In our project on excessive policy volatility we also look at cases in which either nothing substantial gets really done in policy making or in which even ‘progressive’ change often has feet of clay. In a recent article, Michael Howlett and I illustrate this logic of disproportionality in policy making with the case of climate change policies. We see that risk averse governments still have two main ways of justifying inaction (or even negative, anti-reactions): either denying the problem or fatalistically accepting it. In this we follow the recent literature on disproportionate policy responses and also the older literature on blame avoidance and risk averse governments.
Send me an email, if you would like the ungated version.
Here is also our abstract:
We apply insights from the recent literature on disproportionate policy reactions to the case of climate change policy-making. We show when and why climate change exhibits features of a sustained under-reaction: Governments may react to concerns about climate change not through substantive change but by efforts to manage blame strategically. As long as they can avoid blame for potential negative policy outcomes policy-makers can act to deny problems, or implement only small-scale or symbolic reforms. While this pattern may change as climate change problems worsen and public recognition of the issue and what can be done about it alters, opportunities to manage blame will still exist. Governments will only revert to more substantive interventions when attempts to fatalistically frame the problem as unavoidable fail in the face of increased public visibility.