Law, Environment, and the 'Non-Dismal' Social Sciences

56 Pages Posted: 26 Jan 2012 Last revised: 9 May 2012

See all articles by William Boyd

William Boyd

UCLA School of Law

Douglas A. Kysar

Yale University - Law School

Jeffrey J. Rachlinski

Cornell Law School

Date Written: January 24, 2012


Over the past 30 years, the influence of economics over environmental law and policy has expanded considerably. Whereas politicians and commentators once seriously questioned whether tradable emissions permits confer a morally illicit “right to pollute,” today even environmental advocacy organizations speak freely and predominantly in terms of market instruments and economic efficiency when they address climate change and other pressing environmental concerns. This review seeks to counterbalance the expansion of economic reasoning and methodology within environmental law and policy by highlighting insights to be gleaned from various “non-dismal” social sciences. In particular, three areas of inquiry are highlighted as illustrative of interdisciplinary work that might help to complement law and economics and, in some cases, compensate for it: the study of how human individuals perceive, judge, and decide; the observation and interpretation of how knowledge schemes are created, used, and regulated; and the analysis of how states and other actors coordinate through international and global regulatory regimes. The hope is to provide some examples of how environmental law and policy can be improved by deeper and more diverse engagement with social science and to highlight avenues for future research.

Keywords: Environmental law, law and psychology, science and technology studies, global governance, risk regulation

JEL Classification: A12, D81, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Boyd, William and Kysar, Douglas A. and Rachlinski, Jeffrey John, Law, Environment, and the 'Non-Dismal' Social Sciences (January 24, 2012). U of Colorado Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 12-01, Available at SSRN: or

Douglas A. Kysar

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

Jeffrey John Rachlinski

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4901
United States
607-255-5878 (Phone)
607-255-7193 (Fax)

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