Green Planet Blues: Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Tyoto

By Ken Conca; Geoffrey D. Dabelko et al. | Go to book overview

RICHARD ELLIOT BENEDICK


13
Ozone Diplomacy

On September 16, 1987, representatives of countries from every region of the world reached an agreement unique in the annals of international diplomacy. In the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, nations agreed to significantly reduce production of chemicals that can destroy the stratospheric ozone layer (which protects life on earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation) and can also change global climate.

The protocol was not a response to an environmental disaster such as Chernobyl, but rather preventive action on a global scale. That action, based at the time not on measurable evidence of ozone depletion or increased radiation but rather on scientific hypotheses, required an unprecedented amount of foresight. The links between causes and effects were not obvious: a perfume spray in Paris helps to destroy an invisible gas 6 to 30 miles above the earth, and thereby contributes to deaths from skin cancer and extinction of species half a world and several generations away.

The ozone protocol was only possible through an intimate collaboration between scientists and policymakers. Based as it was on continually evolving theories of atmospheric processes, on state-of-the-art computer models simulating the results of intricate chemical and physical reactions for decades into the future, and on satellite-, land- and rocket-based monitoring of remote gases measured in

____________________
Reprinted with permission from Issues in Science and Technology, Benedick, "Ozone Diplomacy", Fall 1989, pp. 43-50. Copyright 1989 by the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.

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