liu.seSearch for publications in DiVA
Change search
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link
Setting limits in nature and the politics of chemical compounds
Linköping University, The Tema Institute, Department of Water and Environmental Studies. Linköping University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The Critical Load concept, emerged in the late 1980s as a response toan expressed need from especially policy makers to create more exactand scientifically based policy tools for the abatement of transboundary air pollution in Europe (Gehring, 1994; Wettestad, 2000). The concept has mainly been used in international negotiationson emission reductions related to the second-generation protocols, tothe Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), i.e. the 1994 Oslo protocol and the 1999 Gothenburg protocol.

To create a policy based on scientific findings of effects in nature was, by policy makers in the CLRT AP regime, seen as an improvement in relation to the uniform emission reductions, used in earlier protocols. Equal percentage cuts were viewed as arbitrary, economically ineffective and unfair. Arbitrary, as there was no solid scientific base to support the cuts. Ineffective, as the cost for reduction was different in different parts of Europe. Unfair as uniform emission reductions had failed to take into account that ecosystem sensibility varies. The introduction of Critical Load in the CLRTAP can hence be described as a change from a focus on equity of reduction, based on equal commitments for different countries to a focus on equity of environmental effects and economical commitments. The solution to these problems was the Critical Load concept which estimates ofnature's limits to different types of pollutants were aimed to serve asthe base for cost-efficiency calculations, creating the desired policy. The shift from equal percentage cuts to emission cuts based on effects led to an increased importance of scientific estimations (Biickstrand, 2001; Cresser, 2000).


National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-79021OAI: diva2:537715
Abstract is an abridged version of the introduction.Available from: 2012-06-27 Created: 2012-06-27 Last updated: 2012-06-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Setting Limits in Nature and the Metabolism of Knowledge: The Case of the Critical Load Concept
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Setting Limits in Nature and the Metabolism of Knowledge: The Case of the Critical Load Concept
2003 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the 1980s, the earlier understanding that environmental problems are relatively simple was questioned. In order to handle the perceived complexity, several responses emerged. The Critical Load concept is a prominent example of such a response, which was introduced in thesecond-generation Protocols of the Convention of Long Range Transport of Air Pollutants (CLRTAP). The aim of this thesis is to analyse the dynamics of the ideational content of the Critical Load concept, using a discursive approach on policy. At the centre of the analysis are theories, ideas and knowledge claims about nature and processes in nature. The empirical material consists of policy texts produced by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and interviews with SEPA employees.

The Critical Load concept can be interpreted as a meeting place where perceptions of different pollutants, objects in nature and scientific disciplines, meet and interact under the common view of nature as being robust within limits. Chemical mass-balance calculations oftransboundary air pollution in soils and forests dominate the operationalisation of the concept. The dominating chemical perspective has two origins. The first is the acidification concept, which has been the central issue of CLR TAP and has mainly been identified and discussed as a chemical problem. The second is the perception that chemical processes can be exactly measured in nature just as they can in the laboratory. Consequently, it is also generally assumed that estimates based on calculations of chemical processes fit well into the larger discourse of economically and ecologically efficient environmental policy-making within which the Critical Load concept has been situated. A change in the Critical Load concept, from exact mass balance calculations to risk analysis, could be identified with the introduction of new pollutants into the CLRTAP policy agenda. For certain types of pollutants even the possibility defining limits is denied. The conceptual change is here interpreted as a shrinkinglegitimacy of the concept, which also encompasses a weakening of the dominant view of nature as being robust within limits. It is, however too early to judge if this change will lead to larger discursive changes and a general refutation of the ideas that nature's limits are calculable and that such limits provide suitable foundations for environmental policy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Linköping: Linköpings Universitet, 2003. 135 p.
Linköping Studies in Arts and Science, ISSN 0282-9800 ; 274
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-29565 (URN)14940 (Local ID)91-7373-655-4 (ISBN)14940 (Archive number)14940 (OAI)
Public defence
2003-05-30, Sal Elysion, Hus-T, Universitetsområdet Valla, Linköping, 10:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2009-10-09 Created: 2009-10-09 Last updated: 2014-09-01Bibliographically approved

Open Access in DiVA

No full text

By organisation
Department of Water and Environmental StudiesFaculty of Arts and Sciences
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Search outside of DiVA

GoogleGoogle Scholar
The number of downloads is the sum of all downloads of full texts. It may include eg previous versions that are now no longer available

Total: 63 hits
ReferencesLink to record
Permanent link

Direct link