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Novelty, Ignorance and the Unknown: Uncertain Science and the Frontiers of Science Doctrine

Kathleen Garnett

elni Review 2021, pp. 11-24.

This paper examines the historical boundaries of relying upon risk assessment as the bedrock of environmental law. It does so by revisiting a number of historical environmental and public health cases that illustrate the ebbs and flows of judicial and regulatory insights into uncertain science. The paper concludes that the current approach to dealing with scientific uncertainty and doubt based on risk and quantification in environmental law is flawed.  A fresh look at the frontiers of science doctrine which developed the link between, novelty, uncertain science and ignorance requires fresh appraisal. Without this key doctrine in place neither a precautionary approach nor the EU’s precautionary principle can function as a driver for key environmental protection.

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