Environmental Policy 1985-90

Hi all!

Just wanted to say thank you again for celebrating one year of Climate Roots with us! It has been a long year and we have all learned so much– thank you for sticking with us.

In today's education section, we will be focusing on the environmental policies of 1985-1989, a four-year period that was deeply impacted by the discovery of a hole in the Ozone layer in 1985. The Ozone layer is a “region of the Earth's stratosphere containing high levels of trioxygen, which effectively blocks much of the sun's most harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the planet's surface” (Editors). In May of 1985, Joe Farman, Brian Gardiner, and Jonathan Shanklin, researchers working for the British Antarctic Survey, discovered abnormally low levels of ozone over the south pole. The discovery panicked the international community, which spent the next two years trying to understand why it happened, with “...scientists suggest[ing] a host of explanations covering atmosphere dynamics, chemical interactions, and solar physics to decipher the mystery” (N. O. and A. A. US Department of Commerce). The ensuing exploits to solve this crisis is the standard for international climate policy and action; unfortunately not a standard we have lived up to. Today, the Ozone layer is on the mend thanks to swift action and policy.

1986- Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA)

Passed in 1986 under a title amendment of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA), the EPCRA was created, “... in response to concerns regarding the environmental and safety hazards posed by the storage and handling of toxic chemicals.”(What Is EPCRA? US EPA) According to the EPA’s website, the push for this act came in response to an accidental release of toxic chemicals in Bhopal, India in 1984 that killed 2,000 people. The EPCRA requires each state to have an Emergency Response Commission (SERC), who divide their states into Emergency Planning Districts and to name a local committee for each district (What Is EPCRA? | US EPA). The EPCRA also required “community right to know” reports, which are designed to inform the public about the chemicals at industrial sites in their area.

1987/1988- The Signing and Ratification of the Montreal Protocol

Two years after the discovery of the hole in the Ozone layer, President Regan joined the international community in the signing of the Montreal Protocol. Essentially, the Montreal Protocol “... is a global agreement to protect the stratospheric ozone layer by phasing out the production and consumption of ozone-depleting substances”(“The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer”). Some common types of ODS include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were “...used in the manufacture of aerosol sprays, blowing agents for foams and packing materials, as solvents, and as refrigerants,” and halons, which are mainly used as fire extinguishers (N. US Department of Commerce). According to the EPA, due to the ratification of the Montreal Protocol, “Americans born between 1890 and 2100 are expected to avoid 443 million cases of skin cancer, approximately 2.3 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 63 million cases of cataracts”(“The Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer”). As of 2022, the Montreal Protocol signees “have phased out 98% of ODS globally compared to 1990 levels” and if the phase out is fully implemented and maintained, the Ozone layer is expected to fully recover by the 2050s (Environment).

1988- Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA)

Passed in 1988, the MPRSA (also known as the Ocean Dumping Act) prohibits the dumping of materials into the ocean that could harm human health and the health of marine life and the environment (OA US EPA). The act also prohibits the transportation of material from anywhere for the purpose of ocean dumping by U.S. agencies or U.S.-flagged vessels and the dumping of material transported from outside the United States into the U.S. territorial sea (OP US EPA). However, ocean dumping can still occur if a permit from the EPA is obtained.

Join us back here next month as we cover policies from 1990-1994!


Works Cited:

  1. Environment, U. N. “About Montreal Protocol.” Ozonaction, 29 Oct. 2018, http://www.unep.org/ozonaction/who-we-are/about-montreal-protocol.

  2. US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Breakthrough Article on Discovering the Cause of the Ozone Hole. https://celebrating200years.noaa.gov/breakthroughs/ozone/welcome.html. Accessed 25 May 2022.

  3. US Department of Commerce, NOAA. NOAA Global Monitoring Laboratory - Halocarbons and Other Atmospheric Trace Species. https://gml.noaa.gov/hats/publictn/elkins/cfcs.html. Accessed 2 June 2022.

  4. US EPA, OA. EPA History: Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (Ocean Dumping Act). 29 Jan. 2013, https://www.epa.gov/history/epa-history-marine-protection-research-and-sanctuaries-act-ocean-dumping-act.

  5. US EPA, OP. Summary of the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act. 22 Feb. 2013, https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-marine-protection-research-and-sanctuaries-act.

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