Research Partnerships on Critical Issues (RPCI) Grant Announcement

Michael Cornfield, The George Washington University

How do democracies and authoritarian regimes respond to the challenges posed by climate change? Are there some aspects of climate policymaking that democracies or authoritarian regimes are uniquely good or bad at? What might the short- and long-term consequences of climate change policymaking be?

The American Political Science Association’s Centennial Center for Political Science and Public Affairs has awarded a $14,000 Research Partnerships on Critical Issues grant to Dr. Michael Cornfield and his research team assembled through The George Washington University’s Global Center for Political Management to study these questions. Dr. Cornfield’s project “Improving Bifocal Governance: A Comparative Assessment of Authoritarian/Democratic Regime Capacities to Manage the Short-Range Crises and Long-Range Goal Fulfillments Associated With Meeting the Imperatives of Climate Change” will bring together a cross-disciplinary team of social scientists and policymaking professionals working to study climate change policy in eight nations: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and the United States.

The Bifocal Governance Project will compare the capacity of national governments to formulate and implement policies about climate change. As Dr. Cornfield explains, “the project is entitled ‘Bifocal Governance’ because climate change presents both immediate and long-range challenges which sometimes involve difficult trade-offs.” Today’s headlines offer a convenient example: should policymakers cut gas taxes to help citizens cope with inflationary prices, or increase them to reduce carbon emissions? The project’s team of political scientists, academics with other specialties, and political practitioners from five Western Hemisphere nations will pay special attention to the type of regime operating in the countries under study. Officials in democracies find it hard to look beyond the next election, especially when power is closely divided between parties. Officials in authoritarian regimes don’t have to be as sensitive to activists and voters, but suffer from rigidity, corruption, and lack of innovation.

The project’s final result will be a simulation game that citizens, businesses, and officials can play to learn about the short- and long-range consequences of their decisions. Game players’ decisions will be evaluated against a data-driven model that will estimate those consequences. And by varying the rules of the game according to how democratic or authoritarian a “home” nation is, social scientists can answer the research question of how well each type of system can handle bifocal governance dilemmas.

The Research Partnerships on Critical Partnerships on Critical Issues program is an initiative of the APSA Presidential Task Force on New Partnerships. The Task Force’s work aims to deepen ties among political scientists, between political science and the public, and to strengthen the contributions of political science to the public good. Research Partnerships on Critical Issues grants are made possible thanks to the generous support of the Ivywood Foundation.

Grant at a Glance

Project Title: “Improving Bifocal Governance: A Comparative Assessment of Authoritarian/Democratic Regime Capacities to Manage the Short-Range Crises and Long-Range Goal Fulfillments Associated With Meeting the Imperatives of Climate Change

Amount: $14,000

Proposed Timeline: April 2022 – November 2022

Team Members:

  • Dr. Michael Cornfield (Political Scientist) – Principal Investigator
  • Mary Crannell (Applied expert in decision support tools)
  • Dr. Natalia Dinello (Sociology/Economics)
  • Dr. Ximena Hartsock (Policy/Applied Expert)
  • Dr. Christopher C. Hull (Political Scientist)
  • Robert Izurieta (Applied expert)
  • Luis Matos (Applied expert)
  • Dr. Mauricio Moura (Public sector economics/ Applied expert)
  • Dr. Meagan O’Neill (Biological Psychology)