Climate Change: The Dynamics of Policy Reform

EPA Grant Number: U915944
Title: Climate Change: The Dynamics of Policy Reform
Investigators: Ebrahimian, Esther C.
Institution: Columbia University in the City of New York
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2001 through January 1, 2003
Project Amount: $59,500
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2001) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Environmental Justice , Fellowship - Environmental


As clearly illustrated by November 2000's Kyoto Protocol talks, climate change is a particularly challenging problem for which to create durable policy solutions. There are several reasons for this. First, there is uncertainty in the scientific understanding of climate change and its effects on natural systems and humanity. Second, the causes of climate change are separated from its effects, in time, scale, and geography. Third, there are strong inequalities among nations and communities in the availability of resources (monetary, human, natural, and technological) needed to prevent or adapt to climate change. Finally, the stakes involved are quite high, making action of some sort imperative. In short, because of the characteristics of the problem of climate change, cooperation between parties with widely differing interests is essential to achieving results. We have to find ways to structure climate change-related decision-making processes that provide flexibility to balance the interests at stake, while ensuring that our common interest in the health of the planet is protected. The objective of this research project is to focus on decision-making processes addressing climate change by examining factors in processes that may contribute to the long-term success of policy initiatives.


I will draw on recent microeconomic research that uses game-theoretic models to examine the differences in relative success of policy reform processes. Initial review of this literature suggests, for example, that the order in which reforms are proposed may affect the viability of a multistep reform process. Some researchers also have examined the effects of inequalities between parties at the outset of policy reform; others have examined the conditions under which cooperation is both possible and efficient. After gaining a thorough understanding of the current research on climate change, policy proposals, and relevant policy decision-making processes, I will use this theoretical framework to analyze several case studies of particular decision-making processes and their outcomes. Finally, there is much to be gained here from an interdisciplinary approach. In addition to the microeconomic lens, I will draw on frameworks in political science, sociology, and other disciplines for understanding what makes decision-making processes effective (i.e., leading to efficient, just, and durable policy solutions).

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, climate change, policy reform, policy initiatives, decision-making, game-theoretic models, policy solutions., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Air, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, decision-making, Atmosphere, Social Science, Economics & Decision Making, environmental monitoring, policy analysis, policy making, climatic influence, decision analysis, environmental decision making, decision making, global change, climate studies, environmental policy, ecosystem sustainability, behavior change, climate variability

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2001
  • Final