International Politics and Climate Change >> Content Detail



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A list of topics by session is available in the calendar below.


This course examines the interconnections of international politics and climate change. Beginning with an analysis of the strategic and environmental legacies of the 20th Century, it explores the politicization of the natural environment, the role of science in this process, and the gradual shifts in political concerns to incorporate "nature". Two general thrusts of climate-politics connections are pursued, namely those related to (a) conflict – focusing on threats to security due to environmental dislocations and (b) cooperation – focusing on the politics of international treaties that have contributed to emergent processes for global accord in response to evidence of climate change. The course concludes by addressing the question of: "What Next?"


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Required Texts

Amazon logo Luterbacher, Urs, and Detlef F. Sprinz, eds. International Relations and Global Climate Change. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001. ISBN: 9780262621496.

Amazon logo McNeill, J. R. Something New Under the Sun: An Environmental History of the Twentieth-century World. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 2000. ISBN: 9780393049176.


Other than assignments from the required texts, the instructor provides all readings.


Class discussion of readings30%
Midterm exam30%
Written requirement: final or research paper30%
Web-based assignment10%

Written Requirement

There are two options for fulfilling the written requirements of the course.

Option 1: Take home final – three required essay questions that cover all aspects of the course. Open books and notes with full references required.

Option 2: Research paper – in four steps:

  1. Submit topic and issues identified in a paragraph – reviewed and approved by instructor
  2. Submit outline – general for sense of coverage – also for approval
  3. Submit tentative bibliography – also for approval
  4. Write roughly 30-40 pages and include references.

Mid-term Exam

Everyone is expected to take the mid-term exam. It is intended to allow the instructor to give you feedback. The mid-term is take-home, open book, and essay questions with choice. If you do well it will be counted for you. If you do not do well, you can retake the exam.


Part I. The context
1Introduction: systems and complexities
2The legacies of the 20th century
3International politics of climate change
4International relations theory
Part II. The global system
5The global system – whole and parts
6Climate change science – core elements
7Climate – political connections I – illustrative systemsMidterm exam due 8 days after Ses #7
8Climate – political connections II – theoretical perspectives
9International law and environmental regimes
Part III. International politics of response
10Global accord – comparative cases I and II
11What next: highlights and conclusionWeb-based assignment due and final exam due 4 days after Ses #11


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