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Evaluating the efficacy and equity of environmental stopgap measures


Contemporary environmental policy is replete with measures that do not fully resolve a problem but are proposed instead to ‘buy time’ for the development of more-durable solutions. We define such measures as ‘stopgap measures’ and examine examples from wildfire risk management, hydrochlorofluorocarbon regulation and Colorado River water management. We introduce an analytical framework to assess stopgaps and apply this framework to solar geoengineering, a controversial stopgap for reducing emissions. Studying stopgaps as a distinct response to environmental crises can help us weigh their merits in comparison to alternative policy and management measures.

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Descriptions of the case studies considered appear in the Supplementary Information. Full materials are available from the corresponding author.


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Primary funding was supplied by UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability and The Nature Conservancy NatureNet Science Fellows program. B.K. was supported in part by the National Science Foundation through agreement CBET-1931641, the Indiana University Environmental Resilience Institute, and the ‘Prepared for Environmental Change’ Grand Challenge initiative. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is operated for the US Department of Energy by Battelle Memorial Institute under contract DE-AC05-76RL01830. E.A.P. was supported in part by the Open Philanthropy Project.

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H.J.B. coordinated the paper. L.J.M. contributed to the organization and writing of the paper. O.G., P.K., L.K., W.K., B.K., J.N., E.A.P., C.J.P., D.L.S., L.S. and S.T. contributed substantially to the development of the framework and its presentation.

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Correspondence to Holly Jean Buck.

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Buck, H.J., Martin, L.J., Geden, O. et al. Evaluating the efficacy and equity of environmental stopgap measures. Nat Sustain 3, 499–504 (2020).

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