Research

My research interests are rooted in the study of global environmental problems. I examine social, political and economic responses to these problems at various levels of analysis – global, national, regional and individual. I am primarily interested in explaining why certain actors adopt the energy and environmental practices and policies they do, with a view to garnering a better understanding of how interests and preferences interact with the socio-economic and institutional contexts within which they are embedded.

This research leads me to analyse such factors as the role of experts, interest group mobilization, ideological and partisan polarization, perceptions of risk, voter preferences, public opinion, and the regional concentration of energy resources – in interaction with economic systems, political regimes (e.g. electoral rules, boundaries,  federalism) and social norms – in the formulation and implementation of environmental public policy. I am currently working on several projects funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Fonds de recherche sur la société et la culture (FRQSC) du Québec, and Genome Canada, among others.

Interests and expertise

  • Comparative public policy
  • Comparative public opinion
  • Environmental politics
  • Research methodology
  • Political economy


Research projects

  • Risk perceptions, bias, and public policy

    Risk perceptions, bias, and public policy

    Faced with growing complexity, policy-makers increasingly rely on scientific research to inform public policy in such complex, technical domains as energy, the environment, transportation, agriculture, food safety, fisheries, communication and health. This multi-year SSHRC-funded project explores such questions as, who are the experts? How are they selected? What is their role in the policy process? What influence do experts have on elite and public perceptions? To what extent and under what conditions do policy makers, experts, and members of the public update their priors in light of new information? To answer these questions, the project draws on insights from the social and environmental psychology literatures to shed light on the process underlying risk perception, preference formation and attitude change. Substantively, the project has examined risks in the areas of hydraulic fracturing, wind turbines, climate change, and alternative soil decontamination practices (e.g. Phytoremediation), among others. The project is based on research undertaken with Eric Montpetit (University of Montreal) Jean-Philippe Gauvin (Université de Montréal) and has led to collaboration with Simon Kiss (Wilfred Laurier) on the measurement of cultural worldviews and associated policy consequences.

  • The Canadian Surveys on Energy and Environment

    The Canadian Surveys on Energy and Environment

    Public Opinion on energy and climate change

    In the context of a growing scientific consensus on the existence and causes of climate change, increasingly alarming predictions from climate scientists on potential consequences, and diverging emissions and policy paths across much of the developed and developing world, this project compares public opinion in different jurisdictions on matters pertaining to energy, climate change, science and policy. To the extent that carbon emissions are associated with a wide range of essential human activities – like heating our homes, fueling our economies and moving around – emissions reductions will require changes to the way individuals work, play, and go about their daily lives. Behavioral change is thus crucial for responding to climate change. Moreover, to some extent, emissions reductions involve costs associated with innovation and capital stock turnover, raising important distributional questions, equity concerns, and questions about the public’s willingness to pay for mitigation, making it necessary to better understand what the public thinks about the issue, and how they are prepared to respond.

    Since 2011, I have been collecting public opinion data on public attitudes toward energy development projects, climate change, science and policy. Collectively called the Canadian Surveys on Energy and Environment (CSEE, formally the National Survey of Canadian Public Opinion on Climate Change) these surveys are the product of a multi-year collaboration with Chris Borick  (Muhlenberg College) and Barry Rabe (University of Michigan), which continues to collect data from multiple survey waves in Canada and the US, allowing for direct cross-time and cross-country comparison.

    In

  • Comparative politics of climate, environment and energy policy

    Comparative politics of climate, environment and energy policy

    This project builds on my SSHRC-funded doctoral dissertation entitled, “Energy Security and Climate Change Policy in the OECD: The Political Economy of Carbon-Energy Taxation.” The dissertation explores large cross-national differences in the taxation of 6 fossil fuels – coal, heavy fuel oil, light fuel oil, diesel, gasoline, and natural gas – and finds that rates of carbon energy taxation are shaped by electoral rules in interaction with voter preferences and the ideological composition of government. More recently, I have collaborated with Matthew Paterson (University of Ottawa) and Robert Macneil  (University of Sydney) to follow up this research with new papers on the comparative politics of mitigation policy, investment in the energy sector, and the politics of climate policy instrument choice from an institutionalist perspective.

  • Climate federalism in Canada and the US

    Climate federalism in Canada and the US

    This SSHRC and FQRSC funded project asks a series of basic yet fundamental questions: 1) Why is climate change a federalism issue? 2) Why have the federal governments in Canada and the US failed to implement effective mitigation policy? And, why have some sub-federal jurisdictions unilaterally emerged as climate policy leaders, overcoming problems of collective action and implementing effective climate policies, in the absence of a federal role? This project uses a mix of methods and has led to collaborations with Barry Rabe (University of Michigan), David Houle (University of Toronto) and Mark Purdon (London School of Economics). The current focus is on actions at the sub-federal level in Quebec and California around the Western Climate Initiative (WCI) and other mechanisms of pricing carbon.


List of collaborators

Here are some people with whom I am working or have worked with in the past.

Christopher P. Borick (Muhlenberg College)

Stephen Clarkson  (University of Toronto)

Jean-Philippe Gauvin  (Université de Montréal)

Timothy B.  Gravelle  (University of Essex)

David Houle  (University of Toronto)

Simon Kiss  (Wilfred Laurier University)

Robert Macneil  (University of Sydney)

Éric Montpetit  (Université de Montréal)

Alexandre Morin-Chassé (Université de Montréal)

Matthew Paterson (University of Ottawa)

Mark Purdon  (London School of Economics)

Barry G. Rabe (University of Michigan)

Endre Tvinnereim  (Uni Rokkan Centre, Norway)