First Advisor

Gary Scott

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Political Science


Political Science




Realism, Environmental policy -- International cooperation



Physical Description

1 online resource (149 p.)


The realist tradition in world politics has long been heralded by statesmen and scholars alike as offering an authentic account of the relations between states. Realists consider self-interest, anarchy, and power politics to guide the behavior of states in the international system. The perception that cooperation and amity are now the norm in the international system has raised the possibility of a theoretical shift of focus in the study of international politics. At present, scholars within the discipline of international politics are debating the relevance of realist thought. In particular, neorealism, or the structural variation of traditional realism, is under attack for not providing a rationale for international cooperation. This project undertakes to expand neorealism's ability to explain state behavior in the area of environmental cooperation. Employing the notion of anarchy as a self-help system, it shall be demonstrated that international environmental agreements appear to be influenced by the distribution of power in the international system. Anarchy mandates the need for state actors to cooperate on certain environmental issues, while that same system dissuades cooperation on a number of other important environmental matters. This thesis critiques the theoretical principles in neorealism and makes moderate changes to them. In keeping with neorealist thought, power, the interests of important states, and the position of the hegemon are considered important factors in understanding environmental cooperation. This project also studies three global environmental issues that provide insight into the rewards and limitations of using neorealism to explain cooperation.


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