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Conceptual Innovation in Environmental Policy$
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James Meadowcroft and Daniel J. Fiorino

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036580

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036580.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM MIT PRESS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.mitpress.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright The MIT Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in MITSO for personal use.date: 21 May 2022

Critical Loads: Negotiating What Nature Can Withstand

Critical Loads: Negotiating What Nature Can Withstand

(p.129) 6 Critical Loads: Negotiating What Nature Can Withstand
Conceptual Innovation in Environmental Policy

Karin Bä

The MIT Press

This chapter analyzes the concept of critical loads, a science-based approach to grounding policy on notions of nature’s 'carrying capacity' or 'ecosystem tolerance limits'. The critical loads concept represents a conceptual innovation in environmental policy that has operationalized the notion of 'limits' central to environmental debates into both domestic and international policy. This chapter traces the origin and emergence of the concept in international, United Nations and European Union air pollution diplomacy over the past 30 years. It analyzes the different discourses on critical loads in the public, international negotiation, and scientific arenas, and discusses the significance and impact of the concept. It argues that the critical loads concept has played a pioneering role in international environmental diplomacy with regard to how science is harnessed for policy as the idea of nature’s toleration limits was transformed into a scientific concept of ecosystem sensitivities. 

Keywords:   critical loads, science-policy interface, international air pollution diplomacy, nature’s toleration limits, air pollution

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