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Commons Ignorance: The Failure of Environmental Law to Produce Needed Information on Health and the Environment

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Wagner, Wendy E.
Journal: Duke Law Journal
Volume: 53
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2725
Sector: Global Commons
Subject(s): commons
environmental law
Abstract: "One of the most significant problems facing environmental law is the dearth of scientific information available to assess the impact of industrial activities on public health and the environment. After documenting the significant gaps in existing information, this article argues that existing laws both exacerbate and perpetuate this problem. By failing to require actors to assess the potential harm from their activities, and by penalizing them with additional regulation when they do, existing laws fail to counteract actors' natural inclination to remain silent about the harms that they might be causing. Both theory and practice confirm that when the stakes are high, actors not only will resist producing potentially incriminating information but will invest in discrediting public research that suggests their activities are harmful. The article concludes with specific recommendations about how these perverse incentives for ignorance can be reversed."

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