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Climate change: Explaining and solving the mismatch between scientific urgency and political inertia

Jonathan Boston (School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)
Frieder Lempp (School of Government, Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 25 October 2011

Abstract

Purpose

This paper has two main purposes. First, it considers the detrimental effects of four politically‐salient asymmetries on the policy choices of liberal democracies when dealing with the problem of human‐induced climate change. Second, it outlines and evaluates possible solutions for reducing or countering these asymmetries.

Design/methodology/approach

The approach involves an analysis and evaluation of policy options based on a survey of the relevant literature.

Findings

The paper highlights the serious mismatch between the magnitude and urgency of the climate change problem and the current political will to overcome or mitigate the problem. Although four categories of potential solutions, and the various mechanisms through which they might operate, are discussed, it is recognized that all the available options have significant drawbacks, not least limited political feasibility and doubtful effectiveness. In short, action within liberal democracies to mitigate climate change is likely to remain seriously constrained by the four asymmetries discussed, thus increasing the risk of dangerous climate change.

Originality/value

The paper highlights the complexities, both international and national, of confronting human‐induced climate change. In particular, it identifies four systemic reasons, in the form of politically‐salient asymmetries, why liberal democracies have struggled to take effective measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provides a systematic assessment of possible solutions to these asymmetries. These include changes to accounting frameworks to ensure that the impact of humanity on the environment and future generations is more transparent.

Keywords

Citation

Boston, J. and Lempp, F. (2011), "Climate change: Explaining and solving the mismatch between scientific urgency and political inertia", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 24 No. 8, pp. 1000-1021. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513571111184733

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited