U.S. Presidential Decisions on Ozone Depletion and Climate Change: A Foreign Policy Analysis


  • Author’s note: The author thanks Patrick James and Sheldon Kamieniecki for their invaluable assistance as well as the anonymous reviewers and the editors of FPA for their supportive comments and suggestions on earlier drafts of this paper. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, Chicago, February/March 2007 and ISA West, Las Vegas, September 2006.


The overarching question this paper addresses is whether and, if so, to what extent can existing IR theories commonly associated with high politics decision making be applied to low politics issue areas, specifically international environmental policy. The paper serves to test poliheuristic theory against two case studies, The Montreal Protocol and The Kyoto Protocol, to assess its ability to explain the decision-making processes of four United States presidents. The paper concludes that poliheuristic theory adequately explains the presidents’ behavior in virtually all cases. It is especially effective in explaining the first phase of the decision-making process. The paper also suggests in the conclusion that a president’s “environmentalness” may affect his decision-making behavior in the first phase.