Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (COMPON):
An international and cross-national research project
PI: Jeffrey Broadbent, Dept of Sociology, University of Minnesota
Global climate change threatens all nations of the world with immediate and increasing risk of significant adverse environmental consequences, according to dominant scientific assessments. Minimizing these consequences requires rapidly reducing the cause of climate change: the increasing concentration of greenhouse gasses in the global atmosphere. Science has identified the mechanisms of the problem, and proponents argue that we have the technical and economic capacity to radically reduce these concentrations over the coming decades. However, human societies, as collectivities, currently lack the political will to take these audacious measures. The needed socio-economic reorganization for the sake of such an unprecedented global goal arouses strong social resistance from many quarters – especially from the many sectors in different countries who fear short-term economic loss. Solving climate change will require considerable social and cultural transformation in our habits of government, business, work, production, consumption, settlement and transport, as well as in our values of cooperation, respect for science and gender-equality. The weakness of international agreements to elicit the needed responses has turned the spotlight of inquiry upon the dynamics of national socio-political response to global climate change. The solution must be global, but to craft workable global agreements, there exists a critical need to understand the societal and cultural bases of national responses to global climate change.
The project on Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks (COMPON) establishes an international effort to address these challenging questions. The long-term scientific goal is to explain the variation in national response to global climate change under the emerging international regime. Examining the causes of this variation from the perspective of networks of discourse and policy-making interaction among relevant organizations and knowledge brokers, the project collects empirical data for rigorous comparative analysis. COMPON has established research teams in 19 countries to conduct this project, with more teams in formation (and more welcome). Acceptance of the dominant climate change scientific consensus—that climate change is anthropogenic, dangerous and intensifying-- is the sine qua non for taking action on GCC. Accordingly, our primary hypotheses address conditions under which that scientific consensus (for one prominent source, from the IPCC) is accepted or rejected in national (or area) cases at the popular and political levels, and how it becomes empowered or weakened in its effect upon practical measures to reduce GHG outputs and protect GHG sinks (forests). The ultimate outcome variable per case is the trend in net national GHG outputs.
Two opposing theories on the political process, persuasion theory versus conflict theory, give rise to different hypotheses about how the scientific information is framed and processed. Persuasion theory implies that societies can learn to adopt the necessary new ways through discussion and education. In contrast, conflict theory indicates that the scientific consensus will provoke intense political, and possibly violent, conflicts over the required social reforms that can only be resolved through imposed regulation. In the former, venues for egalitarian stakeholder participation and dialogue will be crucial interaction nodes for networks of the acceptance of climate change science and its political empowerment. This view gives rise to the hypothesis that: "The more the political system provides venues for broadly representative and egalitarian stakeholder participation, the more the nation will mitigate CC." But under the assumptions of conflict theory, change will require the formation of opposed coalitions advocating different interpretations of and solutions for the issue. A conflict-oriented hypothesis argues, "The more that national interest groups defend fossil fuel consumption, the less the nation will mitigate CC." Social conditions, including cultural values, existing institutions, distribution of power, orientation of political parties, dominant ideologies, will affect both these processes. Bringing in cultural theory, a resultant hypothesis states that "The more implicit the cultural acceptance of a rational-scientific worldview, the more the nation will mitigate CC." Combining cultural and persuasion theory yields "The more centrality CC scientists have in policy communications networks, the more the nation will mitigate CC." In more authoritarian societies, such participatory venues will not exist. Even in more democratic societies, consensual circles may need to toughen into advocacy coalitions and engage in political contention to attain effective outcomes. Other background conditions include vulnerability to climate change disaster, political institutions, economic system, dominant interest groups, existing network patterns, authority of national science establishment, levels of development and prosperity, intensity of nationalism, culture of science and patriarchy. Understanding the social and cultural logics of response to climate change is central to the COMPON project. A paper by the PI describes 11 hypotheses in detail (available from author).
To permit a more powerful comparative analysis of these hypotheses, the COMPON project employs powerful methods of discourse analysis and policy network analysis. To collect comparable data, the research team in each national case will administer a common research protocol involving collection of three types of data: media and legislative content analysis, open-ended interviews, and a network survey of organizations engaged in national climate change politics. The discourse analysis phase involves the coding of mass media and legislative records for frames of interpretation around common themes, such as the importance of climate change and the authority of science. The survey gathers quantitative data on networks of relationship and exchange among the national and international organizations and agencies (often about 100) engaged in the national climate change issue field. The survey distinguishes relationships by content, for example scientific information exchange, political information, collaboration, and long-term reciprocity. The information network from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to national receiving organizations and thence into secondary organizations will be the golden thread of the analysis. By comparing the reactions of these diverse societies, we plan to isolate the major factors that, to use a metaphor from electronics, impede or enhance the signal transmission from the IPCC to national policy and performance (GHG reductions). How societies receive, frame, diffuse and form political advocacy coalitions around the IPCC information is a critical test of their climate change response capacities. Under some conditions, participatory venues, as noted above, may be crucial to this spread. The two methods of content analysis and network survey respectively extract and focus on the cultural field of discourse versus the social relational field of influence relations among engaged organizations. These are two sides of the same coin of national climate change politics. Through this common methodology, the case teams produce data and analysis that can be compared across nations, making comparative analysis and hypothesis testing possible.
The US National Science Foundation funded the COMPON project’s (~$720,000 over October 2008 to Sept 2014) research teams in India, China, Germany and the UK, with startup support for the Japan team, as well as RA and summer support for the Principal Investigator (Broadbent) (PI Jeffrey Broadbent). Of this same NSF grant, the NSF awarded about $130,000 directly to the US team (co-PI Dana Fisher). Research teams in Brazil, Sweden, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China, Canada, Switzerland and Finland have received funding from their own national science agencies. Teams in New Zealand, Mexico and are also in operation. In total, the grants have amounted to over $2 million, indicating strong international support for the project. In addition, the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) with funding from the Norwegian government has been implementing the Compon media analysis protocol focusing on the 'REDD+ (Reductions in Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) issue in developing countries, including Indonesia, Vietnam and others.
The COMPON projects funded by the NSF grant and by other sources have been developing at different paces. The first six months, from October 1, 2008 to March 31, 2009, involved logistical and financial setup and collective determination of common themes for coding. During Year One, from April 1, 2009 to March 31, 2010, teams conducted collected and analyzed media articles and legislative records, coded these by common research themes, began writing a report, and collaborated to finalize the network survey instrument. Year Two, from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2011, began the implementation of the network survey. Ensuing years to the present have involved creating the combined data set, writing and editing the Compon media analysis papers from the many teams and carrying out the network survey.
The COMPON project will provide needed scientific research on the critical topic of the social and cultural bases of national responses to global climate change. The project is modular; new national cases are always welcome and we seek more inclusive representation especially among developing countries. The principal investigators intend to repeat the survey at 5 to 7 year intervals, so as to provide a time-series data on the changing pattern of national and international reactions as the effects of climate change intensify over the coming decades. This data will be put into the public domain for use by scholars around the world. At the same time, the affiliated research teams will be encouraged to establish research centers to continue the social scientific investigation of climate change. The teams and centers will establish a continuing network of pedagogy and opportunities for students and researchers as well as the circulation of their projects and publications. They will be encouraged to follow a norm of gender-equity, already achieved, and the incorporation of national minorities.
Background and Formation of Compon project.
Until the formation of the central administrative team in September, 2015, Jeffrey Broadbent has been the organizer and coordinator of the COMPON project. The coordinator role harmonizes and guides the many diverse cases in the project, synthesizing their contributions into the central framework, setting up the schedule of work, disbursing funds from the NSF grant, and coordinating the activities of all the teams world-wide. The Compon program developed as follows. While an undergraduate at University of California Berkeley majoring in Religious Studies-Buddhism, studying comparative religion and Asian languages, Broadbent was influenced by by his mentor Robert Bellah's cultural sociology and its roots in Parsonsian AGIL systems models, and also by the first Earth Day there. Entering graduate school in the mid-1970s, he learned from the early founders of network sociology (Harrison White, Ron Breiger, Mark Granovetter) plus the (anti-Parsonsian) institutional approach to political sociology and social movements (Theda Skocpol). For the PhD thesis, attempting to integrate these hostile approaches, Broadbent conducted 2.5 years of field work in Japan (1978-81), seeking to discern if and how the vertically-integrated (Nakane) Japanese cultural and social patterns affected the process and outcome of protest and contention over a government plan to bring in a polluting factory (PhD Harvard Sociology, 1982, book publication Cambridge 1997). As a Junior Fellow of the University of Michigan Society of Fellows (1983-6) under the aegis of Chuck Tilly, Broadbent discovered Tilly's model of contentious politics and lines of oppression, facilitation and resistance between organizational actors (authorities and challengers, in From Mobilization to Revolution). For Broadbent, Tilly's incisive model revealed a cognitive framework using which one could map the different specific kinds of (social-psychological) incentives that really carried the oppression, facilitation and resistance operating among the organizational actors involved in the contentious environmental protest process. By using his exhaustive and in-depth ethnographic, interview and textual (newspapers, etc) field data, Broadbent could identify and code virtually each important inter-organizational interaction as kind of network interaction enlivened by certain transferred sanctions and not others. Coding this data into 250 dyadic inter-organization interactions over a 20 year period, Broadbent could then study both the shifting inter-organizational networks and relative organizational dominance within them, but also the changing relative presence of different dimensions or types of sanctions (from ideal to material) being employed between the actors. This approach then allowed the researcher using network analytical methods to empirically test for the causal effectiveness of different theorized factors raised as research hypotheses at the start of the project. Broadbent integrated the causal factors assumed by the distinct theoretical schools into a common "periodic table" of inter-actor relational sanctions, defined in a two-dimensional table by structural versus agentic, and by use of cultural, institutional and material sanctions (Cambridge 19997, Soc Forum 1988, ASR 1989). This progress ed Broadbent to conceive of the idea of cross-national policy network comparison of environmental policy-formation processes using more formalized network research methods. To learn the formal quantitative network skills, he corresponded with David Knoke for guidance. This resulted in becoming an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota (1986) and leading the Japan case for Knoke's comparative quantitative cross-national policy network project on labor politics in the US and Germany. Broadbent recruited a Japanese colleague Tsujinaka to help run the Japan cases and collected the labor policy network survey data in Tokyo 1988-91 (Broadbent personally setting up conducting about 90 of the 120 face to face survey interviews with top organizational representatives, the rest but three being conduct with labor unions by graduate students). This three case collaborative project resulted in the book Comparing Policy Networks: Labor Politics in the US, Germany and Japan (Cambridge 1996). Upon return from Tokyo in 1991, Broadbent issued the first call for his cross-national comparative environmental policy network project based on the formal survey instrument of the policy network approach Being busy co-authoring the labor policy network book, Broadbent asked his Japanese colleague Tsujinaka to find funding for this project, which Tsujinaka did and in 1997 carried out a Global Environmental Policy Network Survey (GEPON) in 1997 concerning national policy making around several types of global environmental problems, just before the Kyoto Convention (COP3). Since this Japan survey was not able to gain access to some key actors, Broadbent conducted the remaining necessary survey interviews in 1998 and added them to the Japan survey data. The GEPON survey collected useful data in Japan and Germany, but not the US, and published a few articles and conference presentations (Tsujinaka, Foljanty-Jost, Broadbent). In early 2000s, Broadbent then started developing a new comparative policy network research project to focus entirely on climate change (Comparing Climate Change Policy Networks, COMPON). In 2005-7, an Abe Fellowship (Japan Foundation and Social Science Research Council), plus sabbatical leave and UMN CLA Research Fellowship Supplement, gave him two years to conduct the foundational qualitative interview research for the Compon project in Japan, Germany and Austria, recruit collaborators, pull together their ideas, and write two grant applications to the National Science Foundation. Broadbent held the first international Compon project conference and workshop at UMN in January 2007 with over 30 participants from 15 countries (funded by the Institute for Global Studies and the University of Minnesota). At this workshop, invited speaker John Mohr introduced the idea of collecting data on discourse networks as well as social-relational (power) networks. The NSF rejected Broadbent's first application and suggested including co-PIs. For the second application, Broadbent added discourse networks to the social relational networks, proposed funding the central office as well as the cases of US, Russia, China, India and the International field, and invited two co-PIs, UMN geophysicist Katsumi Matsumoto and environmental sociologist Dana Fisher (then at Columbia). This NSF grant was successful and awarded in October 2008, as described above. Since then, Broadbent has devoted most of his research life to guiding the Compon project forward toward its goal of collecting empirically comparable data on the climate change mitigation policy formation processes to form hybrid models and test causal hypotheses (Broadbent 2010, 2013 and 2014). The data collection came to include two Phases, discourse through newspaper framing, and the policy network survey of organizations. In an on-going process that continues today, Broadbent with some RA assistance expanded the number of collaborating cases to 18, canceled some cases that did not perform, integrated the Phase One data into a single database, guided the production of case studies and comparative papers, and is now doing the same for the Phase Two policy network survey data. In September 2014 Broadbent handed over leadership to a new administrative committee based at the University of Helsinki as noted on the Home page of this website.