Wednesday, August 31, 2022

A model treaty for transboundary pollution

The Scandinavian Journal of History recently published an article by Melina Antonia Buns, "Making a model: the 1974 Nordic Environmental Protection Convention and Nordic attempts to form international environmental law". The abstract:

This article investigates the 1974 Nordic Environmental Protection Convention. It shows that the ulterior motives for such a convention were Nordic ambitions to regulate and reduce transboundary pollution originating outside of the Nordic region. Emphasizing the inter-organizational dynamics between institutionalized Nordic cooperation and international organizations, it examines how the Nordics drew on developments within international organizations and how they pursued their agenda of shaping international environmental law within the OECD. Ultimately, the article argues that the Nordic countries tried to create a model convention to be exported to and implemented at the international level with the aim of reducing transboundary pollution and establishing transnational responsibilities and accountabilities. By setting out this argument and shedding light on the first legally binding international convention to address transboundary pollution with procedural principles, the article breaks new ground on the history of Nordic environmental cooperation as well as on the development of international environmental law.

Black snow, Tryvann, Oslo in 1974 (NILU - Norwegian institute for Air Research,

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Bounties and land-use regulation

Jack Whiteley recently posted "Property in Wolves", forthcoming in the Cornell Law Review. The abstract:

From colonial times until the mid-twentieth century, governments paid bounties to kill wolves, mountain lions, and other wild animals. Clearing the wild was a sustained legislative project. Yet interest in these statutes has remained confined to scholarship on wildlife conservation, and important insights for legal theory have gone unobserved.

Based on new research, I argue that these bounty statutes have implications for the history and theory of property. The statutes were, in their intent and effect, land use regulations. For more than three centuries, they encouraged livestock. By removing wild animals, the statutes made livestock-raising a more cost-effective use of land than it otherwise would have been for landowners. And by removing wolves and other ecologically important species, they changed the character of land in ways that diminished the value of wilder uses. The statutes chose winners among land uses, and they operated over a much longer timeframe than conventional accounts, which date land use regulation’s origin to 1916, would suggest.

The statutes also had a deeper consequence. They encouraged private property in land. Predation on livestock is the kind of “large event” that, on a famous theory developed by Robert Ellickson, makes collectively-owned land valuable. By acting to remove the threat of wild animal predation on livestock in settlement communities, governments weighted the scale toward privately-owned, fee-simple land regimes. This discovery raises questions for a popular normative justification for private property in land.

The Article finally offers thoughts as to why animal eradication was such a pronounced public policy. The phenomenon suggests the influence of cultural preferences on property regimes.

Note: Apparently bounties are still with us, as can be seen in the recent poster below. 

(Boise State Public Radio)

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Carbon dioxide as an air pollutant

More on the co-production of environmental science and law: Just out in Environment and History is an article by Ashton Macfarlane, "The Many Pollutant Identities of Carbon Dioxide: Global Climate Monitoring and Air Pollution Research in New Zealand, 1968–1975", that discusses the way carbon dioxide was framed as an air pollutant due to the modern air pollution statutes of the 1960s and '70s. The abstract:

In the late 1960s, New Zealand and the United States collaborated to establish a southern hemispheric carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring station on New Zealand’s coastal cliffs. The New Zealand CO2 Project, as it came to be known, is an underappreciated landmark in the history of environmental monitoring. The archival record of its early years reveals the extent to which efforts to measure atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations interacted closely with one of the most hotly debated political issues of the mid-twentieth century: urban air pollution. The designation of CO2 as air pollution on a planetary scale had profound legal implications in an era in which clean air legislation increasingly brought air pollution within the scope of governmental regulation, and administrative agencies began to jostle for control of the monitoring enterprise. The precise nature of CO2 as an air pollutant, however, was difficult to pin down. In these initial years of concerted carbon dioxide monitoring, when the lines between climate science and air pollution research were still blurred, CO2 developed its many pollutant identities. The nature of these identities – and the ways in which scientists and science administrators negotiated their boundaries – retain their relevance today, as nations continue to link air pollution and climate legislation in the twenty-first century.

NIWA's Baring Head monitoring station (Dave Allen)