"The Minamata Convention on Mercury entered into force in August 2017, committing its currently 92 parties to take action to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury. But how can we tell whether the convention is achieving its objective?" writes Noelle Eckley Selin in the journal Science. Selin points out how scientific uncertainities and variable environmental processes complicate the evaluation of the mercury policies' effectiveness. She proposes solution: "A global-scale metric to assess the impact of mercury emissions policies would help parties assess progress toward the convention's goal. Here, I build on the example of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer to identify criteria for a mercury metric. I then summarize why existing mercury data are insufficient and present and discuss a proposed new metric based on mercury emissions to air. Finally, I identify key scientific uncertainties that challenge future effectiveness evaluation."
Noelle Eckley Selin is an Associate Professor in the Institute for Data, Systems and Society and the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences. Her research uses atmospheric chemistry modeling to inform decision-making on air pollution, climate change and hazardous substances such as mercury and persistent organic pollutants (POPs).