Rowan, Sam. S. (2019). "Pitfalls in comparing Paris pledges". Climatic Change, vol. 155, no. 4, p. 455-467.

The Paris pledges are unique documents in climate governance that outline what each country intends to do to combat climate change. Often, these documents contain headline greenhouse gas percentage reduction targets that appear to summarize countries’ contributions to mitigation. This is a boon for comparative climate policy research. However, I show in this paper that the Paris pledges require detailed interpretation to be comparable. I demonstrate the risks in comparing these targets by re-visiting a recent studying linking national public opinion to the stringency of countries’ mitigation goals. I develop new indicators that better account for the structure of the targets and show in replications that the original finding is inconsistent with the underlying data. I conclude by drawing lessons for studying the Paris pledges.

Publisher's version (open access); PDF (open access); pre-print; non-technical summary; replication data

Working papers

"Does institutional proliferation undermine cooperation? Evidence from climate change"

States have created over sixty international institutions to govern climate change, yet we have little understanding of why states participate in these institutions and how participation relates to substantive cooperation. Theories of institutional proliferation emphasize how dissatisfaction with outcomes from existing institutionalized cooperation leads states to create new institutions with similar mandates. I show that further theorizing this dissatisfaction yields implications for participation that help explain when overlapping institutions help or hinder cooperation. Climate politics highlights that states may be dissatisfied with cooperative progress that proceeds too slowly or too quickly. I argue different types of dissatisfied states join different kinds of institutions. I evaluate this argument using new data on climate institutions and the Paris Agreement, wherein countries selected their own policy targets. I find that membership in climate institutions designed to facilitate implementation is associated with more ambitious targets, while membership in general is unrelated to targets.

Draft paper

"Informality and bias in studies of international organizations" (with Charles Roger)

Research on international organizations (IOs) has progressed considerably over the past twenty years. However, most studies have focused on a very particular kind of body: formal IOs. These are institutions that have been created by states, have secretariats, and which have been constituted by international treaty. Nonetheless, despite the prominence and importance of these mechanisms of global governance, scholars have noted that there is a much wider variety of institutional forms. We focus on a particular subset of these seemingly new intergovernmental organizations: informal IOs. We explain the concept of informal IOs and analyze state membership in informal IOs using a new time-series cross-sectional dataset. Here we show that existing studies of institutionalized cooperation may be biased as a result of systematically excluding these forums from their analyses. We use this new data to revisit three key findings in the literature: first, that democratization leads states to join more IOs in attempts to consolidate democratic reforms; second, that the ratification of international environmental agreements is largely driven by participation in global governance more generally; and third, that socialization in international institutions affects state practices. We show that existing theories of institutionalized cooperation may apply to a narrower set of cases than was previously realized. The results suggest that a number of existing findings may have to be revisited and considerably qualified in future research.

"The new terrain of global governance: Mapping membership and fragmentation across international organizations" (with Charles Roger)

The world of international organizations is vast and diverse. However, much of our knowledge about international institutions draws from studies of a particular subset of institutions, namely formal international organizations, as measured with the Correlates of War dataset. This article presents an analysis that uses a new dataset of state membership in informal international organizations–IOs founded with non-binding legal instruments–which have come to constitute roughly one- third of all operating IOs. In this paper, we explain how we conceptualize informal IOs as a distinct syb-type of IOs (both formal and informal). We then use this new dataset to revisit longstanding several questions in the field of international organization: First, who participates in IOs and how has participation changed over time? Second, what are the determinants of state membership in IOs? Third, and more generally: is the IO network becoming more fragmented or fragmenting over time? Using our new dataset recasts existing findings on these topics in a new light, showing that taking informal bodies into account can shift key theoretical conclusions. The paper concludes by outlining a research program that takes seri- ously how considering informal IOs more generally reshapes our understanding of international affairs.

"Climate shocks and the supply and demand for climate governance"

Existing studies have demonstrated substantial and robust effects of temperature shocks on economic growth, agricultural output, labor productivity, conflict, and health. These studies help clarify the impacts of climate change on social and economic systems, yet the relationship between climate shocks and political outcomes are less well identified. What effect do climate shocks have on states' climate policies? In this paper, I estimate the relationship between national-level temperature and rainfall shocks and the supply and demand for international climate governance. Temperature shocks may increase the salience of climate change in national politics and lead political leaders to adjust policies to match. Similarly, temperature shocks may have material consequences that induce adaptation---one avenue being to use international institutions to coordinate a global response to climate impacts. I argue that the responsiveness of national governments to climate shocks is conditioned by the political and natural context in which governments operate. Specifically, I expect that democratic governments will be more responsive to climate shocks, as will countries that are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. I assess whether countries that experience more frequent and more severe climate shocks participate more in international climate politics and adjust their climate policies. I examine four sets of outcomes at the national level: (1) membership in international institutions that govern climate change, (2) the provision and receipt of climate finance, (3) representation at the UN climate conferences, and (4) national climate policies. As the climate changes, we are developing stronger evidence about the underlying natural relationships, but the heterogenous effects across socio-political contexts are less well understood. This paper contributes to our understanding of how climate change shapes national policy and with it the ability of countries to manage and adapt to climate change.