Political scientists recognize environmental and energy topics as critical issues that their discipline must address, but the field’s ability to generate new research on these topics has been disappointing. This partly reflects the high barriers to entry to a field that requires technical understanding. But the more important problem is that the number of political scientists in major departments who (i) conduct rigorous, cutting-edge research in the field and (ii) train graduate students to do the same is very small. Don’t believe me? Go through the political science or government faculty roster of Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Princeton, Berkeley, Michigan, Chicago, Columbia, UCLA, UCSD, Cornell, and NYU (if I forgot to add your favorite department, please forgive me). Then do the same for course offerings at the doctoral level. It is not an encouraging sight for anyone concerned about the future of our planet and species.
As a marginal contribution toward solving the problem, I will teach a research seminar on the political economy of environmental and energy policy here at Columbia U during the fall semester. The goal of the class is to introduce students to what I consider the most relevant “classics” and the very best recent research. I deliberately focus on mainstream, positive political economy because this approach holds the most promise for generating relevant, reliable, and replicable knowledge. If the class is successful, then the students taking it will be prepared to do their own work in the field.
The syllabus can be found here. If anyone has thoughts on other readings, materials, or approaches that I should consider, I would love to hear from you!