Environmental Politics & Governance

Online seminar series at the Department of Social Policy, LSE.

The in-person viewing serves as a venue for the LSE community to engage and interact on economic, political, and social approaches to understanding climate change and the environment.


EPG image
EPG online seminar series


Environmental Politics and Governance (EPGOnline seminar series at the Department of Social Policy, LSE. 


If you want to keep up to date with the latest information from the EPG Online network, please join our mailing list.


For any questions related to the seminar series, please email the academic organiser
Dr Liam Beiser-McGrath.


Autumn Term series

Please note: all in-person viewings will take place in the Department meeting room- OLD 2.26, from 4.30pm-5.30pm


28 September

The Greener Gender: Women Politicians and Deforestation

Kathryn Baragwanath (Harvard University and Australian Catholic University) and Xixi Zheng (UCSD)

Women have been shown to have different policy preferences, invest in different types of goods and be less corrupt than men when elected into political office. In this paper, we study the effects of electing a woman mayor into office in the Brazilian Amazon on rates of deforestation. We exploit close election regression discontinuity design in order to establish causal findings. We find that electing a woman mayor leads to significantly lower deforestation rates during the women’s time in office. We propose that women’s effect on reduced deforestation comes through two mechanisms: (i) women’s distinct preferences towards climate change and (ii) a lower likelihood of being captured or corrupt. Although we can’t fully differentiate between the mechanisms, we provide evidence that the corruption mechanism is certainly at play. Women mayors are less corrupt than their male counterparts, receive less campaign funding from businesses, and are less likely to receive funding from large agricultural and mining companies. Altogether, our findings strongly support the theory that women’s representation re- duces deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon, with evidence that lower likelihood of regulatory capture and corruption levels are driving these results, at least in part.

Climate policy ambition in cross-national comparison: a multi-method analysis

Yitong Ye (University of Glasgow), Bernhard Reinsberg (University of Glasgow), and Neil Munro (University of Glasgow)

Climate policy ambition varies greatly across countries. Understanding of the drivers of this variation is limited, owing to conceptual ambiguity, data deficiency, and methodological challenges. I propose a clear concept of ambition based on the combination of depth and breadth of policy outputs. Based on this conceptual structure, I introduce a new dataset to measure climate policy ambitions of 35 major emitters (whose global share of emissions is greater than or equal to 0.5%) for the 1990-2020 period. To identify and conceptualize mechanisms that promote climate policy ambition, I combine Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) with Classification and Regression Trees (CART). The results of these two approaches support three broad conclusions. First, climate policy ambition is embedded in broader policy concerns and hence not determined by a single factor. Second, democracy is significant in explaining high ambition levels of climate policies. Third, global trade integration helps countries to recognize the great potential of green developments, which is a key trigger for countries (especially climate laggards) to increase their climate ambition levels. The findings enhance our understanding of the various drivers of states’ climate ambition which is crucial for them to take climate change mitigation measures and promote international cooperation.



12 October

Extractive “Protectionism”? Natural Resource Dependence and Protected Area Designation

Austin Beacham (UCSD)

Biodiversity and ecosystem loss is one of the gravest transnational crises facing the planet, with deep implications for climate change. What determines how different countries choose to protect nature? Previous work has argued that economic dependence on natural resources undermines green policies. Building on literature that examines the impact of democracy on environmental policy, I argue that the relationship between resource dependence and protection is mediated by democratic institutions. In more democratic countries, more natural resource dependence can cause more protection than in less dependent countries, because citizens and international groups witness more degradation and ecosystem loss in these contexts and make effective demands for protection in response. To test this argument, I employ a novel panel regression discontinuity design at country borders for all terrestrial country-border pairs from 1992 to 2020, using new geospatial data on protected area (PA) designation over time. This design leverages the geographic nature of PAs to test for the causal influence of national-level political-economic dynamics while accounting for characteristics of land that make it inherently more or less likely to be protected. I find that the effect of natural resource dependence is conditional: when democratic institutions are weaker, the effect of natural resources is negative for protection. When democracy is stronger, the effect of natural resources is positive. These findings reveal an important relationship between environmental degradation and protection.

Do Pledges Bind? The Mass Politics of International Climate Targets

Don Casler (UIUC), Richard Clark (Cornell), and Noah Zucker (LSE)

Contemporary climate governance rests on voluntary pledges made by states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Absent formal enforcement mechanisms and given a historical lack of popular mobilization on climate, what weight do these pledges carry? We argue that independent of interest group pressure and transnational naming and shaming, public distaste for backing down from treaty commitments dissuades defection. The targets in these pledges can dichotomize politician performance, creating a salient distinction between those who adhere to versus defect from climate accords. This allows voters to better distinguish between politicians and electorally sanction those offering policies discordant with climate pledges. Conjoint and vignette experiments fielded in the U.S. suggest that candidates who deemphasize climate pledges lose votes in Democratic primaries and general elections. Analysis of U.S. cable news media supports the intuition that these pledges have prompted a “dichotomization” of popular climate discourse. These findings illustrate the electoral weight of international climate commitments.


26 October

Qualitative Bayesian Reasoning for Climate Studies

Tasha Fairfield (LSE)

This paper aims to introduce the interdisciplinary climate research community to Bayesian reasoning, a powerful and intuitive methodological approach for improving inferences from  qualitative information and promoting knowledge accumulation. We overview the foundations of this approach, provide example applications drawing on recent research on climate change politics and renewable energy policy, and expound Bayesian advantages and analytical insights that could be especially valuable for research that strives to communicate with scholars across disciplines and inform policymaking.

Preference Updating Under Uncertainty: Evidence from Responses to Global Warming

Alexander F. Gazmararian (Princeton University) and Helen Milner (Princeton University)

How do individuals' policy preferences emerge and change? We synthesize political economy and behavioral approaches to produce a framework that explains how people change their policy preferences when there is uncertainty about the distributive effects of public policies. Our theory proposes a process where people learn from direct experience about how they are affected by policy issues, which leads them to update their preferred response. Climate change serves as a case to test the theory. We use an econometric model of global warming to derive what individuals' policy preferences over action to reduce climate damages might be if they were fully informed about global warming's effects and acting according to self-interest. Then, we leverage geospatial data on climate disturbances to capture experiential shocks. Separate analyses using subregional and panel survey data find that climate shocks cause individuals to become more supportive of action to address climate change in line with how they might be materially affected by global warming. Personal experience that leads to learning about who wins and loses from public policies helps to explain when changing beliefs cause shifts in policy attitudes.


9 November- Please note: this viewing will take place in a different room at LSE- TBC

Harmonizing international commitments with domestic policymaking- the role of two-level connectors and networking structure

Karin Ingold (University of Bern) and Marlene Kammerer (University of Bern)

Just recently, the international community has reinforced the 1.5 degrees target to protect the world from excessive global warming. But, at the same time, it is clear, that the national commitments as formulated in the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are not enough. And, even if they were, these commitments must be translated into national policies. However, this is a complex task and involves multiple actors and levels of governance. Hence, there is not only a gap between the 1.5 degrees target and the NDCs but certainly also between the NDCs and the national policies. At the domestic level, the preferences and power resources of the relevant actors and the prevailing actor constellation are likely to influence how well countries can keep their promises. In this article, we argue that the role of two-level connectors in this multi-level arrangement is key. Two-level connectors are organizations that are involved in both the formulation of international commitments (NDCs) and national policies. Through elite survey data and social network analysis, we compare five different countries and assess the potential role of connectors in the harmonization between international and national climate policies.

Adding Fuel to the Fire: The Electoral Impact of Induced Earthquakes

Jordan H. McAllister (University of Kentucky) and Afiq bin Oslan (Max Planck Institute for Tax Law and Public Finance)

Political science has used natural disasters to study whether voters are sensitive to the environment. The complex nature of disasters, however, can present obstacles to causal identification. In this study, we look at a uniquely and overtly human-caused disaster---earthquakes from natural gas drilling in the Netherlands---to see whether these disasters persuade citizens to vote more greenly. We combine polling station-level voting data with precisely calculated measures of earthquake impact, and we find that pro-environmental party vote share is generally higher in affected locations. These findings provide further support for the theory that environmental damage increases the strength of green preferences, a relationship that will only become more important as human destruction of the environment worsens.


23 November

When Does Climate Finance Respond to Local Needs?

Ruth Carlitz (University of Amsterdam) and Thomas Wencker (German Institute for Development Evaluation)

"The impact of climate change on people’s lives and livelihoods is increasingly hard to ignore, and is moreover characterized by trenchant inequities: rich countries generate the vast majority of global CO2 emissions, but poor nations overwhelmingly suffer the consequences. In response, wealthy nations have pledged to mobilize US$100 billion annually in “climate finance” to help their more vulnerable counterparts. The past decade has seen climate finance nearly double, but we know very little about the extent to which such funds are meeting the distinct needs of recipient countries.

We first consider the degree to which climate finance is aligned with the needs expressed in recipient countries’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs). (The Paris Agreement requires each of its 191 signatories to prepare, communicate, and maintain successive NDCs; NDCs are the primary means through which countries outline their long-term goals related to climate change mitigation and adaptation and indicate how much climate finance is needed to reach national climate goals.) We examine all 154 countries categorized by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as ‘non-Annex 1,’ i.e., those that are “especially vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change, including countries with low-lying coastal areas and those prone to desertification and drought” (UNFCCC 2022). While scholars have begun investigating the extent of such alignment (Iacubota et al. 2022) they have yet to identify the conditions under which climate finance is more or less aligned with NDC priorities. We explore how alignment varies according to recipients’ bargaining power and overall influence (e.g., temporary membership on the United Nations Security Council; size/composition of delegation to the most recent COP).

Next, we examine the extent to which NDCs reflect citizens' priorities. We again build on previous work, which has investigated the relationship between policy ambition and public perceptions of the threat posed by climate change (Jensen 2022) and seek to identify the conditions under which NDCs are more or less aligned with citizen priorities. We expect the level of democracy to be important, and especially features of democracy that promote responsiveness to citizens, e.g., a vibrant civil society, including a large presence of environmental NGOs. We also expect having more women and young people in positions of power might facilitate alignment. This inquiry will leverage novel data sources on public perceptions of climate change, which have previously not been investigated in the context of climate finance."

Inequalities at the Crossroads: Unpacking the Role of Intersectionality in Material Hardship

Trevor Memmott (Indiana University)

"Every day in the United States millions of low-income Americans struggle to make ends meet, regularly facing tough decisions over forgoing necessities like adequate nutrition and healthcare or taking on long-term financial debt. Despite a growing recognition of the heterogeneity and complexities of hardships that Americans face, both the academic literature and most U.S. welfare programs continue to rely on simple measures of income or poverty designations. To address these concerns, material hardship scholars measure direct outcomes such as hunger or housing instability to paint a fuller picture of U.S. inequality. While the extant material hardship literature has provided valuable insights into how families experience poverty, we still know little about how sociodemographic characteristics overlap to deepen insecurity. Analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau PULSE survey, which measures hardship among a representative sample of U.S. households, this paper provides a more comprehensive picture of material hardship among American families. I combine consistent findings in the material hardship literature on disparities in health, food, energy, and housing hardship with intersectional theory, which describes how overlapping disadvantaged identities like race and gender interact to further intensify disparate outcomes.

Utilizing a series of interaction regression models which allow for direct group comparisons on a sample of more than a million households from July 2021 through November 2022, I find strong evidence for intersectional effects in material hardship. Race is a key axis of intersection, wherein racial minorities (Black and Hispanic) face a higher baseline of nearly all forms of hardship, and these disparities grow even greater when other disadvantage characteristics overlap. Black and Hispanic individuals who identify as gender nonconforming, who have children in the home, and who do not have a college degree face substantially higher rates of hardship than these individual identities. For example, gender nonconforming individuals generally face higher rates of hardship than men or women, but those who identify as gender nonconforming are significantly materially worse off if they are also racial minorities. Importantly, these findings help to disaggregate previous findings in the material hardship literature. Research has consistently found that having children in the home is a key predictor of higher rates of hardship, but my findings show that these effects are driven by identity intersections, wherein Black, Hispanic, and gender nonconforming respondents all face a large hardship “penalty” from having children while white men and women are no worse off. Similarly, having a college degree significantly reduces hardship for white individuals while Black individuals do not experience a substantial reduction in hardship from having a college education. These results provide key insights for understanding the complexities of material hardship in the United States, which should be further interrogated by scholars and utilized by policymakers to craft effective, evidence-based solutions for struggling U.S. families that are often overlooked."


7 December

Green Collars at the Voting Booth: Material Interest and Environmentalist Voting

Enrico Cavallotti (Trinity College Dublin), Italo Colantone (Bocconi), Piero Stanig (Bocconi), Francesco Vona (University of Milan)

Can the transition toward a "greener" economy achieve sufficient support in the electorate to ensure it is politically sustainable? We study how preferences for environmental policy and electoral support for environmental platforms are affected by how one's skills are expected to be demanded in a greener economy. The starting point is that environmental concern and support for green policies can be affected by more direct economic concerns among voters. We rely on individual European Social Survey data over two decades in 15 European countries, combined with scores of "greenness" and "brownness" for occupations that capture how demanded or penalized an occupation can be due to the ecological transition. We provide evidence on how economic self-interest shapes support for environmental policy, for Green parties, and for parties with pro-environment policy platforms. To infer causality, we use historical data from the European Labor Force Survey and construct out-of-sample probabilities of being employed in a green job to isolate exogenous variation in green employment. We find that individuals that might benefit from the ecological transition vote more for environmentalist and Green parties, while the opposite holds for people more at risk on the labor market.

Europeans’ climate worry: Increased yet more politicised

John Kenny (UEA) and Stephen Fisher (Oxford)

As climate change has become more important to voters and political parties over the last decade in Europe, this paper asks whether public opinion on the issue has become more politicised, in the sense of being more closely linked to party support or left-right identity. We consider change from Wave 8 (2016/17) to Wave 10 (2020-22) of the European Social Survey (ESS). Climate worry has increased overall, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Politicisation of climate change has increased mostly in Western Europe, where it has increased more on the left, and for left-wing party supporters, than on the right. Populist-right parties are distinctive in seeing no significant rise in the extent to which their supporters are worried about climate change. Our results suggest an increased difficulty of finding political consensus on climate policy within Western European countries, but convergence between polities of the East and West at higher levels of climate consciousness may aid EU climate policy making.