Hierarchical Global Governance and Climate Change

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The landscape of global governance presents a complex and almost unintelligible system of actions, power exchanges, and changes. Despite its initial appearance as a concept that is too large to inspect meaningfully, there is evidence for it being a hierarchy or anarchy-centered construct. The interactions within global systems are likely to be swayed by both anarchic and hierarchic tendencies, but there is a possibility that one form of exchange has overall domination throughout worldwide governance. In order to better comprehend which approach has more relevancy and prevalence within global systems, it is essential to observe facets of governance and their processes and results.

Within the following study, climate change, refugee and humanitarian events related to climate change, and the involvement of intergovernmental organizations, or IGOs are observed through the lens of governance. These topics have been selected due to their relevance to international relations and the variety with which they are managed or operated within diverse contexts. With the findings presented in this paper in relation to climate change, IGOs, and climate-related humanitarian crises, hierarchy is the prominent influence on the majority of interactions within current global systems. Repeated patterns and trends within global governance exchanges have illustrated that while anarchic developments have implications within governance, they are much less influential and significant than counterpart-influences that are driven by hierarchy.

Global Governance

In order to better understand the relevancy of hierarchical mechanics within worldwide interactions, it is vital to address the definitions of global governance, systems, hierarchy, and anarchy, especially in relation to the aforementioned topics of climate change and IGOs. Global governance refers to a large construct under which activities overstep the boundaries of nations but adhere to rights and expectations that are observed through either economic, political, or moral incentives. Essentially, such actions are categorized as affecting international collectives, whether these are organizations or governments, but are also limited or at least defined by rules that exist prior to an intervention.

Within the scope of climate change, global governance follows a number of internationally selected motions. For instance, such as the Paris Agreement but is also likely to be affected by regional or transnational accords (Weiss & Wilkinson, 2014). Similarly, international forms of governance may be ignored or less enforced by certain members of worldwide governance. As such, both the combating of adverse climate change effects and the management of humanitarian needs of those affected by such consequences become complicated within the perception of modern global governance. IGOs exist as collaborative organizations or formal treaties that incorporate sovereign states, usually referred to as member states, primarily in order to meet certain goals or to provide communication. They are inherently dominated by global governance.

Global Systems

Global systems are closely related to the workings of global governance. The concept can be thought of as a construct in which economics, politics, capital, employment, information, resources, management, and organizations are partially or totally internationalized. It can be observed as the space and contexts in which global governance and other international exchanges take place. Global systems can be analyzed through five primary subsystems including the ecological, economic, technological, social, and political systems (Waltz, 2010). Throughout the paper, many of these subsystems will be relevant to the topics of climate change and IGOs, but the ecological system is the most relevant.

However, it is also important to note that changes within the ecological system, especially concerning the formulation of refugees and humanitarian crises, and other systems, such as the social and economic are likely to be influenced. While in some countries, there is an overabundance of water, floods, and in other regions – heat and drought entail millions of lives (Busby, 2018). There is a risk of a real and fierce struggle for such valuable natural elements necessary for human life (Busby, 2018). The interconnected nature of global systems cannot be ignored, as drastic alterations impact most if not all subsystems. Similarly, varied forms of global governance throughout different contexts and nations are likely to shape subsystems both within regions and nations as well as within the international landscape. This factor is a component of why certain international agreements are enforced differently among participants.

Hierarchy and Anarchy

The primary definition of anarchy refers to a state in which controlling systems or recognition or authority are absent. As such, it is an ideology that promotes absolute freedom but is also prone to and largely characterized by disorder. Within the sphere of international relations or global governance, it can be defined by a lack of superior authority over the current nation-states, ideally acting as an arbitrator to disputes and the enforcement of international law.

As such, because power as such does not currently exist to oversee global governance, it can be assumed that the global systems are inherently anarchic. It is important to remember that indifference, lack of initiative, and disinterest in decision-making regarding climate change will entail economic losses and a shortage of natural resources (Busby, 2018). The impending threat of climate “reformation” is no longer a distant threat, once mentioned in passing, but already an absolute disaster for every living being on the planet (Busby, 2018). However, this cannot be stated with certainty, as specific power exchanges among leading nations can be seen within the roles of deciders and enforcers in modern international politics. It also cannot be ignored that particular nations introduce dominating influences or laws within the space of global governance than others and occupy an arbitrator-like position.

Though hierarchy is not the antonym of anarchy, it appears as a significant contrast to it. It can be defined as a system in which participants or members of a group or organization are placed in a ranking according to status, authority, or other features. Modern international organizations such as the UN or the EU reject this notion based on theory but can often be seen embodying it in practical contexts (Lake, 2007). While global systems that are created promote non-hierarchical international, geographical, historical, social, economic, and other factors often create unbalanced levels of power among participating member states. It is this factor that mainly contributes to hierarchy being the main influence on global governance, especially in the case of climate change, humanitarian events, and IGOs interactions.

Relevant Influences Within Global Governances

Global governance is primarily led by organizations that head governmental and large administrative collectives. However, both internal and external influences are likely to impact the conduct and operations that these organizations implement. These usually reflect the subsystems with certain areas of global systems having more impact than others. The economic sectors of a nation are likely to be more active actors within modern worldwide governance and politics. In practice, while political approaches are often utilized within international settings, they are frequently driven by economic motivators. A significant number of global relationships and organizations are founded on ambitions to observe beneficial economic exchanges (Barnett & Finnemore, 1999). Social and ecological systems are also susceptible to molding global operations. Serious changes in features such as quality of life or natural disasters have the likelihood of impacting relationships with exterior parties, whether these developments are positive or negative depends on a variety of factors.

Relevant Outcomes Within Global Governances

The relevant influences and factors that contribute to the current landscape of global governance also inherently uphold certain values or ambitions. These desired outcomes may vary between parties and can be complementary or contradictory. The outcomes are just as likely to impact the nature of global governance as the initial actors that aim to achieve them. Sometimes, the reaction of countries and their leaders to the consequences is a more significant event, unlike the consequences of climate change (Busby, 2018). Within the scope of climate change and related events and organizations, the most popular outcome is centered around decreased pollution of the planet and a turn to renewable resources.

However, despite many states sharing the aim of such an outcome, practical operations show that it is difficult to achieve, and specific organizations even take contradictory actions. The debate between States on measures to contain the problem only becomes more acute each time, actively increasing and intensifying (Busby, 2018). This may be a factor in sharing outcomes but prioritizing them differently. Here hierarchy also becomes more influential than anarchy, as states with more influence are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes on national and international stages. Climate change outcomes are being met with slow progress; a possible result of other results being prioritized more in the scope of global governance. Such “terrible scenarios” are inevitable, and much depends on the decision of countries to unite and solve problems together (Busby, 2018). Perhaps, in the light of many current events, this proposal seems to be one of the more effective, efficient, and productive.

Climate Change

As a sector of the ecological subsystem and an aspect of overall global governance, climate change governance can be defined as a process in which government bodies are required to take initiative and an active presence in formulating and initiating shifts in perception, mitigation, and policies relating to ecology and the environment. There is also a vital emphasis on evolving societal perceptions of what changes should be supported and which new behaviors and practices are maintained in order to mitigate damages in terms of ecology.

Though the theoretical framework presents climate change issues and subcategories of ecologically related concerns as being equal to other issues, they often go addressed in ways that are unsatisfactory or do not directly abide by existing policies. Although people have demonstrated a high ability to adapt to certain external conditions, questions about the production of products or water supply remain unresolved (Busby, 2018). This can be observed through hierarchical structures both outside climate change governance as well as within it. This can be observed in the current distinction that exists between climate change effects and effects connected to disaster hazards. They become segmented as separate entities, though many argue that they are in fact part of one singular climate change catastrophe. Their current separation does not allow them to be addressed in the most effective manner as certain links are not observed due to a hierarchical approach.

Refugee and Humanitarian Events as a Result of Climate Change

Climate change-related refugee and humanitarian events also fall into a hierarchical category that is often not addressed or not treated with the same importance as other issues within the branch of climate change. Refugees may appear as a consequence of both climate change effects and the impact of natural disasters, though the latter is more common. However, in both cases, global governance rarely makes an intervention. Frequently, international collaborations work to address the detriments caused by such events, and humanitarian aid is provided. Despite this, global governance usually does not work to address the reasons as to why the crisis occurred or any actions that can be taken directly to mitigate further risk or damages in terms of international policies or initiatives. Most existing plans address long-term outcomes and numerous states often fail to meet quotas or deadlines in limiting the use of non-renewable resources or waste and pollution ceilings.

Intergovernmental Organizations

The largest ruling bodies within global systems regarding climate change include intergovernmental organizations such as the World Meteorological Organization, United Nations Environment Programme, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Despite their stance as being at the top of the hierarchical structure of governance, athletes in the ecological subsystem are rarely remarked as being the most effective in combating the consequences of climate change. The most influential IGOs are primarily the Coalition for Rainforest Nations, the Clean Air Task Force, the Clean Energy Innovation Program at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, and other think-tanks that engage in analysis, mitigation, and prevention of climate change consequences.

However, due to their lower position within global governance in terms of power hierarchy, they are met with frequent obstacles or limited capabilities. This has been seen more recently in crises related to the rainforests, which were addressed on a larger scale only when the climate change effects had become large enough to be warranted as a catastrophe. Therefore, not only government agencies but also some companies support the initiative to curb the development of possible adverse consequences (Bartley, 2018). In this vein, several corporations play several essential roles at once: sponsor, inhibitor, or provider (Bartley, 2018). Perhaps these are also some crucial figures in the arenas of global governance. Some of the firms have already achieved high achievements, but someone continues to go on the path to success.


Through observing the governance and politics of certain global subsystems, especially the ecological, it can be deduced that hierarchies have a dominant influence in general proceedings and outcomes. Climate change initiatives and organizations are inherently perceived in a different way from other subsystems due to the prioritization of member states and usually do not acquire necessary attention and intervention until it reaches a catastrophic scale. Similarly, within climate change studies and governance, a hierarchical structure separates climate change effects from natural disasters, thereby also shaping the way each is approached though it can be argued that they are interconnected and should be responded to as a whole. While climate change is susceptible to changes that may be more anarchic initially, the responses and outcomes are dictated by the hierarchical structures currently in place between nations as well as within them. Overall, this currently works to inhibit appropriate responses to the climate change crisis and related incidents such as increases in refugees and the need for humanitarian intervention.


Barnett, Michael N., and Martha Finnemore. 1999. “The Politics, Power, and Pathologies of International Organizations.” International Organization 53 (4): 699-732. Web.

Bartley, Tim. 2018. “Transnational Corporations and Global Governance.” Annual Review of Sociology 44: 145-65. Web.

Busby, Joshua. 2018. “Warming World.” Foreign Affairs 97 (4): 49-55. Web.

Weiss, Thomas G., and Rorden Wilkinson. 2014. “Rethinking Global Governance? Complexity, Authority, Power, Change.” International Studies Quarterly 58 (1): 207-215. Web.

Lake, David A. 2007. “Escape From the State of Nature: Authority and Hierarchy in World Politics.” International Security 32 (2): 47-49. Web.

Waltz, Kenneth N. 2010. The Theory of International Politics. Long Grove: Waveland Press.

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