Climate Governance Syllabus

If you are are a lecturer/professor using Pathologies of Climate Governance as a textbook and might like to have the author talk to your students via Zoom or Microsoft Teams, please get in touch here.

About this syllabus

This syllabus is intended to supplement Paul G. Harris’s Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature (Cambridge University Press, 2021). If you or your library do not already have a copy of the book, you can order it from Cambridge University Press here or from Amazon.com here.

If you are teaching a course on climate governance and/or related topics, you can adapt this syllabus to meet your teaching needs by editing the course summary, modifying the learning objectives, inserting additional course requirements and grading information, and supplementing the reading list. (To do all of this, first cut and paste this webpage into a separate word-processing file.)

If you are a student taking a course on (or related to) climate governance, or if you are simply interested in knowing more about the politics and governance of climate change, you can use this syllabus to guide and reinforce your learning from the book.

For many additional resources, visit the Pathologies of Climate Governance online learning companion.

If you would like to comment on this syllabus or make suggestions for improvement, please contact Prof. Harris here.

Summary of the course

Climate change is the greatest threat facing humankind in the long term. Its adverse effects are already being felt around the world. Because climate change is unprecedented in its complexity, science is central to our understanding of it. However, climate change is about much more than science. Humanity’s responses to this gargantuan problem are at least as much a function of politics – the struggle over whether and how to respond within countries (domestically) and in cooperation among them (internationally) to mitigate the pollution that causes climate change and to find ways of coping with the consequences of climate change now and in the future. Many local governments will have to learn to adapt to the impacts of climate change, national governments will have to decide whether and how to respond to those impacts, and the international community will face growing challenges as climate change creates new problems for governance, development and security. The behaviors of other actors, such as corporations and individuals (including you and me), are vitally important, too.

With this in mind, this course explores the governance of climate change within and among countries, in the process examining how politics is being brought to bear (and might be in the future) to respond to the problem. The course introduces some of the science of climate change; reviews the international climate negotiations and the structure of the global climate regime; assesses some of the major economic, security and political determinants of key nation-states’ domestic climate policies and their positions in climate diplomacy; and explores ideas about international cooperative action, domestic politics and individual behavior in this context.

As part of this course, you will invariably consider a number of key questions, such as: How does the science of climate change interact with political processes? Why do the domestic politics of climate change differ among nation-states but often have so many similarities? How have international negotiations on climate change influenced national and local responses to the problem? Are governments treating climate change as an environmental, economic or security concern? Besides states, what are the key social forces and actors driving the politics of climate change? What is your role in the politics of climate change?

Learning objectives

Upon completion of this course, assuming that you have thoughtfully completed all of the assigned reading, you should achieve the following learning outcomes (among others):

1. Understand basic climate change science and the major causes and consequences of climate change;

2. Be able to apply conceptions of governance to domestic, regional and global climate change policies;

3. Have a global understanding of climate governance that allows you to identify connections among local, regional and global responses;

4. Be able to critically reflect on the transformations of politics and governance that are required to respond to climate change effectively.

WEEKLY TOPICS AND READING ASSIGNMENTS

PART I: PROBLEMS IN CLIMATE GOVERNANCE

1. Dysfunction in climate governance

Questions for this week:

(1) What is climate change?

(2) What and/or who causes climate change?

(3) How might climate change be a political problem?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 1.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 1, available here.

2. The worsening climate crisis

Questions for this week:

(1) What are the trends in global greenhouse gas emissions? Why are these trends important?

(2) What are the trends in global warming and the impacts of climate change? Why are these trends important?

(3) How has climate science been politicized, and for what purpose?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 2.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 2, available here.

PART II: PATHOLOGIES OF CLIMATE GOVERNANCE

3. Pathologies of international relations

Questions for this week:

(1) How has the international system of sovereign states, and its underlying rationale, affected humanity’s responses to climate change?

(2) How might nation-states define and protect their national interests in the context of climate change?

(3) How have nation-states sought to govern climate change from the “top down” and from the “bottom up”?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 3.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 3, available here.

4. Pathologies of national politics in the United States and China

Questions for this week:

(1) Describe how the United States has governed climate change. What explains climate change politics in the United States?

(2) Describe how China has governed climate change. What explains climate change politics in China?

(3) What is similar and what is different about American and Chinese climate change politics? What explains those similarities and differences?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 4.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 4, available here.

5. Pathologies of national politics in the Global North

Questions for this week:

(1) Describe how the European Union and its member states have governed climate change. What explains climate change politics in Europe?

(2) Describe how Russia has governed climate change. What explains climate change politics in Russia?

(3) What is similar and what is different about European, Russian, American and Chinese climate change politics? What explains those similarities and differences?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 5.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 5, available here.

6. Pathologies of national politics in the Global South

Questions for this week:

(1) Describe how India and Brazil have governed climate change. What explains their climate change politics?

(2) Compare and contrast climate governance in small-island states and oil-rich states. What explains their climate change politics?

(3) How are perceptions of national interests significant for climate governance? Give examples from several Northern and Southern nation-states.

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 6.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 6, available here.

7. Pathologies of human nature

Questions for this week:

(1) How and to what extent are the growth and size of human population important for climate governance?

(2) What roles do material consumption and economic growth play in climate change and its governance?

(3) How have global overconsumption and the emergence of the “neoconsumers” influenced climate change and its governance?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 7.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 7, available here.

PART III: PRESCRIPTIONS FOR CLIMATE GOVERNANCE

8. Reconsidering international, national and human governance

Questions for this week:

(1) Which considerations of the international governance of climate change described in Chapter 8 do you find to be most compelling, and why?

(2) Which considerations of the national governance of climate change described in Chapter 8 do you find to be most compelling, and why?

(3) Which considerations of the human governance of climate change described in Chapter 8 do you find to be most compelling, and why?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 8.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 8, available here.

9. Prescriptions for governing climate change

Questions for this week:

(1) Which of the prescriptions for international relations described in Chapter 9 do you find to be most compelling, and why?

(2) Which of the prescriptions for national politics described in Chapter 9 do you find to be most compelling, and why?

(3) Which of the prescriptions for human nature described in Chapter 9 do you find to be most compelling, and why?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 9.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 9, available here.

10. Policies and prospects for governing climate change

Questions for this week:

(1) Which of the policies for climate governance described in Chapter 10 do you find to be most compelling, and why?

(2) Which of the prospects for climate governance described in Chapter 10 do you believe to be most likely, and why?

(3) How have real-world events that have occurred since the start of this course reinforced or refuted the textbook’s analysis of climate politics?

Assignments for this week:

(1) Essential: Read Paul G. Harris, Pathologies of Climate Governance: International Relations, National Politics and Human Nature, chapter 10.

(2) Recommended: Explore the additional reading and resources for chapter 10, available here.