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Experts and climate change politicisation. A case study of the Environmental Protection Agency (1983–2015)

May 10, 2022

By analyzing the Environmental Protection Agency through longitudinal data, CSSN Scholar Loredana Loy explores how governmental experts balance the growing politicization in advocating for climate action policy.


How did governmental experts respond publicly to the politicisation of climate change in the policy domain? Did they remain neutral to this process, resisted these efforts, or enabled them? Using longitudinal data derived from a content analysis of congressional testimonies provided by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) between 1983 and 2015, I find that the proportion of climate-related advocacy statements increased over time, yet their prevalence varied with the political context. As the agency’s position-taking on the issue intensified over time, this intensity was conditional on the political context. Most importantly, the EPA experts never denied the scientific basis of climate change, not even under presidential administrations that did, and instead advocated for climate action. These findings complicate traditional conceptualisations of experts as either independent from or subservient to politics, suggesting a more complex relationship where experts attempt to respond to contentious politics while maintaining continuity in their mission.

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