Governing the complexity of planetary boundaries: a state-of-the-art analysis of social science scholarship

Rakhyun E. Kim, Louis Kotzé

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


Rakhyun Kim and Louis Kotzé explain in Chapter 3 that the planetary boundaries framework, although originating from within the natural science domain of Earth system science, is increasingly infiltrating the social sciences. This framework has, among others, informed the development of new research on Earth system law and governance. They present a systematic review of the emerging social science literature that lies at the intersection of Earth system science, law and governance. The aim of the analysis is to provide a bird’s eye view of the state of the art and identify and explore how the planetary boundaries framework is framed by social scientists and what they propose as challenges and implications for law and governance as far as these boundaries are concerned. Their chapter identifies four key characteristics of the planetary boundaries framework that emerge from the literature, namely planetary boundaries: as embodying environmental limits; as being interdependent and interacting phenomena; as being planetary in scale; and as being political constructs. The chapter further suggests that social science scholars tend to frame their planetary boundaries research around four themes as a response to the foregoing, namely: institutionalization of planetary boundaries; coordination of planetary boundaries; downscaling of planetary boundaries; and democratization of planetary boundaries.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationResearch Handbook on Law, Governance and Planetary Boundaries
EditorsDuncan French, LouisJ. Kotzé
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
ISBN (Electronic)9781789902747
ISBN (Print)9781789902730
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2021

Publication series

NameResearch Handbooks in Environmental Law series


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