Faculty Profile

Michele Betsill

August 2009

She has observed the politics of global climate change for 15 years and learned that with this issue there are no easy answers.

Michele Betsill

Michele Betsill, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, takes an all encompassing approach to studying the ebb and flow of climate change politics. She looks at all of the components – national governments, international businesses, non-governmental organizations, the market, individual choices – on a "big picture scale" and assesses how the pieces fit together. Or how they don’t.

"My research allows me to have a better sense of the large landscape of the politics of climate change from the local to the global level. I watch the debate about who gets what, when and how," she said.

"By this point most people recognize that climate change is a problem but what everyone is asking now is what we are going to do about it. Climate change has huge implications because it fundamentally changes the earth’s natural systems. It is directly related to how we produce and use energy to meet our daily needs. Tough ethical issues arise and there are no clear or easy solutions," said Betsill.

Beyond the big picture aspect, she is particularly interested mitigation policies that are aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and has hope that the United States will become a bigger player in this area in the future.

Her research focuses on the politics of global climate change, from the local to the global level. She is particularly interested in the various policy approaches to controlling greenhouse gas emissions. She is the co-author, with Harriet Bulkely from Durham University, of "Cities and Climate Change: Urban Sustainability and Global Environmental Governance," (Routledge 2003), which analyzed climate change decision making in six cities in the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, with a focus on the energy, transport and planning sectors.

Betsill is involved with the university’s School of Global Environmental Sustainability and helps lead the Environmental Governance Research Working Group within the school.

She has been a long-time observer of international climate change negotiations and is currently working on a project that traces the evolution of emissions trading markets as a policy instrument for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. In this project, she and Matthew Hoffman, University of Toronto, are examining how the idea of emissions trading developed and spread through more than 30 policy venues, how trading rules reflect the specific context of each venue, and the broader implications for the global politics of climate change.

She received her doctorate in political science from the University of Colorado-Boulder. Prior to coming to CSU, she was a post-doctoral fellow with the Global Environmental Assessment project at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She spent her sabbatical, 2006-07 academic year, as a visiting scientist with the Institute for the Study of Society and the Environment at the National Center for Atmospheric Research.

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