For a long time, the global atmosphere was strictly a subject of the meteorological sciences. Until the 1960s, in fact, few people seriously considered the seemingly boundless and indestructible nature of the global atmosphere as an appropriate subject of politics. Today, however, it is widely understood that the atmosphere is not only a part of the global commons, but that it is in danger of severe human-induced degradation. Yet, global atmospheric science remains full of uncertainties, and it is in the face of these uncertainties that international efforts to protect the ozone layer and to halt global warming have taken place.
This chapter examines these two most prominent efforts to protect the global atmosphere. I will do so by (1) adopting a social constructionist framework that focuses on the interaction of knowledge and policy making, and (2) examining the linkage between international and domestic political processes in a generally understudied, but quite important case: Japan. This chapter addresses a central question: How have the Japanese interpreted developments in global atmospheric science, and how has this shaped Japan’s foreign policy making and its participation in the development of international atmospheric regimes? In this regard, I am concerned with why and when a particular understanding of the global atmospheric crises emerged and became politically relevant in Japan. In the following section, I briefly review the existing frameworks of analysis for international environmental issues. I then specify the framework of analysis used in this chapter. Following this, I discuss the cases of ozone layer depletion and climate change policy in Japan. Finally, I provide an analysis of Japan’s policy changes on global atmospheric issues in relation to the transformation of environmental discourse.
Since the late 1980s, there has been a proliferation of studies on the politics of global atmospheric issues. Until recently, however, the conventional or rationalist literature has focused on the formation of international regimes (Rowlands 1995; Benedick 1998) and on the effectiveness of institutions (Haas et al. 1995; Victor et al. 1998; Miles et al. 2002). More recent studies, however, have begun to