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Using biological data to evaluate the effectiveness of international environmental regimes

Andrea Steiner
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Marcelo de Almeida Medeiros
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Brazil)
Andrea Steiner
Universidade Federal de Pernambuco
Open Panel

Abstract

The large amount of transborder environmental problems has been a striking characteristic of the last few decades and (consequently) the increase in the number of related regimes. This has been stimulating an interesting debate: are international regimes truly effective to deal with environmental issues? One of the challenges of evaluating the effectiveness of environmental regimes is the choice of data. While many researchers admit that ideally biological data should be used to assess whether the state of the environment is better due to global agreements, most agree that there are limitations to using this kind of data, including the lack of reliable information and the gap between biological and political time (such as the long periods of time that are often necessary for the environment to recover). To avoid such difficulties, research on the effectiveness of environmental regimes is frequently based on observable political effects and on political institutions. Nevertheless, the choice of data brings about consequences that must be taken into consideration. This article discusses the pros and cons of applying each group of information and argues for the use of mixed data for best results. It is structured into three sections: an introduction to the study of international regime effectiveness, including relevant conceptual issues, specific methodological needs, and a brief review of studies related to environmental agreements; a discussion on the use of biological vs. political data and the advantages and shortcomings of each; and an argument for combining both kinds of data, including methodological considerations and suggestions.