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Student Instructor

Global Climate Change Policy

Young activists gather outside the United Nations during a protest against climate change

Case Overview

A major international climate summit approaches, and all eyes are on the United States.

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The Situation

Developed or industrialized countries, including the United States, have been releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In recent decades, rapid economic growth in major developing countries such as China, India, and Brazil has led to significant increases in their own greenhouse gas emissions. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the federal government, have concluded that the warming observed in recent decades is a consequence of human activity. The effects of this global warming or climate change pose risks not only to the environment, but also to the security and livelihoods of people in the United States and around the world, both now and in the future. Various international responses are possible, but the questions of how to cut emissions and prepare for climate consequences, and who should bear the costs of doing so, have few simple answers. The U.S. government has convened a National Security Council (NSC) meeting to consider what goal to pursue at an upcoming international climate summit that the president plans to attend. NSC members will need to weigh the options, bearing in mind the potential impact of climate change, the potential effects of proposed measures to limit or prevent it, and the need to secure international support for the U.S. approach from both developed and developing countries.



  • International environmental policy
  • International economic policy
  • Multilateralism
  • International development



  • Intersection of economic and foreign policy concerns
  • Interests and responsibilities of developing and developed states
  • Uncertainty of threats and of policy effects
  • U.S. strategy at international summits, including top-down versus bottom-up approaches

See Also:

Pop-up Case: Tackling Climate Change After the Pandemic: Opportunity or Obstacle? 

As the United States emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic into a recession, policymakers need to consider another global crisis: climate change. How should the United States pursue environmental sustainability alongside economic recovery? 

Students will explore the dilemma of how to balance the need for a robust economy to support livelihoods on the one hand with the need to slow climate change and work toward an environmentally sustainable economy on the other. The context of the current recession allows students to consider this long-discussed trade-off in a new light.

Click here to view the pop-up case, published 05/05/2020

Wind turbines in front of a fiery red sunset

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