Facing the Facts: An Epistemic Community and the Paris Agreemen

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he 2015 climate deal, the Paris Agreement, marks a potential turning point in the history of environmental governance. Previously, climate negotiations were subjected to deadlocks due to the prioritization of national interests, and institutional factors proved unable to overcome the collective action problem. Stressing fear and uncertainty, rational-choice based International Relations (IR) theories—realism and liberalism—fail to account for surprising U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. The epistemic community approach, with a social constructivist foundation, is employed to shed light on the influence of experts in the American decision to participate. In a single case study, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) influence on U.S. decision-making is researched. This thesis identifies key contextual factors, and variables that affect the degree to which an epistemic community is able to influence policymaking. Climate deal negotiations are taking place in a globalizing world, and in a field of study that is subjected to a great deal of scientific and political uncertainty. In this context, the scientization of politics and the politicization of science become ever more prominent. In turn, epistemic communities grow more important, and take center-stage by virtue of their expertise. It was shown here that the community’s reputation, its ability to present its knowledge as usable, and its capacity to identify access channels, determine the extent to which the community is able to influence policymaking on the international and domestic levels.
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