Environmental Politics in Japan, Germany, and the United States

By Miranda A. Schreurs | Go to book overview

4
Acid rain: signs of policy divergence

This chapter explores how Germany, Japan, and the US reacted in the 1980s to environmental issues, focusing on the emergence of acid rain as an international environmental concern. It also shows how their perceptions of environmental issues and policy approaches began to diverge. These differences are in part a reflection of the different geographical situations and environmental problems experienced by these countries. More importantly, however, the different policy responses to acid rain reflect the different kinds of formal and informal relationships that emerged among the environmental policy community, industry, and government in each country.


Acid rain

One of the first international atmospheric pollution concerns to gain scientific and political attention was acid rain. Acid rain has its roots in scientific understanding and policy responses related to local air pollution. Scientific research into the formation, transportation, and impacts of acidic rainfall followed upon decades of research related to classical air pollutants, and particularly SOx and NOx emissions. In the midnineteenth century, acidic emissions from local factories and mining operations were recognized as problems. In the mid-nineteenth century, when the Prussian state empowered local authorities to restrict heavily polluting industrial facilities, it did this in part to deal with acidic depositions. Acidic deposition was an ecological and health problem known to German scientists at least since the nineteenth century.1

Acidic deposition has been recognized as a problem for over a century, but it was not until 1968 that the long-range transport of acid rain over distances of tens and even hundreds of miles was seriously debated in the scientific and international policy communities. In that year, Svante

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1
Dominick, The Environmental Movement in Germany, p. 16.

-92-

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