Title: Precaution in global environmental politics

Authors: Radoslav S. Dimitrov

Addresses: Department of Political Science, University of Western Ontario, Social Science Centre, London, Ontario N6A 5C2, Canada

Abstract: The article evaluates the application of the precautionary principle at the international level. It employs a comparative study of four cases in global environmental politics: ozone depletion, acid rain, deforestation and coral reef degradation. Contrary to widespread academic notions, the precautionary principle is not widely applied in international environmental policy. The empirical record shows that governments abstain from regulatory policy when they face uncertainty about key aspects of ecological problems. The key question that the literature has ignored is: what kind of uncertainty? Indeed, states do take action when the extent of ecological problems is unknown. However, uncertainty about the transboundary consequences of alleged problems prevents international policy. Existing scholarship has misappraised the status of PP in international law, by underspecifying when PP is applied and under what kind of scientific uncertainty.

Keywords: acid rain; coral reefs; deforestation; environmental policy; environmental science; international regimes; ozone depletion; precautionary principle; precaution; environmental politics; reef degradation; global policy; international policy; uncertainty; environmental management.

DOI: 10.1504/IJGENVI.2005.006265

International Journal of Global Environmental Issues, 2005 Vol.5 No.1/2, pp.96 - 113

Published online: 12 Feb 2005 *

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