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Global Climate Change Policy

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smoke stacks emitting greenhouse gases

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. Major U.S. and international scientific organizations have concluded that such human activity is responsible for much of the warming observed in recent decades. 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, now and in the future. Various international responses are possible, but the questions of whether, how, and how fast to cut emissions; who should bear the costs of doing so; and how to compensate those harmed by both climate change and policy responses 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

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