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Banning chlorofluorocarbons: epistemic community efforts to protect stratospheric ozone


The emergence of scientific evidence that emissions of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were depleting the stratospheric ozone layer prompted an epistemic community of atmospheric scientists and concerned policymakers to push for regulations regarding CFC use. Members of the transnational epistemic community played a primary role in gathering information, disseminating it to governments and CFC manufacturers, and helping them formulate international, domestic, and industry policies regarding CFC consumption and production. Community members contributed to the timing and stringency of CFC regulations through a combination of strategies ranging from the persuasion of individuals to the capture of various decision-making channels. Most important, by influencing the actions of the United States and DuPont, the largest producer of CFCs, the epistemic community changed the external environment in which policy decisions were made by other governments and firms.

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An earlier version of this article was presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, D.C., September 1988. The article is based on data derived from over thirty-five interviews conducted from 1988 to 1990 in the United States, Britain, France, and Nairobi (headquarters of the United Nations Environment Programme, or UNEP) and on documents and files from UNEP and the U.S. Department of State. Research was funded in part by the Graduate Research Center and the Department of Political Science at the University of Massachusetts and by the American Council of Learned Societies. For research assistance, I am grateful to Brian Symington and Bret Brown. For helpful discussions and comments on earlier versions of the article, I thank Lincoln Bloomfield, Peter Cowhey, David Feldman, Nigel Haigh, George Hoberg, Sheila Jasanoff, Peter Katzenstein, Stephen Krasner, Karen Litfin, M. J. Peterson, Robert Putnam, Peter Sand, and John Thompson, as well as the Committee on the Human Dimensions of Global Change of the National Academy of Sciences. For correcting my account, I thank Nigel Haigh and Martin Holdgate. Any remaining errors are my own.

1. Statement of McFarland Mack, DuPont's principal science adviser for CFC-related issues, in “Ozone Science, Recent Findings,” mimeograph, 07 1888.

2. Maddox John, “The Great Ozone Controversy,” Nature 329 (09 1987), p. 101.

3. See Haas Peter M., “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination,” in this issue of IO.

4. Interview with Holdgate Martin, Arc-et-Senans, France, 13 09 1989. After serving as chief scientist and head of research in Britain's Department of the Environment, Holdgate became director general of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources.

5. See, for example, Keohane Robert O., “The Demand for International Regimes,” in Krasner Stephen D., ed., International Regimes (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp. 141–71.

6. For an elaboration of the various strands of neorealism discussed here, see Nye Joseph S., “Neorealism and Neoliberalism,” World Politics 40 (01 1988), pp. 235–51;Grieco Joseph M., “Anarchy and Cooperation,” International Organization 42 (Summer 1988), pp. 485507; and Young Oran R., International Cooperation: Building Regimes for Natural Resources and the Environment (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989).

7. Caldwell Lynton, “The World Environment: Reversing U.S. Policy Commitments,” in Vig Norman J. and Kraft Michael E., eds., Environmental Policy in the 1980s (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 1984), p. 320.

8. For further discussion of the distinction between “preservationist” and “conservationist” environmentalists, see Peterson M. J., “Whalers, Cetologists, Environmentalists, and the International Management of Whaling,” in this issue of IO. Regarding the strategies used by proponents of CFC regulation, see Roan Sharon L., Ozone Crisis (New York: Wiley, 1989).

9. Usher Peter, cited in “The Ozone Layer, CFCs, and the Oceans: An Interview with Peter Usher,” The Siren, no. 35, 12 1987, pp. 3031.

10. Mostafa Tolba, cited by Menyasz Peter in “International Agreement to Protect the Ozone Layer Hailed as Precedent for Global Environmental Solutions,” International Environment Reporter, 14 10 1987, p. 531.

11. Testimony of Lee Thomas, in U.S. Congress, House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Ozone Layer Depletion: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Health and the Environment, 100th Congress, 1st sess., 1987, p. 135.

12. Benedick Richard, cited in “Protecting the Ozone Layer,” Department of State Public Information Series 21, 01 1985, p. 1.

13. Testimony of Richard Benedick, in U.S. Congress, Ozone Layer Depletion: Hearings, p. 97.

14. Benedick, cited by Kamm Henry in “Thirty Nations Meet on Rules to Protect Ozone Layer,” The New York Times, 26 02 1987, p. A7.

15. See Dotto Lydia and Schiff Harold, The Ozone War (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1987), p. 19; and Roan , Ozone Crisis.

16. Dotto and Schiff , The Ozone War, pp. 206–7.

17. Richard Stolarski, cited in ibid., p. 125.

18. Dotto and Schiff , The Ozone War, p. 16.

19. Ibid., p. 11.

20. See Polanyi Michael, “The Republic of Science,” Minerva, vol. 1, 1962, pp. 5473.

21. Personal communication from Holdgate, 6 03 1990.

22. Benedick Richard E., Ozone Diplomacy: New Directions in Safeguarding the Planet (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991), p. 101.

23. In fact, there was great tension between the epistemic community and the opposing groups because of the inability of the latter to grasp the complexities involved in the scientific research and modeling. During an interview conducted on 1 April 1988 with a scientist affiliated with a nongovernmental organization, the scientist referred to members of the opposing groups as “Martians … with a different standard of values.”

24. See, for example, Heads in the Ozone,” Wall Street Journal, 5 03 1984, p. 30.

25. Alliance for a Responsible CFC Policy, “Remarks of Richard Barnett,” in The Montreal Protocol: A Briefing Book (Rosslyn, Va.: Alliance for a Responsible CFC Policy, 12 1987).

26. Benedick Richard E., “The Ozone Protocol: A New Global Diplomacy,” The Conservation Foundation Letter, no. 4, 1989, p. 7.

27. Meier Harry, “Ozone Demise Quickens Despite '78 Ban on Spray Propellant,” Wall Street Journal, 13 08 1986, p. 25.

28. See Davies J. Clarence, “Environmental Institutions and the Reagan Administration,” in Vig and Kraft, Environmental Policy in the 1980s, p. 156; and McCormick John, Reclaiming Paradise (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989), p. 136.

29. In October 1987, for example, the congressional testimony of Harvard University chemist Michael McElroy was covered by the Boston Globe. In his testimony, McElroy made the following statements: “There is no longer reason to doubt that industrial gases containing chlorine are responsible in large measure for a dramatic, large-scale change in the stratosphere observed over Antarctica…. There is, in my opinion, a need for immediate additional cuts in the release of industrial chlorinated and brominated hydrocarbons.” See testimony of Michael McElroy, in U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Implications of the Expedition to Investigate the Ozone Hole over the Antarctic: Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees on Environmental Protection and Hazardous Wastes and Toxic Substances, 100th Congress, 1st sess., 1987, pp. 1819; and Dumanoski Diane, “Ever Stronger Protection Urged for Ozone Layer,” Boston Globe, 28 10 1987, p. 3.

30. Chemical Manufacturers Association, “Fluorocarbon Research Program Revision No. 21,” 06 1985, p. 4.

31. Benedick, cited by Stanfield Rochele L. in “Global Guardian,” National Journal 12 (12 1987), p. 3139.

32. Whitney Craig R., “Twelve European Nations to Ban Chemicals That Harm Ozone,” The New York Times, 3 03 1989, p. 1.

33. See Morone Joseph G. and Woodhouse Edward J., Averting Catastrophe: Strategies for Regulating Risky Technologies (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), chap. 5.

34. See Molina Mario and Rowland Sherwood, “Stratospheric Sink for Chlorofluoromethanes: Chlorine Atom Catalyses Destruction of Ozone,” Nature 249 (06 1974), pp. 810–12. See also Stolarski R. S. and Cicerone R. J., “Stratospheric Chlorine: A Possible Sink for Ozone,” Canadian Journal of Chemistry 52 (09 1974), pp. 1610–15; and Stolarski Richard, “The Antarctic Ozone Hole,” Scientific American 258 (01 1988), pp. 3036. Molina and Rowland's hypothesis did not receive widespread publicity until September 1974, when it was presented at the high-profile national conference of the American Chemical Society. See Arie Rip and Peter Groenewegen, “Les faits scientifiques a l'épreuve de la politique” (The political test of scientific facts), in Callon Michael, ed., La science et ses réseaux: Genèse et circulation des faits scientifiques (Science and its networks: The genesis and circulation of scientific facts) (Paris: Council of Europe and United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, 1988), pp. 149–72.

35. The new equipment was designed by James Lovelock. Unlike most modern technological innovations, this one was created by an independent scientist and engineer who consciously isolated himself from the traditional institutions of “big science.” When Lovelock found evidence of CFCs in the stratosphere, he did not relate them to a chlorine reaction. Rather, he assumed that CFCs were inert and posed no threat to the environment. For Lovelock, CFCs merely provided a useful indicator for his instrumentation. See Dotto and Schiff , The Ozone War, pp. 89; and Joseph Lawrence E., Gaia: The Growth of an Idea (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990), chap. 1.

36. EPA, “Protection of Stratospheric Ozone: Final Rule and Proposed Rule,” Federal Register, no. 239, 12 1987, pp. 47494–95.

37. There are at least 192 chemical reactions and 48 photochemical processes that occur in the stratosphere, although only about 150 or fewer of these parameters are actually used in most models. The models, which are extremely sensitive to the rate of CFC emissions and their reactions with other trace gases, are designed to project ozone concentrations over a span of one hundred years. The concentrations are in turn used to predict the adverse effects on public health. For example, scenarios based on a 2.5 percent annual growth of CFC emissions yielded projections of public health effects that were 90 percent greater than those based on a 1.2 percent annual growth of CFC emissions. See Maugh Thomas H. II, “What Is the Risk from Chlorofluorocarbons?Science 233 (03 1984), pp. 1051–52.

38. Adler offers a similar observation about the role of game theorists in arms control. See Adler Emanuel, “The Emergence of Cooperation: National Epistemic Communities and the International Evolution of the Idea of Nuclear Arms Control,” in this issue of IO.

39. See Stoel Thomas B. Jr, Miller Alan S., and Milroy Breck, Fluorocarbon Regulation:: An International Comparison (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1980); and U.S. Congress, Ozone Layer Depletion: Hearings, pp. 406–7.

40. Document 80/372/EEC, reprinted in Official Journal of the European Communities, no. L90/45, 3 04 1980.

41. Document 82/795/EEC, reprinted in Official Journal of the European Communities, no. L329/29, 25 11 1982. I am grateful to Nigel Haigh for clarifying my understanding of these decisions.

42. Sand Peter H., “Protecting the Ozone Layer,” Environment 27 (06 1985), pp. 1820 and 40–43.

43. Hammitt James K. et al. , Product Uses and Market Trends for Potential Ozone-Depleting Substances, 19852000, RAND Corporation, R-3386-EPA, 05 1986, pp. 410.

44. See Ozone Agreement Up in the Air,” New Scientist, 7 02 1985, p. 8. I am grateful to Nigel Haigh for clarifying my understanding of this point.

45. The group was named after an informal negotiating meeting hosted by Canada. Regarding the group's proposal, see UNEP/WG 110/4, Annex IV, 1984.

46. Sand, “Protecting the Ozone Layer.”

47. Farman J. C., Gardiner B. G., and Shanklin J. D., “Large Losses of Total Ozone in Antarctica Reveal Seasonal CIOx/NOx Interaction,” Nature 315 (05 1985), pp. 207–10.

48. See Schell Ellen Ruppell, “Solo Flights into the Ozone Hole Reveal Its Causes,” Smithsonian 18 (02 1988), pp. 142–55.

49. Stolarski , “The Antarctic Ozone Hole,” p. 30.

50. See Sand , “Protecting the Ozone Layer,” p. 20; and Crawford Mark, “United States Floats Proposal to Prevent Global Ozone Depletion,” Science 234 (11 1986), p. 927.

51. NASA et al., Atmospheric Ozone, 1985, World Meteorological Organization Global Ozone Research and Monitoring Project Report, no. 16, 3 vols. (Geneva: World Meteorological Organization, 1986).

52. Dudek Daniel J. and Oppenheimer Michael, “The Implications of Health and Environmental Effects for Policy,” in U.S. EPA and UNEP, Effects of Changes in Stratospheric Ozone and Global Climate, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: EPA, 08 1986), pp. 357–79.

53. Testimony of A. James Barnes, deputy administrator of the EPA, in U.S. Congress, House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Review of the Results of the Antarctic Ozone Expedition: Hearings Before the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, 100th Congress, 1st sess., 1987, pp. 395401.

54. Alliance for a Responsible CFC Policy, The Montreal Protocol.

55. Crawford , “United States Floats Proposal to Prevent Global Ozone Depletion,” p. 928.

56. Testimony of Richard Barnett, in U.S. Congress, Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, Ozone Depletion, the Greenhouse Effect, and Climate Change: Joint Hearings Before the Subcommittees on Environmental Protection and Hazardous Wastes and Toxic Substances, 100th Congress, 1st sess., 1987.

57. DuPont Position Statement on the Chlorofluorocarbon-Ozone-Greenhouse Issues,” Environmental Conservation 13 (Winter 1986), pp. 363–64.

58. Department of State, “Principles for an International Protocol on Stratospheric Ozone Protection,” mimeograph, 3 11 1986, p. 1.

59. See ibid.; and Department of State, “U.S. Position Paper, UNEP Ozone Layer Protocol Negotiations, Second Session: February 23–27, 1987, Vienna, Austria,” mimeograph, 19 02 1987. Consumption was to be calculated according to the following formula: production – exports + imports – amounts destroyed.

60. See Nations Move Closer to Global Consensus on Protection of Stratospheric Ozone Layer,” International Environment Reporter, 13 05 1987, p. 195.

61. See Negroponte John D., “Protecting the Ozone Layer,” Department of State Bulletin, no. 2123, 06 1987, p. 59.

62. Benedick Richard E., “The Ozone Treaty: Acting Before the Disaster,” Washington Post, 4 01 1988, p. A13.

63. Ibid.

64. U.S. Congress, Senate bills 570 and 571, 100th Congress, 1st sess., 1987.

65. Congressional Record, Senate proceedings, 8 10 1986, p. S15679. At a congressional hearing in May 1987, Chafee asked Benedick if his bills helped in the negotiations for a strong treaty, and Benedick responded affirmatively.

66. U.S. Congress, Senate resolution 226, 100th Congress, 1st less., 1987.

67. Benedick Richard E., “International Efforts to Protect the Stratospheric Ozone Layer,” U.S. Department of State Current Policy, no. 931, 1987.

68. See The Environmental Agenda and Foreign Policy,” U.S. Department of State Current Policy, no. 943, 1987; and Negroponte , “Protecting the Ozone Layer,” p. 59.

69. Sand , “Protecting the Ozone Layer,” p. 41.

70. Lewis Paul, “Borderline Protection,” The New York Times, 12 04 1987, p. E26.

71. See UNEP/WG 167/2, 1987.

72. See UNEP/WG 172/2, 1987.

73. Crawford Mark, “Landmark Ozone Treaty Negotiated,” Science 237 (09 1987), p. 1557.

74. U.S. Office of Technology Assessment, “An Analysis of the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer,” 1 02 1988, p. 36.

75. Johnston Kathy, “Europe Agrees to Act for Protection of the Ozone Layer,” Nature 326 (03 1987), p. 321.

76. See Doniger David, “Politics of the Ozone Layer,” Issues in Science and Technology 4 (Spring 1988), p. 90; and Dickman Steven, “West Germany Strives Toward CFC Elimination by 2000,” Nature 327 (05 1987), p. 93.

77. Block Paula M., “UN Focuses on Ozone Levels,” Chemical Week, 13 05 1987, p. 8.

78. See “Nations Move Closer to Global Consensus on Protection of Stratospheric Ozone Layer,” p. 198.

79. Ibid, pp. 195–96.

80. See Council Discusses Global Efforts to Protect the Stratospheric Ozone Layer,” International Environment Reporter, 10 06 1987, p. 276.

81. See Benedick , Ozone Diplomacy, p. 36. EC positions were initially formulated in a committee composed of the past, present, and future chairs of the EC Committee of Environmental Ministers, all of whom serve six-month terms. With Britain's absence, this committee could support more stringent controls; however, Britain could still block votes in the full committee, which operated by consensus.

82. UNEP, “Ad Hoc Scientific Meeting to Compare Model-Generated Assessments of Ozone Layer Change for Various Strategies for CFC Control,” UNEP/WG 167/INF 1, 1987.

83. Ibid.

84. Tolba , cited in UNEP/WG 172/2, 1987, p. 2.

85. Interview with an official at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, D.C., 23 03 1988.

86. Johnston Kathy, “First Steps in Ozone Protection Agreed,” Nature 329 (09 1987), p. 189.

87. Watson R. T., Prather M. J., and Kurylo M. J., Present State of Knowledge of the Upper Atmosphere, 1988: An Assessment Report (Washington, D.C.: NASA, 1988).

88. See EPA Chief Asks for a Total Ban on Ozone-Harming Chemicals,” The New York Times, 27 09 1988, p. A20; and Zurer Pamela, “EPA Calls for a Total Ban on Chlorofluorocarbons,” Chemical and Engineering News, 3 10 1988, p. 8.

89. Kerr Richard A., “Arctic Ozone Is Poised for a Fall,” Science 243 (02 1989), p. 1007.

90. Dickson David and Marshall Elliot, “Europe Recognizes the Ozone Threat,” Science 243 (03 1989), p. 1279.

91. See Ninety-Three Countries Agree to Ban Chemicals That Harm Ozone,” The New York Times, 30 06 1990, p. 1.

92. See London Conference on the Ozone Layer,” Financial Times, 7 03 1989, p. 14. The Federation of European Aerosol Manufacturers concluded a voluntary agreement for a 90 percent reduction in the use of CFCs in aerosols used in 1990. See April in the EEC,” Economist, 29 04 1989, p. 148;More Companies to Phase Out Peril to Ozone,” The New York Times, 11 10 1989, p. A27; and Roan , Ozone Crisis, pp. 242–43. Various U.S. municipalities banned the use of foam plastic food containers made with CFCs. See EPA Plan May Allow Delays in Clean Air Rule,” The New York Times, 24 09 1987, p. 14.

93. Manzer L. E., “The CFC-Ozone Issue: Progress on the Development of Alternatives to CFCs,” Science 249 (07 1990), pp. 3135.

94. See Glas Joseph P., “Protecting the Ozone Layer: A Perspective from Industry,” in Ausubel Jesse H. and Sladovich Hedy E., eds., Technology and Environment (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1989), p. 150;Roan , Ozone Crisis, pp. 242–43;Theys Jacques, Faucheux Sylvie, and Noel Jean-Francois, “La guerre de l'ozone” (The ozone war), Futuribles, 10 1988, pp. 6773; and U.S. EPA Office of Air and Radiation and Office of Program Development, “How Industry Is Reducing Dependence on Ozone-Depleting Chemicals,” 06 1988.

95. For comparative studies of science policy and for discussions of patterns of technical advice to policymakers, see Brickman Ronald, Jasanoff Sheila, and Ilgen Thomas, Controlling Chemicals (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985); Vogel David, National Styles of Regulation (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1986), p. 181;Jasanoff Sheila, Risk Management and Political Culture (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1986); and Hoberg George Jr, “Risk, Science and Politics: Alachlor Regulation in Canada and the United States,” Canadian Journal of Political Science 23 (06 1990), pp. 257–77. For studies of the United States, see Dietz Thomas M. and Rycroft Robert, The Risk Professionals (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1987); and Hays Samuel P., Beauty, Health, and Permanence: Environmental Politics in the United States, 19551985 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987).

96. Jasanoff , Risk Management and Political Culture, p. 30.

97. SORG, Stratospheric Ozone: First Report (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1987).

98. See Lean Geoffrey, “Cancer-Causing Hole in the Sky Is Man-Made,” The Observer, 6 09 1987, p. 3.

99. SORG, Stratospheric Ozone, 1988 (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1988).

100. House of Lords Select Committee on the European Communities, The Ozone Layer: Implementing the Montreal Protocol, H.L. Paper 94, 17th Report, 1987–88 session (London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1988).

101. Margaret Thatcher, cited by Lean Geoffrey in “Tories Plan ‘Green Bill,’The Observer, 2 10 1988, p. 1.

102. Hunt John, “Conference Urges Faster Action on CFCs,” Financial Times, 8 03 1989.

103. See The Greening of Margaret Thatcher,” Economist, 11 03 1989, pp. 5556; and Lean Geoffrey, “Ozone: UN Acts to Tighten Controls,” The Observer, 5 03 1989, p. 2.

104. See Burke Tom, “The Year of the Greens,” Environment 31 (11 1989), p. 20; and The Greening of British Politics,” Economist, 3 03 1990, p. 49.

105. For a list of French research, see Secretariat d'Etat a l'Environnement, “La protection de la couche d'ozone” (The protection of the ozone layer), Paris, 1989.

106. See “London Conference on the Ozone Layer,” p. 14.

107. Ehrlichman James, “Stores Drop Ozone Carriers,” Guardian, 28 07 1988, p. 3.

108. See Peterson Cass, “Administration Ozone Policy May Favor Sunglasses, Hats,” Washington Post, 29 05 1977, pp. 1 and 26; and Crawford Mark, “Ozone Plan: Tough Bargaining Ahead,” Science 237 (09 1987), p. 1099. I have, however, been assured that the statement about personal protection was incorrectly attributed to Hodel and was actually made by someone from another department at an Office of Management and Budget briefing.

109. See Benedick , Ozone Diplomacy, p. 22.

110. Interviews with DuPont executives, Wilmington, Del., 21 07 1988.

111. Glaberson William, “Science at Center Stage in DuPont Ozone Shift,” The New York Times, 26 03 1988, pp. 41 and 43.

112. Ibid.

113. See Hounsell David A. and Smith John Kenly Jr, Science and Corporate Strategy: DuPont R&D, 1902–1980 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988); and Chandler Alfred D. Jr, Strategy and Structure: Chapters in the History of the American Industrial Enterprise (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1962).

114. See Shea Cynthia Pollock, “Why DuPont Gave Up $600 Million,” The New York Times, 10 04 1988, section 3, p. 2. CFCs may actually have accounted for slightly more of DuPont's profits, since its CFC plants were well established and required little maintenance.

115. Interviews with officials at the OMB and the Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C., 23 03 1988.

116. Benedick , Ozone Diplomacy.

117. See Renner Michael, “A Green Tide Sweeps Europe,” Worldwatch 3 (0102 1990), pp. 2327; Parkin Sara, Green Parties: An International Guide (London: Heretic Books, 1989); and “The Greening of British Politics,” pp. 4950.

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