First Advisor

Birol Yesilada

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Political Science


Political Science




United States. President (2001-2009 : Bush), United States. President (1993-2001 : Clinton), Fossil fuels -- Environmental aspects, Climatic changes -- Government policy



Physical Description

1 online resource (iii, 79 pages)


The Bush administration's decision to abandon the Kyoto Protocol can be explained by prospect theory. The change in federal climate policy between the Clinton and Bush administrations was due to the difference in domain that each president operated under. President Clinton operated under a domain of losses as he associated continued fossil fuel use with future socio-economic and environmental damages from climate change. This domain of losses increased President Clinton's risk tolerances and explains his pursuit of the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Conversely, President Bush operated under a domain of gains where he did not connect fossil fuel use with future damages, rather with continued economic growth. President Bush's domain of gains reduced his risk tolerance and resulted in his pursuit of fossil fuel intensive economic development policies.

This paper defines the domain that Presidents Clinton and Bush operated under regarding climate change, the independent variable of this analysis. A total of 26 speeches on climate change by these presidents were coded to explicate domain according to two categories of beliefs. The single most salient variable is the decision makers beliefs about the perceived robustness of the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change. The second most important aspect of these decision makers beliefs revolve around the role of fossil fuels in economic growth.

Once domain has been defined through the cognitive maps and each decision makers corresponding risk tolerance explicated, the dependent variable of policy preferences are analyzed. Two policy options are analyzed; the business as usual (BAU) option associated with the status quo, as well as a climate protection policy that is reflective of the emissions reductions associated with US compliance with Kyoto. These two policy options are evaluated in three case studies; the economy wide costs of compliance with Kyoto targets for greenhouse gas emissions, the public health impacts of greenhouse gas reductions, and finally against a component of the Kyoto Protocol that allows for international trading of permits to emit greenhouse gases.


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