Implementing the Precautionary Principle
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Implementing the Precautionary Principle

Perspectives and Prospects

Edited by Elizabeth Fisher, Judith Jones and René von Schomberg

This challenging book takes a broad and thought-provoking look at the precautionary principle and its implementation, or potential implementation, in a number of fields. In particular, it explores the challenges faced by public decision-making processes when applying the precautionary principle, including its role in risk management and risk assessment. Frameworks for improved decision-making are considered, followed by a detailed analysis of prospective applications of the precautionary principle in a number of emerging fields including: nanotechnology, climate change, natural resource management and public health policy. The analysis is both coherent and interdisciplinary, employing perspectives from law, the social sciences and public policy with a view to improving both the legitimacy and effectiveness of public policy at national and international levels.
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Chapter 12: Climate Change and the Precautionary Principle

Jeroen van der Sluijs and Wim Turkenburg


Jeroen van der Sluijs and Wim Turkenburg INTRODUCTION Scientific assessment of the risks of anthropogenic climate change has shown that there is a reasonable concern for the possibility of irreversible large-scale adverse effects in the long term. Examples of such effects are a severe reduction or shutdown of the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic current, accelerated species extinction and extreme sea level rise. But deep scientific uncertainty on causality, timing, probability and magnitude of such adverse effects persists. This meets all the criteria of the definition of the Precautionary Principle (PP) proposed by von Schomberg (see chapter 2, Box 2.1, in this volume): Where, following an assessment of available scientific information, there are reasonable grounds for concern for the possibility of adverse effects but scientific uncertainty persists, provisional risk management measures based on a broad cost-benefit analysis whereby priority will be given to human health and the environment, necessary to ensure the chosen high level of protection in the Community and proportionate to this level of protection, may be adopted, pending further scientific information for a more comprehensive risk assessment, without having to wait until the reality and seriousness of those adverse effects become fully apparent. In theory, the international community has acknowledged that the PP needs to be invoked here. In Article 3.3 of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (United Nations FCCC, 1992) it is stated that: The Parties should take precautionary measures...

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