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)

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