Industrial countries consider climate policy detrimental to economic growth

Not many countries have taken to implementing ambitious climate policies, even with all the research knowledge available. The varying beliefs and values of political actors, such as their notions of value priorities and the role of governmental regulation, comprise a significant obstacle for climate policy, as indicated by a doctoral dissertation completed at the University of Helsinki.

The dissertation examines the role of discourse networks in the climate policies of Canada, the United States, Finland, France, Brazil and India. The research data comprises statements by political agents compiled from more than 2,700 articles published in 14 newspapers.

According to the study, scientific knowledge is often politicised, or subjected to general value struggles, in public debate. This applies particularly well to climate science and policy. Debates on climate policy are linked with various notions held by politically active parties on, for example, the relationship between economic and environmental values, the role of the government in relation to markets and the reliability of scientific knowledge.

“For example, in industrial countries climate policy is often considered detrimental to economic growth and harmful to free markets, which results in brushing aside the message of climate scientists,” says Anna Kukkonen from the University of Helsinki.

Role of scientific knowledge should be strengthened

According to Kukkonen’s dissertation, climate change is indeed closely linked with the prevailing economic system, in which economic values and arguments based on these values have strong representation in the public discourse.

“However, arguments that invoke the economy are just as value-charged as those founded on nature conservation,” Kukkonen emphasises.

Thus, improving the status of scientific knowledge in political decision-making would be important for conservation and mitigating climate change.

Climate policy tools with potential include emissions trading, a fair carbon tax and renewable energy

According to Kukkonen, the public debate on climate policy must not be trampled under general value struggles. At worst, this may halt the decision-making process on climate policy altogether, as has already happened in many countries.

“Climate scientists agree on the need to rapidly decrease greenhouse gas emissions to slow down climate change.”

The key to this is focusing on promoting those tools of climate policy that take into account the various values and beliefs of political actors.

“Emissions trading, a fair carbon tax and renewable energy are among the climate policy tools that political agents across the spectrum are able to support. Done right, these tools can unify economic and environmental rights,” Kukkonen notes.



Anna Kukkonen, MsSocSc defended her doctoral dissertation on the topic "Discourse Networks and Justifications of Climate Change Policy – News Media Debates in Canada, the United States, Finland, France, Brazil and India” on 24 November 2018.

The dissertation is available in electronic form through the E-thesis service.

Contact details:

Anna Kukkonen

Tel. +358 40 505 4863