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Vanderbilt Law Review

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complex systems, climate change, environmental problems


Environmental Law | Law


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.



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