Last Chance? A Call for Mutual Intelligibility Between International Law and Social Sciences

The challenges to international law are being recognized at an ever-increasing rate. For instance, the traditional notion of “statehood” is being questioned due to the possibility of the disappearance of several island states (here and here). The refugee/migration system has failed to integrate climate migration (here as well) and the notion of human rights being challenged with “climate apartheid”; the public-private divide must be reviewed; the basic tenets that govern the laws of the ocean are in doubt and could also be the treaty regime of international treaties generally (here and also here)—even the global “rule of law’ was called into question. Necessary mitigation and adaptation efforts may also pose severe problems for existing regulations (e.g., here and this).

In addressing the challenges caused by climate change, International legal mechanisms are sure to be of significant significance. In reality, the most prevalent international legal discourse is addressing climate change from the point of view of how law could be made more effective. “Transformative Power of Law “Transformative Power of Law” (as recently mentioned, e.g., at Oslo) can be desired, among other things protecting diverse aspects of nature as well as zones around the globe as well as strengthening litigation. We safeguard individuals and groups, address specific pollution or environmental damage, and increase compliance and enforcement. In this endeavor, it is commonplace for international law to be assumed to be a given. But what happens if the pace of changes entirely outpaces international law or a portion of it? This is only the beginning of many questions that come up as we think about what’s ahead. The most critical concern, as we propose, is to what degree our global legal framework is being challenged due to climate change. The possibility of our current systems’ inapplicability is an unexplored subject in modern research on law.

There could be a rational reason for this since asking this question is inevitably thinking about and negotiating with an uncertain future. Speculation, or whatever it might be termed, implies uncertainty and is wholly opposed to the societal purpose of law in providing stability. This, in turn, produces confidence and predictability. Rules can facilitate climate change mitigation and offer a framework to facilitate systematic change. This is why we should not start the transformation process by rethinking the principles that guide us but by considering ways to make them more effective.

Furthermore, dogmatism is established in the legal mind through habitual practice that can hinder radical revision. With the rapid change in our society, However, the rigid nature of law will likely cause problems. If a change in direction only happens post-facto and is not accompanied by a legal framework, it could hinder actions to combat climate change. Furthermore, path dependence that is primarily self-focused research could increase the gap between the law of international legal and climate change analysis within (other) fields of social study.

Changes in society due to the effects of climate change will be unavoidable. The transformation combines technological, social, cultural, and economic lawful transformation. Social sciences have long recognized that managing transformation at a global level requires a holistic method. Collaboration in science is essential to understanding the multi-dimensional characteristics that climate changes bring and the “wicked problems” it produces and resolving them. What it means for the research agenda of international law is still unclear. Despite assertions based on solid evidence in other fields of science directly related to the purpose of the law, like the collapse of social institutions and the emergence of new international law, frequently fail to consider the consequences of an Anthropocene regarding its laws and institutions. The discussion of the challenges that are identified is organized around what appears to be unsubstantiated claims and specific projections for the particular issue. The debate between the adaptability of international law and apocalyptic narratives and principles is frequently uncertain and controversial (as stated, e.g., in this article and this article). The future legal challenges that will affect international law, in other words, are made more difficult by the insufficient evaluation of the possibility and the severity of changes. Innovative analytical methods to understand legal issues have been advocated for (e.g., here, here, and here, here and here); however, up to now, the calls have not gotten many responses. Contributions that investigate the inherent shortcomings of international laws and provide a critical perspective regarding how the law can be modified are sporadic despite some instances. The main reason for the problem, we contend, is the absence of a shared understanding of international law with the substantial collection of research in the social sciences regarding the societal effects of climate change.

The fundamental elements that define international law are being challenged at a time when its structuring role is crucially needed. The reality emphasizes the need for new legal strategies and that the time frame for meaningful change in internationally-based law is shrinking rapidly. This makes it even more important to connect with the broader world of social science research, which could benefit from a view within the legal framework. This perspective is challenging researchers in social science to deal with and is bound to cause friction when it is tried. Uncovering and generating a new understanding of the fundamental principles for proactively implementing climate change legislation and policy is also possible.

We must look into the foundations of an eventual functional international legal order and the function that law could be a vital component of the larger research agenda for climate change. Legal approaches currently in use might not be able to meet this challenge. This is why the field could learn from the climate change research from other disciplines which have developed methodologies designed to deal with uncertainties, examine possible future alternatives, identify the tipping point, and assess possible response options. To bridge the gap that separates international law from other social sciences should be accompanied by, as we say, an openness to new methods of inquiry. [1] Connecting international law research conceptually and methodologically with social science research in climate change will open new research avenues and opportunities for a much-needed legal innovation.

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