Beyond Wickedness: Managing Complex Systems and Climate Change

32 Pages Posted: 22 Sep 2020

See all articles by Jonathan M. Gilligan

Jonathan M. Gilligan

Vanderbilt University - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences; Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment

Michael P. Vandenbergh

Vanderbilt University - Law School

Date Written: September 18, 2020

Abstract

This Article examines the argument that climate change is a “super-wicked” problem. It concludes that the wicked problem concept is best viewed as a rhetorical device that served a valuable function in arguing against technocratic hubris in the early 1970s but is unhelpful and possibly counterproductive as a tool for modern climate policy analysis. Richard Lazarus improved on this analysis by emphasizing the urgency of a climate response in his characterization of the climate problem as “super-wicked.” We suggest another approach based on Charles Lindblom’s “science of muddling through.” The muddling through approach supports the rhetorical points for which the original wicked problem concept was introduced and provides greater practical guidance for developing new laws and policies to address climate change and other complex and messy environmental problems.

Keywords: Wicked problems, muddling, climate change, environment, policymaking, climate initiatives, private governance, governance, environmental law

Suggested Citation

Gilligan, Jonathan M. and Vandenbergh, Michael P., Beyond Wickedness: Managing Complex Systems and Climate Change (September 18, 2020). Vanderbilt Law Research Paper No. 20-47, Vanderbilt Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3695265 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3695265

Jonathan M. Gilligan (Contact Author)

Vanderbilt University - Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences ( email )

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Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
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Vanderbilt Institute for Energy and Environment ( email )

2301 Vanderbilt Place
Nashville, TN 37240
United States

Michael P. Vandenbergh

Vanderbilt University - Law School ( email )

131 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203-1181
United States

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