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The challenge of sustainabilityLinking politics, education and learning$
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Hugh Atkinson and Ros Wade

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447306467

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447306467.001.0001

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Climate change and environmental policy in the US:

Climate change and environmental policy in the US:

lessons in political action

(p.89) Four Climate change and environmental policy in the US
The challenge of sustainability

Hugh Atkinson

Policy Press

In Chapter Four, Hugh Atkinson analyses the role of the US in respect of the environment and sustainability. Over the last 15 years, there has been an understandable perception of a US with only a limited engagement in the fight against climate change and the broader sustainability agenda. At a federal level, the Bush presidency of 2000 to 2008 certainly lent credence to this view. However, the chapter argues that the actual picture is more nuanced and complex. Of course, there have been, and there will continue to be, obstacles along the way. Too often, the debate in the US is drowned out by the white noise of a divisive and increasingly hysterical political culture. Yet, despite this, there have been a range of initiatives at federal, state and local level that have sought to engage in a positive way with the sustainability agenda. Furthermore, the election of Barak Obama as president seemed to point to a new activism at the federal level of government. In a speech to the United Nations (UN) in September 2009, Obama spoke of the serious threat of climate change and of the pressing need to take action. The chapter examines whether such rhetoric has been matched by substantive policy action. The analysis in this chapter is set with the context of the constitutional doctrine of the separation of powers and a political culture that eschews active government.

Keywords:   climate change, sustainability, environmental policy, political division, policy making

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