The summer of 2018 saw exceptionally high temperatures across the world, leading scientists to reaffirm the concept of the ‘Hothouse Earth’ as a potential consequence of global warming. With climate change an ever relevant and critical area of academic research, there are plenty of new perspectives to explore – and not just in geography and environmental science. Below are some dissertation topics concerning “Hothouse Earth”, global warming and climate change across a broad range of subjects, from politics to business.
Geography and Environmental Science
1. Have we reached irreversible global warming?
There is substantial debate among scientists as to whether global warming has gone beyond the point of no return. At the present time focus is predominantly on keeping the global warming potential below 2°C. However, many researchers suggest that this target is insufficient. The aim of this research study is to investigate whether irreversible global warming has already occurred, or if there is still the potential to halt and reduce anthropogenic global warming.
Boysen, L.R., Lucht, W., Gerten, D., Heck, V., Lenton, T.M. and Schellnhuber, H.J., 2017. The limits to global‐warming mitigation by terrestrial carbon removal. Earth’s Future, 5(5), pp.463-474.
2. Can the Paris Accord achieve meaningful reductions in global warming?
Global warming is an international issue which will require all nations to cooperate to reduce anthropogenic emissions and thereby reducing the global warming potential. The aim of this research study is to investigate whether the latest international agreement, the Paris Accord, is more robust than those it replaces and asks the question whether the Paris Accord will succeed where previous treaties (such as the Kyoto Protocol) have failed to significantly reduce anthropogenic global warming.
Mahapatra, S.K. and Ratha, K.C., 2017. Paris climate accord: Miles to go. Journal of International Development, 29(1), pp.147-154.
3. How can developing countries reduce their contributions to global warming?
The anthropogenic emissions which have been the primary factor driving global warming have been predominantly due to emissions from developed (western) nations. The current concern is that the economic expansion of developing countries will see a significant increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions with subsequently increases in global warming. This research study seeks to understand how developing countries can develop economically without contributing towards increasing global warming. It is important that the growth of developing countries is not limited due to the historical actions of developed countries.
Wu, Y., Zhu, Q. and Zhu, B., 2018. Decoupling analysis of world economic growth and CO2 emissions: A study comparing developed and developing countries. Journal of Cleaner Production, 190, pp.94-103.
4. Arctic ecosystems in a Hothouse Earth: The effects of climate change on permafrost.
The study will aim to evaluate the impact of the warming of Arctic soils and thawing of permafrost on the global climate, and assess how this could induce a hothouse climate. The study also aims to explain why warming in the Arctic occurs at twice the rate of other parts of the world, due to permafrost soils storing a huge amount of nitrogen and carbon.
Serreze, M.C., 2018. Brave New Arctic: The untold story of the melting north. Princeton University Press.
5. A Legal Assessment of the Enforceability of International Environmental Treaties
The primary exploratory research aim of the discussion in this thesis is to engage in an assessment of the ability to enforce international environmental treaties at the global level. The argument explored in this thesis is that since the United States has demonstrated a resolve to undo previously agreed international environmental treaties, there is a risk that the enforceability of international environmental treaties will become more difficult to enforce in the future. This study will examine what influence, if any, this development will have on international environmental law.
J. Carbonell and J. Allison, ‘Democracy and State Environmental Commitment to International Environmental Treaties’ (2015) 15(2) International Environmental Agreements: Policies, Law and Economics 79.
6. An Evaluation of the Impact of Business Power on Conflicts in International Environmental Politics
The primary exploratory research aim of the discussion in this thesis is to engage in an evaluation of the role played by business in influencing political disagreements in international environmental politics. It is contended that transnational companies have gained significant economic power in the last three decades as a result of globalisation which has directly impacted international environmental politics to the detriment of protecting against the continuing effects of global warming.
P. Dupuy and J. Vinuales, International Environmental Law (Cambridge University Press, 2018).
Politics and International Relations
7. The Politicisation of Global Warming in American Discourse: Global Warming, Myth or Reality?
This dissertation will deconstruct the political discourses on global warming in the context of the United States of America, which is currently polemical in nature and based on debates about whether global warming is a myth or reality. The dissertation will use critical discourse analysis to present an analysis of the prevailing political perspectives concerning global warming and discuss the implications for environmental policies in the United States.
Fisher, D.R., Galli Robertson, A.M., Waggle, J.M., Dewey, A.M., Dubin, A.H. and Yagatich, W., 2018. Polarizing Climate Politics in America. In Environment, Politics, and Society (pp. 1-23). Emerald Publishing Limited.
8. Global Warming and International Environmental Cooperation Through a Constructivist Lens.
This dissertation will apply a constructivist perspective to deconstruct the dynamics that are shaping the politics of global warming at the international level. A specific focus will be placed on the interest construction of states and political actors at global climate negotiations. The core interest of the dissertation is on how the interests of various political actors and states with respect to global warming, as well as their conduct at global climate negotiations can be explained via a constructivist lens.
Buck, S.J., 2017. The global commons: An introduction. New York: Routledge.
9. The Politics of Domestic Global Warming in the UK.
While climate change agreements with respect to global warming have been concluded at the international level, policy measures designed to meet international objectives and obligations are being implemented at the domestic level. This dissertation will provide a critical analysis of UK government policy on global warming and how the issue of global warming is framed politically within government discourse.
Pye, S., Li, F.G., Price, J. and Fais, B., 2017. Achieving net-zero emissions through the reframing of UK national targets in the post-Paris Agreement era. Nature Energy, 2(3), p.17024.
10. An examination of how to reduce the impact of business activity by shifting from the linear economy to the circular one.
One of the causes of global warming is the increased use of finite resources which often undertake a linear cradle-to-grave production and consumption approach. The shift from the linear to the circular economy will require both production and consumption to be transformed which in turn will have an impact on the triple-bottom line of economy, society and environment. This research aims to assess these impacts by addressing the challenges faced by businesses in undertaking circular economy principles in its activities due to a lack of knowledge and the challenges of undertaking this process. The complexity of the circular economy will also be explored in terms of its impact on the production and consumption patterns.
Rizos, V., Tuokko, K. and Behtrens, A. (2017) The Circular Economy: A Review of definitions, processes and impacts CEPS Research Report No. 2017/8, April 2017
11. The impact of global warming on business: the need for a risk management approach.
One of the future predictions for global climate change will be the increased risk of extreme weather events such as flooding or heatwaves to business continuity. The disruption created by these weather conditions has been seen during 2018 with sustained periods of hot weather and flash flooding. These will require businesses to undertake risk management to both prepare and mitigate against the disruption caused by these events. This dissertation undertakes a risk management approach to help develop mitigation plans for businesses to address these potential risks.
Mulvihill, P.R. and Harris Ali, S. (2017) Environmental Management (1st ed.) Abingdon: Routledge
12. An examination of the potential impact of the Paris Climate Change Agreement on business activity.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement established a more robust framework for signatory states to address climate change. This includes undertaking reporting mechanisms which seek to increase the level of transparency and accountability and to ensure that progress is being made. This progress will be reliant upon businesses contributing to processes which address climate change targets. The aim of this research is to assess how businesses can be part of this process in order to both address climate change and to protect their activities against increased regulatory pressures which may arise if emissions targets are not achieved.
Bodansky, D. (2016) The Paris Climate Change Agreement: A New Hope? American Journal of International Law, Vol.110(2), pp.288-319
13. The Challenges of Marketing Climate Change Interventions and Strategies to Overcome Them
The aim of this research topic is to identify the challenges which will be encountered when attempting to market climate change interventions. It is important that climate change intervention strategies are implemented to reduce the detrimental impact that anthropogenic climate change will have on humanity and the environment. The uptake of climate change interventions is likely to be highly influenced by the success or failure of the marketing strategy. The outcome of this research study will be recommendations for future strategies based on the challenges identified.
Howell, R. and Allen, S., 2017. People and planet: Values, motivations and formative influences of individuals acting to mitigate climate change. Environmental Values, 26(2), pp.131-155.
14. Global Warming is A Fact: The Use of Marketing to Convince the Public
Denial of global warming is an issue which can potentially derail progress towards the implementation of solutions and mitigation strategies. Whilst there is a scientific consensus on the reality of global warming and the driving factors, the level of acceptance among the general public is not as high. The aim of this research study is to examine the role that effective marketing can play in educating the general public and convincing the multitude of the reality of global warming. As part of the research potential barriers to successful marketing of the truth of global warming due to anthropogenic forcing should be identified and analysed to determine potential solutions to overcome them. Additionally, the exposure of individuals to different media and marketing could be examined as a potential driver affecting their environmental beliefs.
Metag, J., Füchslin, T. and Schäfer, M.S., 2017. Global warming’s five Germanys: A typology of Germans’ views on climate change and patterns of media use and information. Public Understanding of Science, 26(4), pp.434-451.