From stratospheric ozone to climate change: Historical perspective on precaution and scientific responsibility

Science and Engineering Ethics 12 (4):596-606 (2006)
Abstract
The issue of the impact of human activities on the stratospheric ozone layer emerged in the early 1970s. But international regulations to mitigate the most serious effects were not adopted until the mid-1980s. This case holds lessons for addressing more complex environmental problems. Concepts that should inform discussion include “latency,’ ‘counter-factual scenario based on the Precautionary Principle,’ ‘inter-generational burden sharing,’ and ‘estimating global costs under factual and counter-factual regulatory scenarios.’ Stringent regulations were adopted when large scientific uncertainty existed, and the environmental problem would have been prevented or more rapidly mitigated, at relatively modest incremental price, but for a time delay before more rigorous Precautionary measures were implemented. Will history repeat itself in the case of climate change?
Keywords stratospheric ozone  impact of human activities  CFCs  Montreal Protocol  historical case study  scientific uncertainties  Precautionary Principle  Precautionary scenario  cost-benefit analysis  regulation
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