Politics is crucial to understand collective and individual responses to global environmental change, and climate change in particular. However, power dynamics are difficult to formalize, quantify or grasp empirically. This, and perhaps the influence of natural sciences and the IPCC, encourages power neutral representations of climate change, which is portrayed as a problem external to the evolution of socio-political systems. Attempts to formalize climate politics have focused on governance regimes; including norms, rules, regulations, political will, and decision-making procedures. This focus on governance entails a realist approach, which only accounts for those incremental changes in power that can be objectively justified in terms of solving specific problems. This allows studying power without challenging the status quo of power relations, and without compromising science’s neutrality credentials. Yet, it ignores a long idealist/humanist tradition (e.g., Aristotle, Spinoza, parts of Hegel, Marx, Gramsci), which would highlight the potential of climate politics to liberate humanity from elite-based constraints. Thus, instead of perfecting (or proofing) current socio-politics, idealist positionings would seek to transform the socio-political causes of climate change. This also involves problematizing the relationship between science and the powerful. However, as illustrated by the Copenhagen’s fiasco, liberal democracies may lack the capacity to effectively address global environmental change challenges. Hence, it is crucial to inquiry about the foundations and dynamics of power from a global environmental change perspective.