Climate change policies: The role of democracy and social cognitive capital

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Abstract

The impact of democracy on governments’ choice of environmental policies has attracted significant academic attention in recent years. However, less attention has been devoted to the role of the social cognitive capital of the national population. Does society's cognitive capital matter in governmental choice regarding environmental policies, if at all? This study addresses this question through a large-N analysis of 94 countries accounting for the role of both political regimes and social capital in governmental choice of climate change policies. We find that higher social cognitive capital within a democratic state radically increases that state's commitment to adopt environmental policies. More specifically, a 1-point increase in the democracy index is associated with nearly 5 points increase in the adoption of the Climate Laws, Institutions and Measures Index (CLIMI). In a similar vein, a 10 points increase in social cognitive capital is associated with a nearly 16 points increase in CLIMI. The findings presented in this study aim to contribute to the ongoing debate on the impact of democracy and the cognitive capital of society on international environmentalism. The findings will also be interesting for scholars working on the impact of political institutional factors and the role of society in environmental policy choices made at the international level.

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