Understanding Global Environmental Politics

Despite environmental conditions worsening, we have "treaty congestion."

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Fires and smoke in central Russia.
Hundreds of fires continued to burn in central Russia in early July, 2012, belching tremendous quantities of smoke across the region. Photo:NASA/GSFC/Jeff Schmaltz/MODIS Land Rapid Response Team
UConn professor of political science, Mark Boyer
Photo:Chion Wolf
Understanding Global Environmental Politics
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Understanding Global Environmental Politics

At the Rio Earth Summit that just concluded, more than 100 world leaders gathered to talk global sustainability and set goals for the environment. President Barack Obama was not among them. Neither was Angela Merkel of Germany or David Cameron of the UK. This may say something about the real importance of these gatherings.

The goal of Rio and other international environmental summits is to set new international goals, and target...protocols and treaties. But according to a report by the UN Environment Programme we already have "treaty congestion."

World leaders have signed onto some 500 internationally recognised agreements in the past 50 years. Meaning we make more international rules for the environment than we do for anything else - including human rights, trade, and war.

That same UN report says that the international community is making progress on only a small percentage of goals...and many countries willfully disregard the deals once they’ve signed on...so, what’s the point?

Today, we’ll hear from local experts on global environmental deals. And we want to hear from you: Are international treaties the best way to solve our overwhelming environmental problems? Can there ever really be global consensus between superpowers, developing economic giants and smaller countries looking to hold them accountable?