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What type of climate treaty would people around the world support?

- September 19, 2014


On Tuesday, Sept. 23, policymakers from around the world will gather in New York at the United Nations to continue working toward reaching a global agreement in 2015 to address climate change. Leaders are looking for ways to encourage as many countries as possible to make significant commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years.
The point of an international agreement is to find means that encourage countries to make bolder emission reduction commitments and to keep those promises. Although climate change is a global problem, the main hurdles to an effective climate deal are domestic. The Obama administration is currently attempting to sidestep the constitutional requirement that any legally binding treaty has to receive approval by two-thirds of the Senate by encouraging the world to settle on a less formal agreement. Yet, even if this strategy avoids lawmakers in Washington voting against a climate treaty, only an agreement with broad public support stands a chance at actually being implemented.
So what does political science research suggest might help countries reach the kind of agreement that they might stick to over the many years of emission reductions necessary to actually limit global warming? In research we published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, we carried out survey experiments on 8,500 citizens in the United States, France, Germany and Britain to find out what features of an agreement were important to the public. Although, we would be happy for you to read the paper,  it would probably be more fun to watch the video that summarizes our findings.