Climate change policy and the U.S. Congress: A twenty-year review

Tuesday, 17 June 2014
146B-C (Washington Convention Center)
Megan F Gambs1, Pamela M Barrett1 and Nives Dolsak2, (1)University of Washington, School of Oceanography, Seattle, WA, United States, (2)University of Washington, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Seattle, United States
In recent decades, increasing evidence has suggested that our changing climate will have significant ecological, economic, and societal impacts, both nationally and globally. This study investigates the manner with which the U.S. Congress has responded to emerging issues of climate change by exploring all climate change legislation proposed over the past two decades. Using the Library of Congress THOMAS, we analyze bills introduced between the 103rd and 112th Congress (1993 to 2012) and compile a database of bills that substantively address climate change (n=565). These bills were coded for home state and party affiliation of the primary sponsor, and by policy topic (e.g. foreign affairs, energy, human health, greenhouse gas mitigation, research and education). In addition, we categorize each bill as to whether or not the bill proposes actions that increases the capacity to study, adapt, mitigate, or regulate aspects of, or relating to, climate change, or its implications. These bills are codeded as progressive, while bills which do not meet these criteria are deemed non-progressive as they either ignore or actively thwart the actions coded as progressive. Using our database, the following questions are addressed: What types of climate change legislation are being introduced in Congress? How is proposed legislation changing over time and why? Which actors or subgroups within Congress are introducing climate change legislation and how have this changed over the study period? Over the last 20 years, which climate change legislation has been successful and what drove its success compared to bills that failed to pass? What types of external events appear to drive the timing, content, and success rate of climate change legislation introduced by members of Congress? Understanding the manner in which legislation passes or does not pass and the impact of externalalities on legislative success may prove beneficial to the adoption of future climate change legislation.