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The Lack of Clarity in the Precautionary Principle

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  • Derek Turner
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    Abstract

    The precautionary principle states, roughly, that it is better to take precautionary measures now than to deal with serious harms to the environment or human health later on. This paper builds on the work of Neil A. Manson in order to show that the precautionary principle, in all of its forms, is fraught with vagueness and ambiguity. We examine the version of the precautionary principle that was formulated at the Wingspread Conference sponsored by the Science and Environmental Health Network in 1998. That version fails to indicate who must bear the cost of precaution; what constitutes a threat of harm; how much precaution is too much; and what should be done when environmental concerns and concern for human health pull in different directions. Whether this vagueness is a strength or weakness of the principle, depends on what purpose(s) the precautionary principle is supposed to serve.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

    Volume (Year): 13 (2004)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 449-460

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    Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev13:ev1319

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    Web page: http://www.erica.demon.co.uk

    Related research

    Keywords: precautionary principle; cost-benefit analysis;

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    Cited by:
    1. Peterson, Deborah C., 2006. "Precaution: principles and practice in Australian environmental and natural resource management," 2006 Conference (50th), February 8-10, 2006, Sydney, Australia, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society 137764, Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society.
    2. Peterson, Deborah C., 2006. "Precaution: principles and practice in Australian environmental and natural resource management," Conference/Workshop Proceedings, Productivity Commission 31906, Productivity Commission.
    3. Erik Persson, 2014. "What Does It Take to Establish that a World Is Uninhabited Prior to Exploitation? A Question of Ethics as well as Science," Challenges, MDPI, Open Access Journal, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(2), pages 224-238, August.
    4. R. Turner, 2007. "Limits to CBA in UK and European environmental policy: retrospects and future prospects," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 37(1), pages 253-269, May.

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