International Environmental Law and Emotional Rational Choice

Posted: 6 Jun 2002

See all articles by Peter H. Huang

Peter H. Huang

University of Colorado Law School


This paper considers how emotions can foster compliance by rational actors with international environmental law. Many environmental issues are highly emotionally charged. Both supporters of and opponents to international environmental law often feel very strongly about their positions and views. A psychological game-theoretic model focuses on the disciplinary role that losing face may play in compliance with international environmental law. This model implies that non-compliance, especially by high-profile international actors, should be highly and swiftly publicized upon detection and verification. The model also explains why actors care so much about soft, that is, non-binding international environmental law, such as international environmental declarations, protocols, or resolutions.

Keywords: international environmental law, compliance, losing face, psychological games

JEL Classification: K32, K33, Z13

Suggested Citation

Huang, Peter H., International Environmental Law and Emotional Rational Choice. Journal of Legal Studies, 2002, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Peter H. Huang (Contact Author)

University of Colorado Law School ( email )

Colorado Law
401 UCB
Boulder, CO 80309
United States
303 492-4563 (Phone)
303-492-1200 (Fax)


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