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Patt, Anthony. 2001. "Transboundary Air Pollution: Lessons for Useful Analysis." Pp. 91-120 in Transboundary Risk Management, edited by Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer, Ragnar E. Loefstedt, and Gunnar Sjoestedt. Risk, Society, and Policy Series, edited by Ragnar Loefstedt. Laxenburg, Austria: IIASA; London: Earthscan Publications Ltd.


Over the last twenty years, policy-makers in Europe have been attempting to solve the problem of acid rain using detailed analysis grounded in natural science and economics. The results are impressive, as Europeans have successfully implemented a number of international agreements to reduce pollution emissions, agreements that in theory achieve the greatest environmental benefit at the lowest aggregate cost across Europe. This study examines the analysis on which these policies were based. First, it finds a pattern of investigating the use of cost-benefit analysis, together with a lack of usefulness associated with the actual results of such analysis. Second, it finds that the analytic framework that came to replace cost-benefit analysis--"critical loads"--contained many of the same uncertainties and political decisions that had plagued cost-benefit analysis. Nevertheless, "critical loads" analysis was temporarily seen as less value-laden and more reliable, and contributed significantly to policy development. The desire for rapid action led policy-makers to ignore or to overlook the politics and uncertainties inherent in efforts at scientific assessment and modeling.


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