Research Portfolio Post #5: Research Puzzle Proposal

I am studying global climate initiatives because I want to find out what explains the variation in implementation of these initiatives in order to help my reader understand whether or not international action to combat climate change is effective and how solutions can be crafted to create equality in burden sharing and make significant environmental progress. With the rising threat of climate change comes a need for research on what can be done to make a change, which can hopefully be achieved through global, transnational cooperation. Through an analysis of international climate policies, looking at why some fail in their implementation, one can determine what can lead to more effective policies and hopefully positive environmental change. In my research, I have found discrepancies in how countries do their part to combat climate change after signing international environmental initiatives, and I would like to find out what countries follow through more than others and why, what these countries have in common, and what factors might be able to be used to predict a countries likelihood to implement these agreements.[1]

In the United Nations Paris Agreement from 2015, it reads “developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets.”[2] But, upon further research, I found that many developed countries’ voluntary pledges are not significant enough to hold off a 2 degree Celsius temperature rise, which is the goal of the Paris Agreement.[3] Even though the Paris Agreement has not seen significant success thus far, the Kyoto Protocol on the other hand, has been found to be successful in the reducing of certain greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide and methane, even without the participation of countries considered to be significant emitters, like the United States.[4] This points to the puzzle of why certain countries chose to participate in some climate agreements but not others, and why some are more effective than others.

As for scholarship on this topic, because some climate initiatives are more recent, there is not much discussion on the actual results of these policies, like the Paris Agreement which has yet to have its session to check on the status of its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).[5] Some scholars debate the effectiveness of certain mechanisms that exist in international environmental policy, such as Edwin Woerdman who argues that the joint implementation and the clean development mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol are more likely to result in success than emissions trading mechanisms.[6] Some scholars have published secondary source articles that connect data sets to international climate policy to look at the effectiveness of said policy, like Hiroki Iwata and Keisuke Okada in their article “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Role of the Kyoto Protocol”. This article shows the effects of the Kyoto Protocol from its adoption in 1997 through its initial commitment period ending in 2012 by comparing the emissions of various greenhouse gases. This basis of knowledge provides a basic understanding of the initial outcomes of the Kyoto Protocol, allowing me to see its successes and shortcomings.

On a smaller scale, as discussed by Jon Skjærseth in his article entitled, “Linking EU Climate and Energy Policies,” in 2008 the European Union adopted a climate and energy policy package with unanimous support of all member states, but by 2014, many of the Eastern European countries were questioning the initiative.[7] Some contribute this change in stance to the linkage of both climate and energy into one agreement, while others contribute it to economic struggles in Eastern Europe.[8] There are contradictions to each of these assumptions, for example, Poland became weary of the agreement, but still supported the energy policies and experienced economic growth at the time.[9] This points to a deeper puzzle, looking at why exactly implementation and viewpoints of these environmental policies varied. Skjærseth’s article establishes a good base for understanding the structure of transnational climate policy and how it is formulated, and also points to reasons as to why climate policy fails which can be used to analyze international environmental policy.

Through analysis of primary sources like the UN Paris Agreement and data sets like the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Air and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions data, one can compare the conditions of the agreement and the data that describes what changes have actually been implemented and reach conclusions as to the effectiveness of that policy. In my research, I plan to further analyze many primary sources, such as the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, and the UNFCCC framework in order to gain a deeper understanding of international climate policy and the similarities and differences between existing policies.

  • What explains the varied implementation of global climate initiatives?
  • Why do primarily Islamic countries’ emissions continue to rise significantly even after signing and adopting global climate initiatives?[10]

[1] Wolfgang Obergassel et al., “Paris Agreement: Ship Moves Out of the Drydock,” Carbon & Climate Law Review 13, no. 1 (January 2019): 3, https://doi.org/10.21552/cclr/2019/1/4.

[2] “Paris Agreement,” United Nations, General Assembly. (Paris, France: October 2016), 4.

[3] Ibid, 3. See also OECD. “Air and GHG Emissions Indicator,” OECD Data, (Accessed: 29 September 2019).

[4] Hiroki Iwata and Keisuke Okada, “Greenhouse Gas Emissions and the Role of the Kyoto Protocol,” Environmental Economics & Policy Studies 16, no. 4 (October 2014): 338, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10018-012-0047-1. See also “Kyoto Protocol,” United Nations, General Assembly. (Kyoto, Japan: 1997), 3.

[5] Wolfang Obergassel et al., “Paris Agreement: Ship Moves Out of the Drydock,” 3.

[6] Edwin Woerdman, “Implementing the Kyoto Protocol: Why JI and CDM Show More Promise than International Emissions Trading,” Energy Policy 28, no. 1 (January 2000): 29–38, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0301-4215(99)00094-4.

[7] Jon Skjærseth, “Linking EU Climate and Energy Policies: Policy-Making, Implementation and Reform,” International Environmental Agreements : Politics, Law and Economics 16, no. 4 (2016): 510, https://doi.org/10.1007/s10784-014-9262-5.

[8] Skjærseth, “Linking EU Climate and Energy Policies”, 511.

[9] Ibid, 510.

[10] OECD. “Air and GHG Emissions Indicator”.

Research Portfolio Post #4: Article Comparison

The first article I analyzed was Epistemological and Moral Conflict Between Religion and Science by John H. Evans. Evans lays out three hypotheses of  connection between a rise of religiosity within members of different sects of Christianity with a disbelief in science, and gives epistemological reasoning behind reasons as to why this correlation could exist.[1] He used statistical data and models like a logistic regression, chi square, and negative binomial models to present his findings that mostly supported his hypotheses, all organized in a chart at the end.[2]

The second article I analyzed was Religion, Paranormal Beliefs, and Distrust in Science: Comparing East Versus West by Magali Clobert and Vassilis Saroglou. This piece hypothesizes that any correlation between religiosity and trust in science, as analyzed by previous literature is culturally dependent.[3] The findings of Clobert and Saroglou proved that the connection between religiosity and trust in science is regionally/culturally contingent, and all the data that only addressed it in the west is not necessarily applicable to the rest of the world.[4]

As seen in the very defined section headings with clearly laid out hypotheses, variables, and data sets, Evans has a neo-positivist perspective.[5] He focuses on measurability, but still took into account demographics in a controlled way. While the claims made by Clobert are seemingly interpretivist, this was a good example of contextuality represented in neo-positivist case study research as the research itself was very statistics based and laid out hypotheses and variables, even if not as clearly defined in the Evans article. The focus of the latter article was less on whether there was a connection between a rise a religiosity and a rise in distrust of science, as the authors felt that was already proved in existing literature, but more so that data needs to be analyzed from a regional point of view instead of assuming that western evidence on Christianity prevails.[6] The data used in both was survey-based the analysis of both data sets was very similar in the common usage of various statistical methods.

The Clobert and Saroglou article and Evans article had similar findings proving a positive correlation between religiosity and distrust in science, but the difference came in the applicability of each. Evans focused on western Christianity, but Clobert spread this research to East and applied it to Buddhism as well, proving an inverse correlation than that of Evans. This evidence is very applicable to my research as it provides insight to my broader topic, allowing me to narrow in on a more specific regional focus of the Middle East and Islam, and from there allows me to apply these findings to government policy relating to scientific findings in very religious countries.

[1] Evans, John H. “Epistemological and Moral Conflict Between Religion and Science.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 50, no. 4 (December 2011): 711-713.

[2] Ibid, 717.

[3] Magali Clobert and Vassilis Saroglou. “Religion, Paranormal Beliefs, and Distrust in Science: Comparing East Versus West.” Archiv Für Religionspsychologie / Archive for the Psychology of Religion 37, no. 2 (2015): 185-99. http://www.jstor.org.proxyau.wrlc.org/stable/43973394.

[4] Ibid, 186.

[5] Evans, “Epistemological and Moral Conflict Between Religion and Science”.

[6] Clobert and Saroglou, “Religion, Paranormal Beliefs, and Distrust in Science”, 186.

Research Portfolio Post #3: Philosophical Wagers

I see ontology and methodology as very connected terms. Ontology, to me, is the study of being, looking at what exists in the world, and what it means that something exists, or as Jonathan Grix would define it, “what is out there to know?”[1] It can be difficult to grasp this concept when just looking at a definition, but I find it easier to understand in application. For example, objectivists see the world as stable and unaffected by us, its actors.[2] On the other hand, constructivists believe we are a part of the world and indivisible from it. Complex ideas like war, poverty, peace, and more are real but only exist concurrently with us.[3] Methodology is how a researcher goes about researching an aspect of ontology. I think of methodology as a researcher’s ‘plan of attack’ on a given research topic. It lays out how the researcher will approach a topic and work to study it.

 

I believe, as a result of upbringing, experiences, and other influences, that humans inherently have certain biases, whether they be implicit or explicit. Because of this, I do not think that any researcher is truly an objective observer. Every piece of knowledge that a researcher gains from their work, I believe, is influenced by their biases, but that knowledge can also create new biases in that person. As for implications of these beliefs, I feel as though biases are less likely to influence research when looking at information through a neopositivist point a view because there is not a focus on situated knowledge, but more so on measurability.[4] With my current research topic, looking at the intersection of scientific evidence and religiosity, most of my work will be dealing with invisible structures and underlying beliefs. I will have to investigate deep-rooted distrust in science due to religious beliefs and how that influences environmental policy made in very religious countries. While measurability is not the easiest with these areas of study, I still feel a neopositivist approach will be the most effective in looking at what certain religions and governments have done to combat climate change. My topic is slightly challenging to confront as I have to look at things from a slightly more interpretivist point of view when looking at how exactly different religious leadership feels about environmental science and try to not let any underlying biases I may have on certain religious beliefs, and then from a more neopositivist point of view when studying the statistics and science of the overall effect these religions have had on repairing the environment.

 

[1] Jonathan Grix, “Introducing Students to the Generic Terminology of Social Research,” Politics 22, no. 3 (2002): 180.

[2] Aaron Boesenecker. The Philosophy of Science: Discovering Our Intellectual Commitments, PPT Presentation, SISU-206 Research, 2019.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Andrew Abbott. Methods of Discover: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004): 43.

 

Research Portfolio Post #2: Mentor Meeting

My mentor, Professor Patrick Jackson and I met on August 29th during his office hours from around 12:45 to 1:05. We could not meet for long, as multiple students of his were waiting to be seen. The meeting began and I stated my initial research topic. We began discussing how I became interested in my topic, and my past research on similar topics. Then, we related Professor Jackson’s experience and areas of interest to mine, discussing what insight he could contribute. From what I understood, he specializes in international relations theory, which explains his past position of Olson Scholars director, and belongs to the interpretivist school of thought. I then asked what he thought would be a good starting point for my research, besides the preliminary readings I had done over the summer. Professor Jackson recommended a book to me entitled “Scientific Cosmology and International Orders” by Bentley Allen, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University who happens to be a friend of his. This book touches upon how scientific research plays into international politics and discourse, which I can relate back to the climate change aspect of my topic. I hope to use the information in this book to analyze international conferences and look at what shapes international environmental efforts, like the Paris Climate Agreement and the UNFCCC.

Professor Jackson then asked me what considered to be a theocracy, to which I had difficulty giving a clear-cut definition. I realized that many of the sources I read had fairly different guidelines for what could be considered theocracy, so one of the first steps in my research is deciding what how exactly I would define a theocracy. I am still unsure of how exactly I want to pursue my topic, whether it be through discourse analysis or a statistical analysis of actions by theocratic governments to reduce climate change. My next meeting with Professor Jackson is this Thursday, September 12th. By this meeting, I hope to have come up with what guidelines I consider necessary for a country to be considered a theocracy, and have almost completed the book that was recommended to me.

Research Portfolio Post #1: Research Interests

My preliminary research interest is how Islamic theocracies act upon environmental issues as compared to other secular forms of government. With the world’s impending doom due to climate change being one of the main topics of discussion on almost every social media outlet, it is clear that it is an issue that is coming to the forefront of international politics. In countries like the United States one can see that with the rise of nationalism comes the rise of religiously driven fights on social issues. With this change in dialogue, the intersection of religion and science becomes very prevalent, in that an increase in religiosity and distrust in science seem to go hand in hand.[1] In 2015 when Pope Francis issued his unforeseen encyclical letter on climate change, I began to become interested in this topic. Since then, I have read calls to action from other religions, such as Buddhism and Islam which have furthered my interest, wondering what has actually been accomplished by religious officials on climate change.

 

The first thing that I must work through is how exactly theocracy is defined. To what extent must the government be connected to religion for it to be considered a theocracy? I must do research in order to decide if religious wording in official government documents is enough to categorize a country as a theocracy, or if it must go further to where the leader believes that they have divine right. If the former is the case, then one could argue that the United States is a theocracy, with its usage of phrases such as “God Bless America” and “one nation under God”. Most sources that I have read have different stipulations of what it takes for a country to be considered a theocracy, ranging from very loose qualifications such as religious language to very strong qualifications. Therefore, I must find or construct a clear-cut definition as to what characterizes a theocracy in order to compile a list of countries to study.

 

My mentor, Professor Patrick Jackson recommended a book to me entitled, “Scientific Cosmology and International Orders” by Bentley Allan that I have begun reading that details how scientific research is dealt with in the policy and governmental sphere. I believe this book will give me a good starting point on my topic from the environmental side.

 

Further study could include looking into efforts by religious leaders in influencing governmental policy on climate change and the discourse on it, or if abroad, interviewing religious officials in theocratic countries on their opinions on climate change and action they believe should be taken to combat it.

[1] Clobert, Magali, and Saroglou, Vassilis. “Religion, Paranormal Beliefs, and Distrust in Science: Comparing East Versus West.” Archive for the Psychology of Religion 37, no. 2 (June 9, 2015): 185-199.