US political authorities and climate change: policies, ideology, interests (1957-1997)

Auteur Audrey LOETSCHER
Directeur /trice Prof. Janick Marina Schaufelbuehl
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse This dissertation proposes to explore the reception by the US institutional elite of the governmental reports it received over four decades about the danger posed by the combustion of fossil fuels and the associated accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In studying the reception of these successive warning signals, this research aims to determine the reasons behind the political apathy that persisted throughout the years. More precisely, this dissertation seeks to establish why the US chose to pursue an unsustainable course, living well above its national “ecological budget,” and ignore the facts pointing to the existential threats intrinsic to a system oblivious to biophysical limits. This research project will use as its central conceptual tool the notion of environmental unsustainability, or the fact that the US has been sustaining its mode of living through the accumulation of a colossal ecological debt at the expense of future generations, whose access to natural wealth is substantially jeopardized, and developing countries, whose responsibility in climate change has historically been low due to their reduced levels of resource and energy consumption. In tracing the history of the immoral economy of unsustainability, examining why governmental actors favored unsustainable paths and practices over (more) sustainable ones – for instance by refusing to promote a national or international treaty on the reduction of CO2 emissions –, this research proposes to do a history of the present à la Foucault, understanding the current administration as the apotheosis of a mode of thought and a long record of consequential inaction and denial. While these reports underlined the unsustainability of a socio-economic system won over to the twin ideas of growth and disposability, lawmakers and the political class chose to further anchor the country in its unsustainable path by dismissing evidence pointing to issues connected to a warming climate. This study’s significance resides in its aim to shed light on the reasons behind the US intelligentsia’s choice to maintain the country on an unsustainable track, and the worldwide repercussions of this choice given the US’s position on the international arena as a superpower.
Statut au milieu
Délai administratif de soutenance de thèse 2021