New ISPS Working Paper on the Politics of Environmental Policy

ISPS has released a new ISPS working paper, “Of Stasis and Movements: Climate Legislation in the 111th Congress,” writen by Nate Loewentheil, ISPS Affiliated Fellow.

The paper examines the politics of environmental policy-making in the 111th Congress; Despite initial legislative success in the House of Representatives in early 2009 and the strong forces arrayed in support of a climate bill, the Senate dropped the issue from consideration in the summer of 2010.

The analysis is structured into two main sections. The first section examines four key barriers that protected the policy status quo: partisan polarization, political geography, energy interests and the recession. Through comparison with the Affordable Care Act and the history of U.S. environmental policymaking, the second section suggests three political forces that might have helped strength the climate campaign: public opinion, grassroots mobilization and presidential leadership. It further suggests that the failures of the climate campaign to pay sufficient attention to opinion and mobilization are symptomatic of broader challenges facing an increasingly professionalized and Washington-based environmental movement.

The paper concludes that, “the failure of the climate campaign to pay attention to environmental political history is symptomatic of a broader challenge facing the environmental movement. Over the last four decades the environmental movement has consolidated into a set of large, mainly Washington-based institutions. These organizations use science, law, policy, and lobbying to influence debates at the elite level; they are not set up to mobilize public support for major reforms. This strategy of focusing more on law and policy than on citizen engagement and movement building has yielded important benefits and has led to successful defenses of previous victories, but, as the climate campaign demonstrated, the approach also comes with serious costs.”