International Environmental Policy

International Environmental Policy

Interests and the Failure of the Kyoto Process

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Aynsley Kellow

The Kyoto Protocol has singularly failed to shape international environmental policy-making in the way that the earlier Montreal protocol did. Whereas Montreal placed reliance on the force of science and moralistic injunctions to save the planet, and successfully determined the international response to climate change, Kyoto has proved significantly more problematic. International Environmental Policy considers why this is the case. The authors contend that such arguments on this occasion proved inadequate to the task, not just because the core issues of the Kyoto process were subject to more powerful and conflicting interests than previously, and the science too uncertain, but because the science and moral arguments themselves remained too weak. They argue that ‘global warming’ is a failing policy construct because it has served to benefit limited but undeclared interests that were sustained by green beliefs rather than robust scientific knowledge.

Chapter 7: The Suppression of Scientific Controversy

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen and Aynsley Kellow

Subjects: economics and finance, environmental economics, environment, environmental economics, environmental politics and policy, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy


In this chapter we examine the ways in which climate change science has been selectively interpreted by the IPCC itself and even more so by its many ‘users’: environmental bureaucracies, NGOs and the media in particular, to promote consensus in favour of a particular policy direction. Here we focus on NGOs and the media as external users of IPCC advice, but provide some evidence that IPCC spokesmen acceded to what we consider to be unwarranted alarmism on the part of these actors. We consider the IPCC (in its policy advisory role) and its users as a coalition of advocacy in favour of climate alarmism, with the IPCC as a research network possibly the more reluctant partner. To repeat, we accept the view reported to us by IPCC participants themselves that the underlying report is authored by the teams of scientists who have been nominated by governments and selected by the IPCC Bureau, with the Summary for Policy-makers representing a consensus document produced by government delegates at an IPCC Plenary Session. According to Richard Lindzen (and others), there is no scientific consensus supporting these SPMs. Here we illustrate this contention with some examples of scientific controversies where the alarmist ‘predisposition’ of the IPCC process has resulted in interpretations supporting a more alarmist view of climate change science. We consider there are three stages in this process: 1. the production of assessment chapters that neglect challenges and uncertainties (the task of this chapter); 2. the production of the Summaries for Policy-makers (SPM)...

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