Paper 4: Climate Change Reform


The U.S. Congress has repeatedly failed to enact new legislation to address climate change. As a result, over the past decade, climate policy in the United States has largely developed through a tapestry of new policies at the state level. For instance, many states have enacted Renewable Portfolio Standards to promote renewable energy.

In this five-page essay, discuss both the causes and effects of the fact that so much of the action on climate policy has been at the state level. Your essay should address the following issues:

  1. Why was the U.S. Senate unable to pass legislation on climate change in 2010?
  2. Why has it been easier to implement new policies to address climate change at the state level than at the federal level?
  3. Briefly discuss two of the policies that states are using to address climate change. Stepping back from the details of these policies, what are the likely impacts of these policies on climate change? Are there drawbacks with relying on states to set the pace on climate policy?
  4. In the final section of your essay, discuss how you think climate policy is likely to develop in the United States over the next five years.

Student Examples

The examples below appear courtesy of MIT students and are used with permission. Examples are published anonymously unless otherwise requested.

Causes and Effects of State Level Climate Policy (PDF)

The Flaws of Relying on State-Level Climate Legislation (PDF)