Matto Mildenberger

2018 Hellman Fellow

Assistant Professor, Political Science
UC Santa Barbara

Project Title: Prospects for climate risk mitigation in a post-Paris world.

Project Description:

Climate change is the defining issue of our time, posing immense social and economic threats to countries across the world. It threatens coastal inhabitants, agricultural production, and water supplies. It will increase the frequency of disruptive weather events. It may permanently reduce global GDP by 5% to 20% (Stern, 2007). Yet, despite the climate threat’s urgency, global greenhouse gas emissions continue. In February 2015, global atmospheric carbon dioxide levels crossed 400 parts per million (ppm), up from a pre-industrial baseline of around 280 ppm. Without new efforts to limit atmospheric carbon pollution, scientists believe current climate change trajectories will undermine economic prosperity and harm human welfare (IPCC, 2014).

In the face of these severe risks, the environmental safety of every country will depend on domestic political decisions in other countries. To facilitate this action, states have repeatedly sought to create a global framework for climate regulations, but have had limited success. Unlike the failed 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the 2015 Paris Agreement allows countries to propose their own post-2020 carbon pollution targets; it does not specify a minimum ambition for these targets nor does it spell out how the international community can enforce these commitments. In doing so, it delegates to each country the responsibility to propose self-determined climate commitments – even as every country’s safety depends on the joint action of all. This means the Paris agreement’s success will depend on simultaneous and decentralized action by all major carbon emitters.

Mildenberger’s research will measure domestic constraints and opportunities for climate policy action using, for the first time, standardised, simultaneous public opinion studies of the world’s six largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters (China, the US, India, Brazil, Japan, and Russia), two European nations (Germany and the UK) and one regionally important emitter (South Africa). It will supplement these efforts with simultaneous convenience surveys of political elites. These efforts will provide a comprehensive, comparative survey of the conditions under which domestic coordination of the climate crisis may become possible. It will offer innovative data and analysis to support climate practitioners and policymakers navigating the post-Paris world.

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