Is Support for International Climate Action Conditional on Perceptions of Reciprocity? Evidence from Three Population-Based Survey Experiments in Canada, the US, and Norway
15 Pages Posted: 25 Aug 2014
Date Written: 2014
The collective action problem hampering a globally coordinated international response to climate change is well known. In countries such as Canada, the US and Norway, political elites have frequently invoked the language of fairness as an excuse to limit domestic and international commitments, arguing that a fair international solution would also constrain large emitters like China. In this context, this paper asks whether citizen support for multilateral climate policies also depends on whether other countries are seen to reciprocate. We implemented three population-based survey experiments in the US, Canada, and Norway, asking subjects whether they think their country should commit to emission reductions at the climate talks in Warsaw, Poland in 2013. In each country, a randomly assigned portion of the sample was presented with a statement suggesting that another large, identified country -- typically China -- may choose not to cooperate. We find that support for signing a new international climate agreement is to varying degrees conditioned by participation from China. In Canada, mention of the chance that China may not sign the international treaty does not significantly alter public support for Canadian participation in an international climate treaty. In contrast, public support for international climate action is more conditional in Norway, where support for signing a new treaty declines significantly if China's participation is not assured. The US is in a middle position. This suggests that country size and dependence on fossil fuels may be more important than national traditions for multilateral cooperation in predicting support for unilateral climate action.
Keywords: climate change, public opinion, international negotiations, comparative politics
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