Research

Publications

Rowan, Sam S. (2021) "Does institutional proliferation undermine cooperation? Theory and evidence from climate change." International Studies Quarterly.

Global politics has experienced tremendous institutional proliferation, yet many questions remain about why states join these institutions and whether they support cooperation. I build on existing work to develop a general theory of state participation in dense institutional environments that also helps explain cooperative outcomes. I argue that states may be dissatisfied when cooperation proceeds either too slowly or too quickly and that these two types of dissatisfaction motivate opposing participation behaviour. Deepeners are dissatisfied with the slow pace of cooperation and join institutions to support cooperation, while fragmenters are dissatisfied with the quick pace and join institutions to undermine cooperation. I evaluate my argument using new data on 63 climate institutions and states' greenhouse gas mitigation targets in the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. 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.

Publisher's version; pre-print; supplementary information; data


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


"Analyzing international organizations: How the concepts we use affect the answers we get." (with Charles Roger)

Concepts and measures of international organizations have been gradually diverging. International Relations has a broad conception of international organizations that appreciates variation in design, but has coalesced around a measurement that reflects the characteristics of major postwar IOs. Specifically, prevailing measures only count formal IOs, bodies founded with legally binding agreements, and omit informal IOs, which are founded with non-binding instruments. Recent research demonstrates how formal and informal IOs share many important features, but differ in theoretically important ways. We argue this produces a disconnect between theoretical arguments and empirical evidence, as scholars make arguments about IOs in general, but draw inferences from formal IOs only. Using new data on state membership in 260 informal IOs, we show heterogeneous effects for subtypes of IOs that conflict with existing theories to varying degrees. These differences imply that formal and informal IOs have different effects in global politics. Existing findings are partly artifacts of the specific way IO variables have been operationalized.

Paper; presentation


"Temperature shocks and climate policy."

What effect do temperature shocks have on climate policy? Existing studies show that temperature shocks have negative economic impacts, while others show that temperature shocks increase public awareness of climate change. These findings help identify the impacts of climate change on economic and social systems, but the link between weather shocks and government policy is less well understood. I investigate the effect of temperature shocks across a range of national, international, and subnational climate policy outcomes. I argue that extreme temperatures provide reasons for governments to adopt climate policy reforms. However, in a global sample spanning 1990--2017, I find that temperature shocks have no impact on climate policy. Given that climate impacts are expected to increase this century and that climate policy is currently insufficient to manage climate change, these findings suggest that future temperature shocks alone will be insufficient to catalyze meaningful climate action.

Paper; presentation


"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 subtype 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 seriously how considering informal IOs more generally reshapes our understanding of international affairs.