Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
From Precaution to Profit

From Precaution to Profit: Contemporary Challenges to Environmental Protection in the Montreal Protocol

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    From Precaution to Profit
    Book Description:

    The Montreal Protocol has been cited as the most successful global agreement, responsible for phasing out the use of ozone-depleting substances. But, says Brian Gareau in this provocative and engaging book, the Montreal Protocol has failed-largely because of neoliberal ideals involving economic protectionism but also due to the protection of the legitimacy of certain forms of scientific knowledge. Gareau traces the rise of a new form of disagreement between global powers, members of the scientific community, civil society and agro-industry groups, leaving them relatively ineffective in their efforts to push for environmental protection.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18891-2
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiv-xvi)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  6. 1 Introduction: When Agriculture Meets the Ozone Layer
    (pp. 1-36)

    In the late 1980s scientists began naming and measuring a new threat to the environment: the depletion of the ozone layer. In rapid succession, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were identified as a major source of ozone depletion, and science, journalism, public opinion, and civil society (including environmental) groups, and even corporations and governments converged in supporting the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to phase out the use of CFCs and other ozone-depleting chemicals. Since then, the Montreal Protocol and the conditions that allowed it to be created and implemented have become the gold standard for global environmentalists hoping to replicate...

  7. PART I: Transitioning from Precaution to Profit in Global Environmental Governance

    • 2 From Public to Private Global Environmental Governance: A Brief History
      (pp. 39-64)

      In order to understand the significance of the neoliberal turn that has occurred in the Montreal Protocol, it is important to understand that it is really a broader trend in microcosm. Then the recent controversies over the MeBr phaseout can be appreciated as the product of a larger political and economic transformation that has made global environmental governance difficult to successfully implement in many areas of ecological import.

      Economic sociologists have identified what I call here the “neoliberal turn” in economic globalization, albeit with distinct formulations accounted for by divergent political, social, economic, and institutional conditions. Briefly, since the mid-1970s,...

    • 3 A Critical Review of the Successful CFC Phaseout versus the Delayed MeBr Phaseout in the Montreal Protocol
      (pp. 65-100)

      There are many histories of the Montreal Protocol that paint a coherent picture.¹ These accounts often highlight how corporations and nation-states—pressured by civil society—and the scientific community were able to put politics and economics aside vis-à-vis compelling scientific knowledge in order to achieve a global good: ozone-layer protection. While there is indeed truth to this image, we must critically examine the reasons for success in phasing out CFCs and the reasons for failure subsequently in expediting the phaseout of MeBr. It is useful to revisit the years leading up to the adoption of the Montreal Protocol, showing how...

  8. PART II: The Methyl Bromide Controversy

    • 4 Social Capital and the Vertical Integration of Power
      (pp. 103-140)

      Most accounts on the Montreal Protocol come from the political/legal sciences or international relations, which often debate the reasons for the Protocol’s high level of success in phasing out CFCs.¹ A number of contributions stemming from international economics/business aim to assess the reasons for implementing the Protocol given the estimated economic benefits, changes in production behavior, and other economic reasons for cooperation.² Accounts from former and current members of institutions affiliated with the Protocol also abound, usually explaining the important role of the United Nations in facilitating cooperation between nation-states and industry and the importance of working with developing nations...

    • 5 Tensions among Nation-States
      (pp. 141-194)

      As discussed, the CFC phaseout may leave the false impression that nation-states can easily and quickly compromise with industry and civil society groups on how to respond to global environmental concerns. The fact that CFC production was concentrated in the United States and Western Europe was no small component of the successful phaseout of the majority of CFCs over the years. CFC alternatives were concentrated in the hands of a few chemical companies, and the alternatives, while not fully developed at the time of the proposed incremental phaseout of CFCs, were potentially very lucrative. Moreover, considerable domestic pressure early on...

    • 6 The Coproduction of Science/Knowledge and Politics
      (pp. 195-222)

      Contributions in the sociology and politics of science and technology have long questioned the pure objectivity of science, showing that political culture partially determines how science and technology are received and even produced. Differences between U.S. and European receptivity to science and technology, Sheila Jasanoff argues, “cannot be explained in terms of discrepant ideologies, national interests, policy priorities, or states of technological development.” The differences, rather, also include “the systematic practices by which a nation’s citizens come to know things in common and to apply their knowledge to the conduct of politics.” So, in fact, “culturally specific ways of knowing”...

    • 7 The Limited Influence of Global Civil Society
      (pp. 223-248)

      One has only to attend a Montreal Protocol meeting to get a sense of the skepticism that the majority of ozone-policy-savvy people have about the U.S. position of supporting MeBr. Not only are MeBr experts and nation-states skeptical, but NGOs are as well. In the history of global environmental governance, NGOs have been in a position to present arguments in plenary deliberations to help shape policy. However, some NGO interventions in the MeBr issue seem to go unnoticed. This indifference appears to be a serious flaw in the attempt to create global environmental governance that is—as regime scholars might...

    • 8 Conclusion: Is a Better Future for Global Environmental Governance Possible?
      (pp. 249-267)

      I have emphasized that the Montreal Protocol is often touted as an exemplary model of how to combat global environmental degradation. To be sure, the Protocol has rightfully earned this reputation by eliminating the majority of ODSs from global consumption in just twenty years. The MeBr controversy, however, reveals a significant flaw, or a “dangerous hole,” in ozone governance. The process of turning to market-based solutions to resolve the MeBr problem has deeply impacted the way that scientific knowledge, policy making, and ozone governance in general are formed and acted upon. I am convinced that this “hole” is not limited...

  9. Afterword
    (pp. 268-276)

    In late March 2012, I received an e-mail from a colleague who has spent many years working as an environmental economist on (among other things) the methyl bromide issue. It had been a few years since we last corresponded, but recently we had exchanged a string of e-mails because her work and mine were suddenly generating a number of “hits” on the Internet, and she wanted to know if I was aware of any new developments on the methyl bromide phaseout. Our work was very different but related: hers systematically evaluated the economic effects of methyl bromide alternatives on strawberry...

  10. Appendix: Note on Methods
    (pp. 277-280)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 281-310)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 311-348)
  13. Index
    (pp. 349-362)