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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Operations > California Environmental Compliance

Pollution hazards pose risks -- but where do we go from here?

Risk management is vital to the social infrastructure as much as it is in an individual's behaviors. How does US, California and Europe measure up in protecting their populations from system-wide risk factors to health?

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Air pollution, climate change, food additives, pesticides, cosmetic safety, and electronic product hazards all pose global consumer and environmental risks, but the regulatory controls to manage them vary by country and by region. In recent decades, Europe has taken the lead over the US in comprehensively managing such risks, according to a new book by Berkeley-Haas Professor David Vogel.

Vogel explains what he researched, "I have always been fascinated by how countries decide differently which risks they choose to worry about and regulate. Over the last five decades, Europe and the United States have perceived and regulated many similar risks differently, and I wanted to understand why. For example, during the 1970s and 1980s, why did Americans take the risks of ozone depleting chemicals more seriously than did most European governments? Or, more recently, why are the safety and environmental risks of genetically modified food very controversial in Europe, but not in the United States?"

In his book, The Politics of Precaution (Princeton University Press, April 2012), Vogel argues that there has been an overall shift towards greater regulation to manage risk in Europe than in the United States in the last five decades.

While the extent of partisan gridlock is frustrating to both Democrats/liberals who would like to make many regulations stronger, and to Republicans/conservatives who would like to make them weaker, poll data suggests that many Americans are not very dissatisfied with the regulatory status quo.

Compared to the three decades before 1990, there is a notable lack of strong public support for strengthening many health, safety, and environment standards.

At the same time, there is also little public support for Republican and business efforts to weaken them. However, as I discuss in my book, California is a notable exception: The state has adopted so many EU regulations that it could almost qualify as the 29th member state of the EU!

Vogel, who holds the Solomon P. Lee Chair in Business Ethics at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, examined case studies and risk regulation over this period and found regulations–once more stringent in America–have become less comprehensive and innovative than those in Europe since that time.



Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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