The Politics of Climate Change – Professor Richard Beardsworth

  • Date:
  • Time: 13:00 - 14:00

Professor Richard Beardsworth discusses political response to climate science and political vision regarding climate change. This online seminar took place on 18 November 2020 as part of the School of Politics and International Studies research seminar series. A recording of the seminar is available to watch below.

Abstract:
The two concerns are necessarily interrelated; I separate them here for clarity’s sake. I consider, first, the politics of climate change in the terms of political response to climate science. The recommendation of the IPCC 2018 report that minimalizing future climate harm now requires no more than a global average temperature increase of 1.5°C posed squarely that climate change is a political problem and that this problem is one of time and scale (hence the large social movements demanding ‘climate action now’ following the report). To respond in time and at scale requires the exclusive power, leverage and identity of the state.

A state-focused understanding of the global challenge of climate change is therefore necessary, whatever the importance of other domestic and international actors (IOs, businesses, cities, NGOs, etc.). I discuss the major reasons for this in terms of the state’s monopoly of violence, its powers of steerage, coordination and integration, its ability to motivate citizens, and to deliver justice.

To emphasize the powers of the state at this unprecedented historical juncture is not however to fetishize them. There are large, historically embedded differences in state power across the world, further exacerbated by the multiplier effect of climate harm. To argue forcefully for the state at this historical juncture can only be done, therefore, within a larger vision that simultaneously transcends the state.

The second more speculative part of my talk addresses the politics of climate change from the perspective of this political vision. Without confusing climate change and sustainability, I argue that all states are now in (sustainable) development and that this world-wide spectrum of developing states provides an opportunity to re-imagine the politics of development among them. The overall purpose of my argument is therefore to tie the political responsibility of the state (and state leadership) to large-scale domestic and international transformation.