“Who Securitizes? Climate Change Discourse in the United Nations”
Invited to Revise and Resubmit at International Studies Quarterly
When and why do states reframe issues as security problems? Which states advocate for these shifts? While securitization theory predicts that states that are existentially threatened by a problem are most likely to attempt to securitize it, I argue that accounting for the dynamics of institutional agendas can better explain this phenomenon. States that stand to gain agenda control as a result of securitization are likely to use the language of existential threat in their speech, while those that are materially interested in the issue are less likely to do so. I test this theory in the case of the climate change in the UN, leveraging data on speeches in the General Assembly. I provide the first quantitative test of the securitization of climate politics, finding that P5 states securitize to expand their agenda control, while Small Island Developing States do not securitize, contra previous expectations. I further find that the overall climate discourse cannot be characterized as securitized. These findings imply that the Security Council is unlikely to be significantly involved in climate change policy, and also demonstrate the importance of rhetoric for political outcomes and for the distribution of state power within international organizations.
“The Political Consequences of Drafting Strategies in International Organizations” (with Robert Shaffer)
How and why do delegates adopt distinct drafting strategies in international organizations (IOs)? Do delegates in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) address issues on an ad hoc basis or establish a precise and durable body of law? How do the adoption of different drafting strategies affect political outcomes, such as resolution sponsorship and voting patterns? To address these questions, we examine two drafting strategies — citation and recycling — and consider the tradeoffs that state representatives make in employing such tools. We contend that these tradeoffs explain variation in policy outputs across different institutional and topical contexts. We then describe a machine learning approach designed to measure citation and recycling, which we apply to a novel dataset of all UN resolutions passed from 1946-2018. We find that distinct bodies of law and legal norms have developed in the UNGA and UNSC, and that these practices are related to resolution sponsorship and voting outcomes. We further find that resolutions on more controversial topics — particularly security matters — exhibit higher citation rates. Our research sheds light on both the agenda-setting process in the United Nations and the development of formal norms and rules in international organizations.
Forming Preferences on International Cooperation: Uncertainty and Executive-Congressional Control in the US Senate Debate on the League of Nations (with Julia Gray)
How do state preferences emerge in the incipient moments of international cooperation, and what lessons do such moments offer for the fate of international organizations (IOs) today? Opening the `black box’ of preferences over international cooperation requires theories of how individual legislators as well as parties adopt positions on IOs, particularly in terms of their electoral and institutional incentives. The founding moments of IOs are a particularly fertile ground to examine how preferences form over IOs, as partisan preferences have yet to crystallize. But because legislative debate is usually circumvented in treaty design, we have few opportunities to explore the formation of those preferences. The 1918 US Senate debate on the League of Nations provides an opportunity to examine this moment of preference formation, and it is particularly puzzling because, at the time that the Treaty of Versailles reached the Senate, an estimated 80\% of voters — along with interest groups, civic groups, and elites across party lines — supported the treaty, yet the Senate nonetheless voted it down. We argue that legislators responded to the uncertainties around international cooperation by attempting to wrest control over the IO. The long-acknowledged tensions between the executive and the legislature can be leveraged as a partisan strategy, overwhelming even pressure from elites, constituents, and civil society. We use a text-as-data approach to estimate the dominance of topics that reflect Congressional incentives compared with topics that reflect constituent pressures or personal ideology, particularly for senators for whom the League was low salience (as proxied by the timing of their speeches). To account for shifts in executive leadership, we leverage two different instances of Wilson unexpectedly being struck by Spanish flu (April) and a stroke (September) as shocks to the influence of the executive. Our findings suggest that even when the deck is stacked in favor international cooperation — with elite, interest-group, and constituent support — Congressional politics still hold considerable power to derail these agreements.
National Security and Climate Change Attitudes (with Michael Weisberg)
Previous studies have tested different means of communicating information on climate change to shift attitudes, including framing the issue in moral or economic terms, as well as credibility effects of scientific sources. These strategies have generally been ineffective at moving attitudes on climate change, and in some instances have even resulted in decreasing support.
Noting the key demographic groups to target with climate communication, this project proposes a novel test of framing and source effects. We hypothesize (1) that discussing climate change as a national security issue is likely to increase public support for climate change policies through framing effects; (2) that information on climate change delivered by national security establishment leaders is likely to increase public support for climate change policies through source effects; and (3) that these effects are likely to be most pronounced among conservative and Republican demographics.
Think Globally, Act Locally: The Determinants of Local Policymakers’ Support for Climate Policy (with Joshua A. Schwartz)
Given that federal efforts to significantly combat climate change have largely stalled or been reversed in recent years, and international climate initiatives are increasingly open to participation by non-state and sub-state actors, local environmental policies and international initiatives aimed at local governments have taken on increased importance. What drives local policymakers to participate in such initiatives, and how can these initiatives be designed to maximize participation and equity? Understanding the unique decision-making processes that local policymakers face in deciding to support or oppose different types of climate policies is crucial for the future of addressing climate change, and, in particular, has critical implications for what policies climate change activists should champion at the local level. Although many academic and policy studies have analyzed the American and global public’s views on climate change policy, there has been little focus on the views of local policymakers. In order to address this important gap in knowledge, we conduct a conjoint survey on a unique sample of local policymakers in order to evaluate why they decide to support or oppose different types of climate policies.