Climatic Change

, Volume 89, Issue 1, pp 143-154

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Learning about ozone depletion

  • Paul J. CrutzenAffiliated withDepartment of Atmospheric Chemistry, Max Planck Institute for Chemistry
  • , Michael OppenheimerAffiliated withDepartment of Geosciences, Princeton UniversityWoodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University Email author 


Stratospheric ozone depletion has been much studied as a case history in the interaction between environmental science and environmental policy. The positive influence of science on policy is often underscored, but here we review the photochemistry of ozone in order to illustrate how scientific learning has the potential to mislead policy makers. The latter may occur particularly in circumstances where limited observations are combined with simplified models of a complex system, such as may generally occur in the global change arena. Even for the well-studied case of ozone depletion, further research is needed on the dynamics of scientific learning, particularly the scientific assessment process, and how assessments influence the development of public policy.