Statehouse and Greenhouse

The Emerging Politics of American Climate Change Policy

Recipient of the 2005 Lynton Keith Caldwell prize for the best book on environmental politics and policy.

Few public policy issues seem as hopeless as global climate change. Mounting evidence shows that accumulating levels of greenhouse gases are already beginning to alter climate patterns, and this only intensifies concerns about long-term dangers. In turn, potential policy remedies appear feckless. Prospects for implementation of the Kyoto Protocol are highly uncertain even among nations that have ratified the accord. At the national level, the United States, which is the leading source of greenhouse gases, remains completely disengaged from the Kyoto process. Increasingly, other developed nations severely criticize the United States for its perceived failure to engage this issue.

But a quiet yet growing trend for state governments to assume a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gases suggests that a far more robust process for American policy development is under way. Conventional analyses assume that climate change can only be addressed by international regimes and national governments. However, many states have developed active, multi-faceted programs to address carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases within a diverse array of policy sectors, including energy, environmental protection, transportation, natural resources, and agriculture.

In Statehouse and Greenhouse, Barry G. Rabe examines this evolving policy process. He devotes particular attention to the factors prompting so many states to take significant steps toward greenhouse gas reduction. These states cut across regions and traditional partisan divides; agency-based policy entrepreneurs appear to be central players in developing policy ideas and forming viable coalitions. Rabe argues that this recent flurry of experience can move the debate over climate change from hyperbole to the realm of what is politically, economically, and technically feasible. He also offers alternatives for future policy development. These would build on recent state initiatives and actively engage them in long-term policy formation and implementation.