For my interpretivist project, I am proposing to research the process of American policymaking because I want to find out how climate change is represented by American policymakers since the ratification of the UNFCCC in order to help my reader understand the effects of theoretical discussions and scholarship on policy making decisions. I will therefore be researching the discourse on climate change among legislators, executives, and key administrative figures within approximately the last 30 years, with a particular focus on the various ways climate change is framed and how this has shifted.
The first text which composes discourse is Robert Kaplan’s “The Coming Anarchy.” Although not written by a policymaker, this work was read by many of the prominent policymakers in the mid to late 1990s, including Bill Clinton, and had a profound effect on the climate change policy of the Clinton Administration. “The Coming Anarchy” represents the environment as “the national-security issue of the early twenty-first century” because climate change will lead to “surging populations, spreading disease, deforestation and soil erosion, water depletion, air pollution, and, possibly, rising sea levels in critical, overcrowded regions” that furthermore “will prompt mass migrations and, in turn, incite group conflicts.” This is the seminal text which represents climate change as a threat multiplier. Although Kaplan himself is an author, policymakers such as President Clinton, have adopted this representation as their primary understanding of climate change’s connection to policy. This text is therefore deeply connected to much of the discourses on climate change which permeate the late 1990s.
Another text within the discourse on climate change is President Obama’s “Farewell Address to the Nation.” This text also represents climate change as a threat multiplier, describing how future generations will “be busy dealing with its effects: more environmental disasters, more economic disruptions, waves of climate refugees seeking sanctuary.” This shows how the emanating effects of climate change will be what actually manifest as issues, as is central to the threat multiplier framing of climate change. This text is part of a long line which describe climate change as a threat multiplier and is therefore connected to the development of this representation. However, this text comes at a time when climate change denial has become more common, and the incoming president does not represent climate change in the same manner. This text is therefore in conversation with the broader discourse of policymakers around climate change, particularly due to its context as a farewell address.
 Toby Lester. “Beyond ‘The Coming Anarchy,’” The Atlantic, August 1996, <https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/96aug/proport/kapsid.htm> (Accessed: 9 November 2019).
 Robert Kaplan. “The Coming Anarchy,” The Atlantic, February 1994, <https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1994/02/the-coming-anarchy/304670/> (Accessed: 9 November 2019).
 Barack Obama. “Farewell Address to the Nation From Chicago, Illinois,” Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, 5.
 Donald J. Trump, “2017 Remarks Announcing United States Withdrawal From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement,” Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, 2.
Kaplan, Robert. “The Coming Anarchy,” The Atlantic, February 1994. <https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1994/02/the-coming-anarchy/304670/> (Accessed: 9 November 2019).
Lester, Toby. “Beyond ‘The Coming Anarchy,’” The Atlantic, August 1996. <https://www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/issues/96aug/proport/kapsid.htm> (Accessed: 9 November 2019).
Obama, Barack. “Farewell Address to the Nation From Chicago, Illinois,” Daily Compilation of PResidential Documents, 1-9.
For my small N research project, I will seek to answer the following question: what explains the different American government responses to the UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, and Paris Agreement? In this case, the dependent variable for my research will be the response of the US government, labeled as success, failure, or mixed success. I will not be examining the success of failure of the agreements’ content being followed, but rather purely the success or failure of these agreements in policy making spheres.
The first set of data I have used to determine the value of my DV across these cases is statements made by the administration on the ratification or signing of the various agreements. I have determined the UNFCCC to be a success because it was ratified by the Senate in October of 1992, under the H.W. Bush Administration. The Kyoto Protocol, on the other hand, was never ratified by the United States and was rejected under the Bush Administration, making it a failure. The Paris Agreement was adopted via executive order during the Obama Administration. However, President Trump later withdrew from the agreement during his administration, and so I will determine the Paris Agreement to be a mixed success.
Although this initial classification is based solely on ratification and signage, I intend to complexify my understanding of success and failure with additional sources. I will continue to refine the operationalization of my dependent variable by examining additional sources that have analyzed the adoption of these international climate change treaties. This would include statements by environmentalism organizations and business interests, analyses found in news sources, and discussions of these agreements in other government areas, such as the legislative branch. These sources will allow me to further evaluate the success or failure of these agreements in terms of the extent to which the premise of the agreement was convincing to US policymakers. This is a more nuanced way of defining success or failure, though the end classification of my three cases will likely not change with this additional information, as it likely contributes to the result of ratification rather than contradicting it.
 George H. W. Bush, “Statement on Signing the Instrument of Ratification for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – October 13, 1992,” Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 1992 (1992), 1818.
 George W Bush, “Goteborg Statement: Summit of the United States of America and the European Union – June 14, 2001,” Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 2001 (2001), 668.
 Barack Obama, “2016 Remarks on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (2016), 1.
 Donald J. Trump, “2017 Remarks Announcing United States Withdrawal From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement,” Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1.
Bush, George H. W. “Statement on Signing the Instrument of Ratification for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – October 13, 1992,” Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 1992 (1992), 1818.
Bush, George W. “Goteborg Statement: Summit of the United States of America and the European Union – June 14, 2001,” Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States 2001 (2001), 664-668.
Obama, Barack. “2016 Remarks on the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (2016), 1-2.
Trump, Donald J. “2017 Remarks Announcing United States Withdrawal From the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Paris Agreement,” Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, 1-7.
I am proposing to research conceptualizations of military environmental policy because I want to find out why certain environmental concerns are addressed by the Department of Defense’s internal policies and others are not prioritized, in order to help my reader understand how best to envision the role of the military in both environmental degradation and protection.
This topic area demands exploration primarily because of the increasing threat of climate change to our way of life. As supported by the 2018 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, immediate and sweeping action is required in order to limit global warming to 1.5 °C and prevent resulting climate changes which could threaten life on earth. Building a workable understanding of the research puzzle described above is important to identifying if the military is a viable actor in environmental policy and therefore can be looked at to help solve the environmental crisis we are now facing. Furthermore, it is important to look at the military as an actor because of the interconnected nature of the environment and military. The Department of Defense (DoD) is the nation’s largest energy consumer but also has access to extensive resources which could allow it to pursue environmental protection. It has stated the importance of certain environmental issues, yet fails to set goals to address the very same issues. Exploring the DoD’s relationship with environmental policy, therefore, allows us to not only understand the role of the military in general but also better understand one of the world’s largest polluters, leading to direct policy implications.
There is a heated and long-standing debate in the scholarly community over how best to categorize environmental issues and if they should be considered national security threats. Beginning after the end of the Cold War, scholars such as Jessica Matthews called for broadening conceptions of national security to include threats to the citizenry, rather than just the nation state, thereby making environmental issues an important national security concern. Others disagreed. Some, such as Daniel Deudney, argued that environmental degradation itself did not lead to interstate conflict and therefore was not directly linked to national security. Furthermore, he claimed that linking these two concepts was counterproductive to the goals of preventing environmental degradation, as national security concerns are commonly addressed in ways that would be counterproductive to the goals of environmentalism, which are better addressed by global, multilateral efforts. Marc Levy agreed that linkage of national security and environmental issues was unproductive, although he did recognize climate change as a threat to security. Predominant military scholar Kent Butts fundamentally disagreed with this argument and instead posited that the DoD has a unique ability to address the failures of global efforts due to its extensive budget, “logistical, technical, and industrial resources.”
It is predominantly the second part of this debate which remains active and contentious among scholars: is thinking of environmental issues, specifically when related to climate change, as national security issues productive in addressing them? Furthermore, is involving military actors an effective method to address environmental concerns? The importance of this question is highlighted by the contradictions in the DoD’s stated goals and actual outcomes. DoD’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap established goals to “integrate climate change considerations” into “existing management processes.” The report built on the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review that established climate change as a threat to national security. Many of these concerns are echoed in the department’s 2018 Sustainability Report and Implementation Plan, although on a more topic specific basis. The 2018 report identifies key areas where military operations intersect with environmental issues and lays out goals for future performance in these areas. Despite recognizing the importance of all of the areas listed, DoD only sets goals to improve performance in two of them, directly demonstrating the contradiction I hope to explain.
Currently, the scholarly debate continues over how best to imagine the military’s role in environmental policy. Some scholars, such as Sarah Light, argue that the immense crossover between the two areas amount to a “military-environmental complex” that should be viewed as an “exceptional opportunity” for policymaking and innovation. Much of the work is focused on specific areas of intersection between the environment and military, often aligning with the areas addressed by the DoD itself.
I hope I can contribute to this scholarly debate by exploring conceptualizations of military environmental policy. I hope this work will allow me to further define the possibilities for the role of the military in addressing environmental issues. Some preliminary research questions to further explore this puzzle follow:
- General: Why are certain environmental concerns addressed by the Department of Defense’s internal policies and others are not prioritized?
- Case specific: What explains the military’s lack of consideration for environmentalism and resulting high level of pollution at the US Navy site in Vieques, Puerto Rico?
 Sarah E Light, “The Military-Environment Complex,” Boston College Law Review 55 (2014), 881.
 “2018 Sustainability Report and Implementation Plan,” Department of Defense. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2018), 5.
 Jessica Tuchman Mathews, “Redefining Security,” Foreign Affairs 68, no. 2 (1989), 173
 Daniel Deudney, “The Case Against Linking Environmental Degradation and National Security.” Millennium, 19 no.3 (1990), 275.
 Ibid 278.
 Marc A. Levy, “Is the Environment a National Security Issue?,” International Security 20, no. 2 (1995), 51.
 Kent Butts, “National Security, the Environment and DOD,” National Security (n.d.), 25.
 “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” Department of Defense. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, June 2014), 9.
 Ibid, 2.
 “2018 Sustainability Report and Implementation Plan,” 1.
 Ibid, 5.
 Light, 881.
“2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.” Department of Defense. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, June 2014).
“2018 Sustainability Report and Implementation Plan.” Department of Defense. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 2018).
Butts, Kent. “National Security, the Environment and DOD.” National Security (n.d.), 22-27.
Deudney, Daniel. “The Case Against Linking Environmental Degradation and National Security.” Millennium, 19 no.3 (1990), 273-283.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Global Warming of 1.5°C, 2018. Accessed September 29, 2019. http://www.ipcc.ch/report/sr15/.
Levy, Marc A. “Is the Environment a National Security Issue?” International Security 20, no. 2 (1995), 35–62.
Light, Sarah E. “The Military-Environment Complex,” Boston College Law Review 55 (2014), 879-946.
Mathews, Jessica Tuchman. “Redefining Security.” Foreign Affairs 68, no. 2 (1989), 162–177.
Deudney’s article, published in 1990, is one of the establishing pieces of literature on the environment and security debate. He argues that environmental degradation should not be considered a national security threat and that classifying as such is not the most productive way to ensure environmental protection occurs. Light, on the other hand, argues in her 2014 article that the environment and military have a deeply complicated relationship that tie the two together intrinsically in a manner similar to the military-industrial complex described by President Eisenhower. She describes that because the US military is the largest consumer of energy in the nation and has control over 28 million acres of land in the United States it has a unique ability to influence environmental innovation, which is in their security interest. These main claims obviously contradict and I believe they demonstrate an evolution in theory on how scholars think about the relationship between the environment and security as environmental degradation and climate change have become more extreme.
Both Deudney and Light reanalyze logic used by previous scholars to understand the historical and modern cases. Deudney focuses on cases of environmental degradation whereas Light focuses mostly on cases of military intervention based on environmental issues. Light also analyzes and compares environmental regulation on the military in comparison to the private sector and statistics regarding the military’s effect on the environment. Overall, both employ a neopositivist perspective as they are working to create a general understanding of the role of the military in environmental matters and the most beneficial way to respond to environmental issues.
My research will focus on the issues directly brought up by Light — that the military is a major energy user but also actively works to build more sustainable practices. These pieces are good evaluative tools for why this contradiction exists. Deudeney’s research suggests this contradiction exists because a nation’s military is not a good actor for fixing environmental issues and Light’s suggests that the military is actively working to end this contradiction. I hope to take this discussion further and understand how the military conceptualizes their own role in environmental matters.
 Daniel Deudney, “The Case Against Linking Environmental Degradation and National Security,” Millennium, 19 no.3 (1990), 273.
 Sarah E Light, “The Military-Environment Complex,” Boston College Law Review, 55 (2014), 881, 892.
 Deudney, 278.
 Light, 909.
Deudney, Daniel. “The Case Against Linking Environmental Degradation and National Security.” Millennium, 19 no.3 (1990), 273-283.
Light, Sarah E. “The Military-Environment Complex.” Boston College Law Review, 55 (2014), 879-946.
Ontology is one’s conceptualization of the general state of the world and knowledge that can be found in it.1 While it is used in research, it is more of a worldview or a belief system than a research tool. It forms the basis of a person’s understanding about the world and therefore determines what kind of information that person might seek in research. As a general rule, people’s ontological conceptualizations do not change depending on the research project or topic. Methodology, on the other hand, is a set of specific research tools one chooses for a specific research goal. It cannot be separated from research but is rather a description of the means one is using in researching to a certain end. Because methodology is chosen for specific research project, a researcher will often employ various different methodologies depending on the nature of their current project.2
Personally, I would consider myself an objectivist. I believe it is possible to be an objective researcher of the social world.3 Just like the natural world, I believe there are rules about behavior which can be uncovered to explain phenomena of the social world. Research generates knowledge that helps us understand all elements of the social world, from what we can see to what we can feel to the norms and patterns that govern our daily lives.
That is not to say I don’t believe researchers have biases which can affect findings or that in certain cases a researcher can change how interactions unfold. A researcher can change the surroundings they are researching. But the very fact that that is accepted as a common occurrence means it is at least approaching a rule about the social world. And at a more fundamental level, I believe it is possible to work past individual biases to find common patterns and general rules, particularly when research builds on work done by others.4
Since I believe rules can be found, it is logical that I follow a neo-positivist epistemology and believe that the goal of research should be to find these rules and use them to predict future behavior.5 In the vast majority of cases, I take a pragmatic view and think research is most useful when it can be used for purposes beyond just further research.6 Predictive research is most likely to be used in public policy or published in newspapers because it offers a guide, rather than just observations. I believe this appeal to actors outside of researchers makes this kind of knowledge particularly useful and important.
- Aaron Boesenecker, “Philosophy of Science,” Video, 15:47, Posted by Aarron Boesenecker.
- Andrew Abbott. Methods of Discover: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2004), 27.
- Abbott, 43.
- Ibid, 9.
Abbott, Andrew. Methods of Discover: Heuristics for the Social Sciences. New York: W.W. Norton, 2004.
Boesenecker, Aaron. “Philosophy of Science.” Video, 15:47. Posted by Aarron Boesenecker.
The focus of my research as an Olson Scholar will be the intersection of environmental policy and security. In policymaking security often takes precedence over other issues, including the environment. However, with the increasing urgency of the climate crisis, there needs to be a new calculus that includes more emphasis on the long term environmental impact of military action in order to ensure efforts to promote security actually achieve this goal in the long run.
Of course this is more easily said than done. One of the main issues within the intersection of the environment and security is that it is a circular debate. It is possible to explain the link between the two as I have above, where security motivated actions such as military deployments have environmental effects which are of concern in their own right. But the reverse may also be true. Some scholars argue that environmental degradation itself presents security issues. And the presentation of such issues as security threats may elevate them to a higher level of concern for decision-making bodies, meaning this method of explanation is more effective at both mitigating environmental degradation and peacebuilding.
Some scholars, such as Marc Levy, argue that in the majority of cases environmental degradation itself does not create security challenges, but rather creates other issues, such as mass migration, that present security challenges. For the purposes of the above explanation, however, I find it more productive to combine these steps and examine environmental degradation as the root cause. Additionally, Levy recognizes that certain environmental issues are security concerns for the United States, such as climate change itself. Considering his article was published in 1995, it is interesting to consider how the relevance and impact of his argument has changed as the climate crisis has grown in the last 25 years.
As I continue to narrow my research, I am interested in several arenas. First, I find the rhetoric between the two directions of the circular debate outlined above intriguing. Which is the more effective way to promote responsible policies that mitigate climate change and environmental damage while still effectively promoting peace and security? How has the progression of environmental research and climate change affected which method is more productive? Second, what exactly are the possibilities for change? Is it feasible for military de-escalation to be promoted as environmental policy and would this be effective enough to be worthy of pursuing? Lastly, how can we imagine peacebuilding, or the avoidance of conflict, as environmental policy? What are the possibilities for pursuing environmental protection through this avenue? Throughout the next few weeks I hope to narrow my focus between these questions, setting aside the others to keep in mind as I pursue my line of research and perhaps return to them in the future.
 Mosher, David E. et al. The Army’s Green Warriors: Environmental Considerations in Contingency Operations. (Santa Monica: RAND Corporation, 2008), accessed August 30, 2019, https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9335.html.
 Marc A. Levy. “Is the Environment a National Security Issue?,” International Security 20, no. 2 (Fall 1995), 43.
 Ibid, 51.
Mosher, David E. et al. The Army’s Green Warriors: Environmental Considerations in Contingency Operations. Santa Monica, RAND Corporation, 2008. Accessed August 30, 2019. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_briefs/RB9335.html.
Levy, Marc A.. “Is the Environment a National Security Issue?,” International Security 20, no. 2 (Fall 1995), 35-63.