Dissertation begins to fill this gap in the literature by examining efforts to limit climate change from a number of different angles while using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The analysis finds that the interaction of the underlying structural dynamic at both the global and state levels largely explains why efforts have failed to limit climate change. The interaction of the global anarchic political structure, dominant Liberalism ideology, and fossil fuel dependence among leading state and nonstate actors has led to a business-as-usual pathway to persist. The findings imply that it is highly unlikely global efforts will be able to limit climate change to under two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the stated target of the latest international agreement, the 2015 Paris Agreement. Achieving such a target would require a transformation of the global structural dynamic which is unlikely in the foreseeable future. The Dissertation concludes by offering a few recommendations for scholars and policymakers.

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