, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 291-311

Global climate change: defining the policy problem

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The U.S. appears to be misdefining the policy problem posed by the threat of global climate change, and is therefore not likely to find satisfactory policy solutions.

The dominant definitions of the policy problem - alleging certain scientific, economic, and political barriers to effective policy - circumscribe the search for policy solutions. But those ‘solutions’ meet neither practical criteria of rationality nor the test of practical experience. We seem to be trapped within problem definitions that reflect and reinforce the convergence of powerful interests with elements of the culture.

The problem may be a culture that fails to integrate science-based technologies for mastering nature with ethical or political constraints on their use. and therefore jeopardizes its own sustainability. If so, then reasoned action begins with political leadership that challenges selected elements of the dominant culture and directs attention to alternatives - thereby opening up the search for solutions.