Global Environmental Assessments





Knowledge about environmental problems has expanded rapidly in recent decades, as have the number and variety of processes for making large-scale scientific assessments of those problems and their possible solutions. Yet too often scientific information has not been transformed into effective and appropriate policies to protect the global environment. In this book, scholars use a comparative analytic framework and supporting case studies to evaluate the impact of environmental assessments, looking at how, and under what conditions, global environmental assessments influence political and economic decision makers. They find that global environmental assessments are more likely to be influential if the process is perceived not only as scientifically credible but also as salient to policy concerns and as generated through legitimate means. The studies show that although the content of the assessment clearly matters, its influence is often determined more by the process that generated it and by external factors affecting the receptiveness of different audiences. Assessments that involve ongoing interactions among scientists, stakeholders, and policymakers prove particularly likely to influence behaviors.

The diverse case studies—ranging from global assessments of climate change and acid precipitation to assessments of sea-level rise in Maine and Hawai'i and climate forecasting in Zimbabwe—embed their findings in contemporary theoretical frameworks while remaining informed by pragmatic policy considerations.

ContributorsLiliana B. Andonova, Frank Biermann, David W. Cash, William C. Clark, Aarti Gupta, Ronald B. Mitchell, Susanne C. Moser, Anthony Patt, Noelle Eckley Selin, Wendy E. F. Torrance, Stacy D. VanDeveer


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262134682 352 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 11 illus.


$29.00 X ISBN: 9780262633369 352 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 11 illus.


Ronald B. Mitchell

Ronald B. Mitchell is Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Oregon.

William C. Clark

William C. Clark is Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science, Public Policy, and Human Development at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

David W. Cash

David W. Cash is Director of Air, Energy, and Waste Policy in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.

Nancy M. Dickson

Nancy M. Dickson is Senior Research Associate and Codirector of the Science, Environment and Development Group at the Kennedy School of Government.


  • This book is a major contribution to the growing field of human-environment interaction. It uses a conceptual framework derived from a blend of international relations and public-policy literatures to dissect the processes of assessing this interaction and its effects. In doing so, the authors move the field ahead in two ways, since the book charts a course for future research at the same time that it derives useful lessons for practitioners.

    Edward Miles

    School of Marine Affairs, University of Washington

  • If, like many natural scientists and economists, you believe that getting the facts right is all it takes for an assessment to influence policy, you may not like this book. But if you want global environmental policy to be informed by good science and analysis, you and like-minded colleagues need to read and understand its thoughtful insights.

    M. Granger Morgan

    Head, Department of Engineering and Public Policy, Carnegie Mellon University

  • If humanity is to successfully confront the multiple, daunting environmental threats it has visited upon itself, it must figure out how to turn science into something that decision makers can actually use. This illuminating and important collection points the way: it reveals the complex social and political factors that make the difference between scientific assessments that have little impact, and those that help turn knowledge into action.

    Daniel Sarewitz

    Professor of Science and Society and Director of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes, Arizona State University