Research

2023

Gazmararian, Alexander F., and Dustin Tingley. Uncertain Futures: How to Unlock the Climate Impasse. Cambridge University Press, 2023.

2024

Gazmararian, Alexander F. “Fossil Fuel Communities Support Climate Policy Coupled With Just Transition Assistance.” Energy Policy 184 (2024): n. pag.

What are fossil fuel communities’ preferences over the design of just transition assistance accompanying climate policy? This study conducted survey experiments at Appalachian county fairs to answer this question, overcoming barriers that have limited previous attempts to measure preferences in these crucial regions. Comparing the responses to a new national survey, there is a divergence in preferences for policies encouraging relocation, but there is convergence behind support for policies that reduce costs to fossil fuel workers. The study also finds that an intervention to provide information about coal’s decline shifted preferences toward supporting the clean energy transition. Rather than public opinion being an immutable barrier to climate action, 66% of fossil fuel community residents would endorse climate policy if it were coupled with just transition assistance. Policy design and informational interventions could help to create climate coalitions, even in the places most affected by the clean energy transition.

Gazmararian, Alexander F., and Dustin Tingley. “Reimagining Net Metering: A Polycentric Model for Equitable Solar Adoption in the United States.” Energy Research & Social Science 108 (2024): n. pag.

Disparities in renewable energy deployment disproportionately afflict marginalized communities and slow the clean energy transition necessary to combat climate change. Most solutions focus on top-down government initiatives to subsidize renewable energy. However, this approach has had mixed efficacy, raises questions about the durability of support, and lacks political feasibility in certain contexts. We propose a new energy development model that leverages the logic of polycentric governance, which refers to having multiple centers of decision-making as opposed to one. Our model rethinks the practice of net metering, where households and organizations can sell excess power back to the grid. Rather than pocketing the proceeds, our model taps into individual altruism by allowing households and organizations to donate some of this money to build renewable energy for underserved communities. This could accelerate clean energy development by providing resources and fostering collaboration between communities and power companies. Our framework represents a novel decentralized approach to a “just energy transition” that complements government-led initiatives. This paper describes the program, discusses design issues, and presents proof-of-concept survey research from the United States.

Forthcoming

Gazmararian, Alexander F. “Sources of Partisan Change: Evidence from the Shale Gas Shock in American Coal Country.” The Journal of Politics Conditionally accepted (2024): n. pag.

What explains the shift to Republicans in places that historically voted for Democrats? This paper tests a new explanation for part of this reversal. The shale gas revolution displaced coal, which intensified the salience of national environmental regulations and increased support for Republican presidential candidates. Analysis of presidential elections from 1972 to 2020 with a difference-in-differences design finds that the shale gas shock increased Republican vote share by 4.9 percentage points. Leveraging geospatial data, media analysis, and interviews, I show that voters blamed environmental regulations for their community’s decline and that the backlash was more likely to occur where the shale shock was least visible. The attribution of blame for economic dislocation helps to explain electoral behavior in places "left behind," and sheds light on political responses to climate policy.

Submitted

Gazmararian, Alexander F., and Helen V. Milner. Personal Experience and Self-Interest: Diverging Responses to Global Warming.

How does experiencing climate change affect political beliefs? There is mixed evidence of attitude change, but previous studies have not accounted for the differential effects of global warming that make some citizens more vulnerable than others. We argue that personal experience is more likely to lead to policy preference change when it is in an individual's self-interest because of one's vulnerability to future climate impacts. We test our argument using economic models of global warming, geospatial data on climate shocks, and rich survey data both across countries and over time with the same individuals. Experiencing climate change heightens risk perceptions and leads to greater support for mitigation only among individuals in locations facing future damages. The effect of experience is strongest among citizens in democratic countries. Incorporating political economy and behavioral theories helps to explain changing policy preferences.

Gazmararian, Alexander F., and Helen V. Milner. “Political Cleavages and Changing Exposure to Global Warming.” (2023): n. pag. Print.

Why do some countries pass laws to curtail emissions that cause climate change while others do not? Prevailing theories rely on static factors that cannot explain the growth of laws nor the dynamics associated with the heterogeneous effects of climate change. We theorize that disasters cause leaders to view global warming as more proximate, but whether they have incentives to enact mitigation laws depends on their country's geographic vulnerability to future damages. We used an economic assessment model of location-specific warming effects to derive predictions about how leaders respond to disasters. Analyzing mitigation laws from 1990--2020 in 155 countries, we find that governments in locations facing greater future damages are more likely to respond to disasters by passing mitigation policies than those facing uncertain damages or possible net gains. Distinct from the historical North-South divide, our findings highlight a growing geographic cleavage in national responses to climate change. 

Gazmararian, Alexander F., Matto Mildenberger, and Dustin Tingley. Public Opinion Foundations of the Clean Energy Transition. 2023.

The attitudes and behaviors of citizens are central to the clean energy transition. However, there is often theoretical ambiguity about the role of publics, which has consequences for understanding decarbonization trajectories and the conditions that enable political reforms. Departing from previous debates, we argue that citizens are neither irrelevant nor omniscient. We use the recent turn to green industrial policy to illustrate three ways public opinion affects the clean energy transition through the ways politicians anticipate the public's responses to policies, the types of leaders elected into office over time, and the consumption decisions individuals make. Our intervention identifies new avenues for public opinion research necessitated by the transformation in climate policy approaches worldwide.

Gazmararian, Alexander F., and Lewis Krashinsky. “Driving Labor Apart: Climate Policy Backlash in the American Auto Corridor.” (2023): n. pag.

What are the electoral effects of green industrial policy? We argue that uncertainty about the distribution of benefits can give rise to voter backlash. We examine automobile manufacturing, where politicians and unions have promised that communities vulnerable to the electric vehicle (EV) transition will gain from new investments. Leveraging a matched difference-in-differences design, we find that growing EV transition salience caused Republican presidential vote share to increase by three percentage points in counties that produce gasoline vehicle components as compared to those that manufacture other auto parts. There is no backlash in counties that have received EV investments. Interviews with autoworkers and union leadership show how uncertainty about the EV transition affected political information provided by local unions. This bottom-up information provision helps to explain the diverging political reactions of organized labor to structural economic transformations and sheds light on electoral responses to climate policy.

Working Papers

Gazmararian, Alexander F., and Helen V. Milner. Firm Responses to Climate Change: Exit and Voice. 2023.

Firms wield considerable influence over government responses to climate change. When and how do firms respond to their climate change vulnerability? We argue that companies update their beliefs about the immediacy of climate change in response to direct experiences such as extreme heat. These updated beliefs lead firms facing future damages to engage in economic and political strategies of exit or voice to minimize climate change risks. To test these claims, we construct a novel firm-level measure of vulnerability to global warming using data on 6.6 million establishments and a spatial economic assessment model of climate change. After firms experience extreme heat, those facing future global warming damages lobby more on climate-related issues, exercising their voice. The effect is strongest among firms with fewer exit options. There is limited evidence of delayed economic adaptation. Our findings point to the importance of firm geography for understanding business influence in politics, and help to explain how global warming will reshape political coalitions as its material effects are increasingly felt.

Gazmararian, Alexander F., and Dustin Tingley. Political Economy of Energy Transitions. 2024.

Why are some countries more successful at advancing the clean energy transition than others? Existing studies focus largely on industrialized democracies and frame domestic and international explanations against each other. Instead, we develop a unifying framework around the idea of credibility to explain clean energy transition outcomes in developed and developing countries and shed light on the prospects for future reform efforts. We elucidate the credibility challenges reformers confront and point to new directions for the comparative and international study of energy transi- tions necessary to respond to the climate crisis.

Despite the prominence of compensation as a strategy to stem opposition from groups harmed by policy reforms or economic disruption, governments often fail to provide adequate adjustment assistance. We argue that leaders have political incentives to distort compensation funding when voters oppose the reform and the benefits of assistance are delayed. We evaluate our argument in the context of the Appalachian Regional Commission's program to help coal mining communities adjust to the clean energy transition. We collect novel grant-level data from 2007-2019 to study how much and what type of funds coal communities receive. Using a triple-differences design, we detect political distortions, where coal counties in Republican states are less likely to receive assistance. State-level public opinion data show this distortion is in line with the median voter's climate policy preferences, and there is no indication that assistance improved economic outcomes. Whether compensation is an effective political strategy depends on the incentives of leaders to offer it in the first place.

ARC