Course Description

Climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our times. Seen as a critical ‘threat multiplier’, it has profound implications for energy security and in turn, for international peace and stability. Climate stress and vulnerabilities, declining reserves of oil and gas, and the rise of new energy consumers will potentially bring transformative changes to global energy systems and geopolitical equations in terms of competition or cooperation among nations. Thus, addressing climate change and improving energy efficiency are important goals for nation-states in the twenty-first century.

Global Climate Change and the Geopolitics of Energy are deeply intertwined. Much of the discourse on energy and geopolitics over the last decade has focused on the need for energy security. However, emerging threats such as unprecedented migration, water conflicts, competition over resources and territories, poverty, food insecurity, simmering conflicts and violent extremism are more interconnected with climate change than previously studied. Therefore, managing, preventing and mitigating the geopolitical implications of climate change require attention alongside the existing energy security debate.

Climate change has become a crisis multiplier that is exacerbating existing conflicts and has the potential to cause new conflicts around the world, ones with serious geopolitical implications. While geopolitics used to be driven primarily by security and economic concerns, the growing impact of climate change is increasingly impinging on critical geopolitical reconfigurations. There has been considerable work on the politics of climate change and energy security as separate issues, but much less on the relationship between the two. Understanding the complex inter-relationship between energy, climate, and security is vital to the study of international relations, and foreign and public policy.

This course traces the separation between energy and climate and analyzes energy security as constructed continually as national security, which results in particular policy choices prioritizing it over climate concerns. Thus, policies formulated on energy security have contributed directly to climate insecurity. Formulating climate-sensitive and energy efficient policies requires a deeper understanding of the country-specific political economy of energy and climate policy formulation. Citing empirical evidence from various case studies, the course uses an interdisciplinary approach to provide a critical overview of the workings of climate change and energy policies and explore possible areas of interventions to mitigate and prevent the adverse effects of climate change.

Course Outline

The course aims to unpack the complexity of global climate change policies, which intersects with the geopolitics of energy. It addresses the complexities by analyzing the science, technologies, political economy, geopolitics, and policy solutions. The course examines the politics of domestic and international climate policy, focusing on the role of institutions, interests, ideas, actors and networks. The outcomes of the policymaking processes are assessed with regard to their ‘proportionality’, that is, the balance between the benefits and costs of a policy. The course will provide the students with the tools to adopt global as well as local and decentralized approaches to engage with a wider spectrum of actors, factors and interests.

The course is organized into two parts, though not tightly compartmentalized with cross-cutting issues of gender, human rights and underdevelopment being the underlying theme. In the first, students will be introduced to and provided frameworks to explore and understand the interconnected nature of climate change and energy security, delve into the politics over climate change and energy use; critically analyze the framing and workings of the international climate change policies and the challenges to implementing such policies. Students will be engaged in a much-needed debate on whether climate change is a foreign policy or a public policy issue to understand the nuances of policymaking in India and the U.S. that will help identify areas of convergences and build platforms of collaboration.

The course further provides analytical frameworks to probe into the link between climate stress, gender and conflict in South Asia through the use of case studies; critically analyze the role of actors, institutions, policies, and processes of climate change and study the processes of climate adaptation, resilience and mitigation policy in the U.S. and India from a comparative lens to identify the parallels, and draw on lessons and best practices. Students will be introduced to key literature and learning material from field-based studies to approach the multifaceted problems of framing, shaping and implementing climate change policies. 

The second part on the geopolitics of energy will explore the linkages of energy security with climate change. The sessions would introduce the students to the evolution and geopolitics of energy security, the use of energy by nations as a foreign policy and geopolitical tool; India’s Energy Policy and Practices; a comparative study of Energy Security in Indian and US foreign Policy; and the devise strategies to overcome barriers and formulate effective climate and energy policies.

Learning Objectives

·         Develop a comprehensive understanding of basic concepts in energy efficiency and climate change and their impact in the global context.

·         Evaluate the concepts of climate change and interpret its subsequent correlation with public policy with existing evidence.        

·         Analyse the successes and limitations of past national and international efforts to address climate change.

·         Identify and understand the linkages between climate change and indiscriminate use of energy impacting the environment.

·         Devise strategies to mitigate climate change and reduce dependence on non-renewable sources of energy.

Course outcomes

On successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

Ø  Explain and evaluate the concepts of climate change and interpret its subsequent correlation with public policy with existing evidence.

Ø  Critically evaluate the successes and shortcomings of past national and international efforts to address climate change.

Ø  Demonstrate the appropriate usage of energy and pave way for energy conservation through policies and efficiency methods.

Ø  Identify and assess energy conservation as well as protection against climate change opportunities.

Ø  Devise innovative and cooperative strategies for future management of climate change and energy.

The course will be of interest and useful to graduate students from all relevant backgrounds -Public Policy, Geography, Environmental Conservation, Sociology, Gender, Development and Security Studies, Human Rights, International Law, Foreign policy, Political Science, International Relations and related fields. Upper-level undergraduates from relevant majors also are welcome to join the course.

The course integrates the subject matter interests of each student and the federal budget process by utilizing various federal agencies' current budgets as case studies. Students will become fluent in general budget terminology and the fiscal year budget schedule by exploring budget preparation, tracking, and execution. Emphasis will be put on developing the skills necessary to write clear succinct memos and presenting effective briefings.