Governing Climate Change Policy: From Scientific Obscurity to Foreign Policy Prominence

  • Jacob Park


For many years, climate change was a technical issue that only concerned a small number of scientists and policymakers.1 At the 1988 Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere (arguably the first important policy-oriented global climate change forum), the prime ministers of Canada and Norway proposed a global “law of the air” and called for the 20 percent reduction in global emissions of carbon dioxide by the year 2005. Even at that late date, the United States dismissed the importance of this conference by sending only a mid-level government representative. While the United States did not think that the Toronto meeting warranted a higher diplomatic presence, the delegations of some countries were headed by their respective prime ministers or presidents. When the concluding resolution of the Toronto meeting called for a fundamental reassessment of global priorities and responsibilities, William Nitze, then the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Environment, Health, and Natural Resources, argued that it “would be premature at the current moment to contemplate an international agreement that sets targets for greenhouse gases.”2


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© Paul G. Harris 2000

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  • Jacob Park

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