Panel Paper: Levels of Collective Action and Policy Innovation: A National Study of Climate

Friday, November 7, 2014 : 1:50 PM
Enchantment Ballroom D (Hyatt)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jessica Terman, George Mason University and Derek Kaunekis, University of Nevada, Reno
The global challenge of climate change has affected all levels of government. Depending on the geographic region and level of infrastructure, states and local governments now face extreme weather events that have the potential to take lives and destroy local economies. While many countries have responded with centralized, broad-based climate mitigation and adaptation policies, the United States has largely relied on a patchwork of state and local government policies. In the absence of a comprehensive federal response to climate change, state and local governments have become laboratories of innovation, developing their own climate adaptation strategies. Of particular importance is how organizations collaborate and engage in collective action solutions that facilitate policy learning and innovative strategies to address climate change.

The literature on institutional collective action focuses on the transaction costs involved in institutional collaboration. While an important literature, less is known about (1) the level of perceived policy innovation associated with institutional collaboration and (2) the perceived outputs and outcomes of this collaboration. Specifically, we examine both informal and formal policy networks, sources of innovation from both organizations and individuals within information networks, horizontal and vertical collaboration. We test whether networks with more functional diversity are associated with higher levels of perceived innovation and effective responses to potential climate impacts.

The study employs a unique dataset of public organizations at the city, county and state levels that are engaged in climate change policymaking and implementation. We use multi-level modeling to take into account both geographic and regional features that influence collaborative efforts and outcomes. Our findings contribute to the literature on the relationship between institutional collective action and problem severity (as measured by perceived risk posed by climate change) by examining the level of innovation and effectiveness associated with collaboration. Additionally, our findings present important lessons for states and local governments that are managing the challenges of climate change in a federalist system.