From Earth System Science to Earth System Law: Enabling a New Legal Paradigm for the Anthropocene

Contenido principal del artículo

Gabriel López Porras
Jakub Ciesielczuk


Earth system science has shown that the Earth’s life-enabling conditions rely on its interconnected, complex, adaptive system composed of natural processes, biogeochemical cycles, and energy fluxes. Although Earth’s future depends on maintaining this system in a well-functioning and stable state, to date, the law fails to effectively protect it. Earth system law has recently been proposed as a new legal paradigm able to embrace the complexity and non-linearity underlying the Earth system functioning. In exploring the normative aspects of the Earth system this paper proposes a conceptual framework that integrates three aspects for strengthening the law’s role in protecting the Earth system: adaptiveness, systems regulation, and planetary justice. Ultimately, this paper discusses the implications for Earth system law to integrate adaptiveness, systems regulation, and planetary justice and protect the planetary conditions that sustain all life forms.

Detalles del artículo

Cómo citar
López Porras, G., & Ciesielczuk, J. . (2024). From Earth System Science to Earth System Law: Enabling a New Legal Paradigm for the Anthropocene. Derecho Global. Estudios Sobre Derecho Y Justicia, 9(26: Marzo-Junio), 283–317.
Artículos de investigación
Biografía del autor/a

Gabriel López Porras, Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua, México

PhD in Earth and Environment from the University of Leeds. Line of research focused on water governance in desert areas, climate change, environmental policy law and Earth System law. He is currently General Director of the Institute of Resilience and Global Conservation, and professor at the Autonomous University of Chihuahua.

Jakub Ciesielczuk, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom

PhD in Public International Law from the University of Lincoln. He is an expert in environmental governance, with a particular focus on environmental legal regimes. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Nottingham.


Adelman, S., 2021. Planetary boundaries, planetary ethics and climate justice in the Anthropocene, in: French, D., Kotzé, L. (Eds.), Research Handbook on Law, Governance and Planetary Boundaries. Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, pp. 65–83.

Alfie Cohen, M., 2015. Conflictos socio-ambientales: la minería en Wirikuta y Cananea. El Cotid. 97–108.

Alvarado, P.A.A., Rivas-Ramírez, D., Andrea, P., Alvarado, A., Rivas-Ramírez, D., 2018. A milestone in environmental and future generations’ rights protection: Recent legal developments before the Colombian Supreme Court. J. Environ. Law 30, 519–526.

Baxter, B., 2005. A Theory of Ecological Justice, 1st Editio. ed. Routledge, London.

Biermann, F., Bai, X., Bondre, N., Broadgate, W., Arthur Chen, C.T., Dube, O.P., Erisman, J.W., Glaser, M., van der Hel, S., Lemos, M.C., Seitzinger, S., Seto, K.C., 2016. Down to Earth: Contextualizing the Anthropocene. Glob. Environ. Chang. 39, 341–350.

Biermann, F., Kim, R.E., 2020. The Boundaries of the Planetary Boundary Framework: A Critical Appraisal of Approaches to Define a “Safe Operating Space” for Humanity. Annu. Rev. Environ. Resour. 45, 497–521.

Bologna, M., Aquino, G., 2020. Deforestation and world population sustainability: a quantitative analysis. Sci. Rep. 10, 1–9.

Brown, P.G., Garver, G., 2009. Right Relationship: Building a Whole Earth Economy. Berrett-Koehler, San Fracisco California USA.

Burch, S., Gupta, A., Inoue, C.Y.A., Kalfagianni, A., Persson, Å., Gerlak, A.K., Ishii, A., Patterson, J., Pickering, J., Scobie, M., Van der Heijden, J., Vervoort, J., Adler, C., Bloomfield, M., Djalante, R., Dryzek, J., Galaz, V., Gordon, C., Harmon, R., Jinnah, S., Kim, R.E., Olsson, L., Van Leeuwen, J., Ramasar, V., Wapner, P., Zondervan, R., 2019. New directions in earth system governance research. Earth Syst. Gov. 1, 100006.

Cardesa-Salzmann, A., Cocciolo, E., 2019. Global governance, sustainability and the Earth system: Critical reflections on the role of global law. Transnatl. Environ. Law 8, 437–461.

Chaffin, B.C., Garmestani, A.S., Gosnell, H., Craig, R.K., 2016. Institutional networks and adaptive water governance in the Klamath River Basin, USA. Environ. Sci. Policy 57, 112–121.

Chaffin, B.C., Gosnell, H., Cosens, B.A., 2014. A decade of adaptive governance scholarship: Synthesis and future directions. Ecol. Soc. 19, 56.

Deane-Drummond, C., 2012. Joining in the Dance: Catholic Social Teaching and Ecology. New Blackfriars 93, 193.

DeCaro, D.A., Chaffin, B.C., Schlager, E., Garmestani, A.S., Ruhl, J.B., 2017. Legal and institutional foundations of adaptive environmental governance. Ecol. Soc. 22, 32.


Du Toit, L., Lopez Porras, G., Kotzé, L.J., 2021. Guiding Environmental Law’s Transformation into Earth System Law Through the Telecoupling Framework. Eur. Energy Environ. Law Rev. 30, 104–113.

Estenssoro Saavedra, F., Vásquez Bustamante, J.P., 2017. The North-South differences in the global environmental debate. The case of the Ecuador’s initiative: Yasuní-ITT. Universum (Talca) 32, 63–80.

Estupinan-Suarez, L.M., Gans, F., Brenning, A., Gutierrez-Velez, V.H., Londono, M.C., Pabon-Moreno, D.E., Poveda, G., Reichstein, M., Reu, B., Sierra, C.A., Weber, U., Mahecha, M.D., 2021. A Regional Earth System Data Lab for Understanding Ecosystem Dynamics: An Example from Tropical South America. Front. Earth Sci. 0, 574.

Garmestani, A., Ruhl, J.B., Chaffin, B.C., Craig, R.K., Rijswick, H.F.M.W. Van, Angeler, D.G., 2019. Untapped capacity for resilience in environmental law. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 1–6.

Garver, G., 2019. A Systems-based Tool for Transitioning to Law for a Mutually Enhancing Human-Earth Relationship. Ecol. Econ. 157, 165–174.

Gleeson, T., Wang-Erlandsson, L., Zipper, S.C., Porkka, M., Jaramillo, F., Gerten, D., Fetzer, I., Cornell, S.E., Piemontese, L., Gordon, L.J., Rockström, J., Oki, T., Sivapalan, M., Wada, Y., Brauman, K.A., Flörke, M., Bierkens, M.F.P., Lehner, B., Keys, P., Kummu, M., Wagener, T., Dadson, S., Troy, T.J., Steffen, W., Falkenmark, M., Famiglietti, J.S., 2020. The Water Planetary Boundary: Interrogation and Revision. One Earth 2, 223–234.

Guimarães, R.P., 2012. Environment and Socioeconomic Inequalities in Latin America: Notes for a Research Agenda (No. 20). Berlin.

Gunderson, L., Kinzig, A., Allyson, Q., Walker, B., Cundhill, G., Beier, C., Crona, B., Bodin, O., 2010. Assessing Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems?: Workbook for Practitioners. Version 2.0.

Gunderson, L.H., Cosens, B., Garmestani, A.S., 2016. Adaptive governance of riverine and wetland ecosystem goods and services. J. Environmenal Manag. 183, 353–360.

Gürcan, E.C., 2019. Extractivism, Neoliberalism, and the Environment: Revisiting the Syrian Conflict from an Ecological Justice Perspective. Capital. Nature, Social. 30, 91–109.

Hamilton, C., 2016. The Anthropocene as rupture. Anthr. Rev. 3, 93–106.

Heinze, J., 2020. The Impact of Globalisation on Poverty and Inequality in the Global South [WWW Document]. E-International Relations. URL (accessed 12.8.20).

Herreros, Y., 2010. Vivir bien con menos: ajustarse a los límites físicos con criterios de justicia. Viento sur Por una Izqda. Altern. 27–36.

Hey, E., 2021. International Law, Planetary Boundaries and Teleconnections, in: French, D., Kotzé, L. (Eds.), Research Handbook on Law, Governance and Planetary Boundaries. Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd, Cheltenham, UK.

Hill Clarvis, M., Allan, A., Hannah, D.M., 2014. Water, resilience and the law: From general concepts and governance design principles to actionable mechanisms. Environ. Sci. Policy 43, 98–110.

Jones, C.D., 2020. So What Is in an Earth System Model? J. Adv. Model. Earth Syst. 12.

Kamal Uddin, M., 2017. Climate Change Climate Change and Global Environmental Politics: North-South Divide. Environ. Policy Law 47, 106–114.

Khalatbari, Y., Abbas, P., 2019. “Environmental Damage”: Challenges and opportunities in International Environmental Law. CIFILE J. Int. Law 1, 22–28.

Kim, R.E., Kotzé, L.J., 2020. Planetary boundaries at the intersection of Earth system law, science and governance: A state-of-the-art review. Rev. Eur. Comp. Int. Environ. Law.

Kim, R.E., Mackey, B., 2014. International environmental law as a complex adaptive system. Int. Environ. Agreements Polit. Law Econ. 14, 5–24.

Kleidon, A., 2012. How does the Earth system generate and maintain thermodynamic disequilibrium and what does it imply for the future of the planet? Philos. Trans. R. Soc. A Math. Phys. Eng. Sci. 370, 1012–1040.

Klinsky, S., Mavrogianni, A., 2020. Climate justice and the built environment. Build. Cities 1, 412–428.

Kotzé, 2019. Earth System Law for the Anthropocene. Sustainability 11, 6796.

Kotzé, L.J., Kim, R.E., 2019. Earth system law: The juridical dimensions of earth system governance. Earth Syst. Gov. 1, 100003.

Lander, E., 2011. Los límites del planeta y la crisis civilizatoria. Rev. Venez. Econ. y Ciencias Soc. 17, 141–166.

Lecaros Urzúa, J.A., 2013. Environmental ethics: Principles and values for a responsible citizenship in global society. Acta Bioeth. 19, 177–188.

Lecuyer, L., White, R.M., Schmook, B., Lemay, V., Calmé, S., 2018. The construction of feelings of justice in environmental management: An empirical study of multiple biodiversity conflicts in Calakmul, Mexico. J. Environ. Manage. 213, 363–373.

Leitao, A., 2016. Corruption and the Environment. J. Soc. 5, 5. 72/2167-0358.1000173

Levin, S., Xepapadeas, T., Crépin, A.S., Norberg, J., De Zeeuw, A., Folke, C., Hughes, T., Arrow, K., Barrett, S., Daily, G., Ehrlich, P., Kautsky, N., Mäler, K.G., Polasky, S., Troell, M., Vincent, J.R., Walker, B., 2013. Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems: Modeling and policy implications. Environ. Dev. Econ. 18, 111–132.

Liu, J., Hull, V., Batistella, M., DeFries, R., Dietz, T., Fu, F., Hertel, T.W., Cesar Izaurralde, R., Lambin, E.F., Li, S., Martinelli, L.A., McConnell, W.J., Moran, E.F., Naylor, R., Ouyang, Z., Polenske, K.R., Reenberg, A., Rocha, G. de M., Simmons, C.S., Verburg, P.H., Vitousek, P.M., Zhang, F., Zhu, C., 2013. Framing sustainability in a telecoupled world. Ecol. Soc. 18.

Liu, J., Mooney, H., Hull, V., Davis, S.J., Gaskell, J., Hertel, T., Lubchenco, J., Seto, K.C., Gleick, P., Kremen, C., Li, S., 2015. Systems integration for global sustainability. Science (80-. ). 347, 1258832.

Lopez Porras, G., 2021a. Dryland Degradation and Expansion: Implications for Mexican Policies from the Earth System Perspective. Environ. Policy Law 51, 197–200.

Lopez Porras, G., 2021b. Integrating Mexican water law into the earth system law perspective, in: Cadman, T., Hurlbert, M., Simonelli, A. (Eds.), Earth System Law: Standing of the Precipice of the Anthropocene. Routledge, Oxford, UK.

Lopez Porras, G., 2020. Dryland Degradation and Expansion: Implications for Mexican Policies from the Earth System Perspective. Environ. Policy Law Preprint, 1–4.

Lopez Porras, G., Stringer, L., Quinn, C., 2019. Corruption and conflicts as barriers to adaptive governance: Water governance in dryland systems in the Rio del Carmen watershed. Sci. Total Environ. 660, 519–530.

Lopez Porras, G., Stringer, L.C., Quinn, C.H., 2020a. Seeking Common Ground in Dryland Systems: Steps Towards Adaptive Water Governance. Water 2020, Vol. 12, Page 498 12, 498.

Lopez Porras, G., Stringer, L.C., Quinn, C.H., 2020b. Building dryland resilience: Three principles to support adaptive water governance. Ecol. Econ. 177, 106770.

Magalhães, P., 2020. Climate as a Concern or a Heritage? Addressing the legal structural roots of climate emergency. Rev. Electrónica Direito 21, 99–134.

Marjanac, S., Patton, L., 2018. Extreme weather event attribution science and climate change litigation: An essential step in the causal chain? J. Energy Nat. Resour. Law 36, 265–298.

Marjanac, S., Patton, L., Thornton, J., 2017. Acts of God, human infuence and litigation. Nat. Geosci.

Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, 2018a. Tesis 1a. CCLXXXIX/2018 (10a.), Gaceta del Semanario Judicial de la Federación, Décima Época, Libro 61, Diciembre de 2018, Tomo I, página 309.

Mexican Supreme Court of Justice, 2018b. Tesis 1a. CCLXXXVIII/2018 (10a.), Gaceta del Semanario Judicial de la Federación, Décima Época, Libro 61, Diciembre de 2018, Tomo I, página 308.

Moore, J.W., Nowlan, L., Olszynski, M., Jacob, A.L., Favaro, B., Collins, L., Terri-Lynn Williams-Davidson, G.L., Weitz, J., 2018. Towards linking environmental law and science. Facets.

North, D.C., 1991. Institutions. J. Econ. Perspect. 5, 97–112.

Núñez Vaquero, Á., 2013. Five Models of Legal Science. Revus 53–81.

O’Connell, D., Abel, N., Grigg, N., Maru, Y., Butler, J., Cowie, A., Stone-Jovicich, S., Walker, B., Wise, R., Ruhweza, A., Pearson, L., Ryan, P., Stafford Smith, M., 2016. Designing projects in a rapidly changing world - Guidelines for embedding resilience, adaptation and transformation into sustainable development projects 112.

Otto, I.M., Biewald, A., Coumou, D., Feulner, G., Köhler, C., Nocke, T., Blok, A., Gröber, A., Selchow, S., Tyfield, D., Volkmer, I., Schellnhuber, H.J., Beck, U., 2015. Socio-economic data for global environmental change research. Nat. Clim. Chang.

Parris, C.L., Hegtvedt, K.A., Watson, L.A., Johnson, C., 2014. Justice for All? Factors Affecting Perceptions of Environmental and Ecological Injustice. Soc. Justice Res. 27, 67–98.

Pejovich, S., 1999. The effects of the interaction of formal and informal institutions on social stability and economic development, Journal of Markets and Morality. Published by the Center for Economic Personalism.

Pichler, M., Brad, A., 2016. Political ecology and socio-ecological conflicts in Southeast Asia. ASEAS-Österreichische Zeitschrift für Südostasienwissenschaften 9, 1–10.

Reichstein, M., Camps-Valls, G., Stevens, B., Jung, M., Denzler, J., Carvalhais, N., Prabhat, 2019. Deep learning and process understanding for data-driven Earth system science. Nature 566, 195–204.

Rispoli, S.L., 2020. Courting Access to Justice: The Rule of Law, the Rule of the Elite, and Non-Elite Non-Engagement with the Legal System. South. Calif. Rev. Law Soc. Justice 29, 333–354.

Ruhl, J.B., 2011. General Design Principles for Resilience and Adaptive Capacity in Legal Systems - With Applications to Climate Change Adaptation. North Carol. Law Rev. 89, 1373–1404.

Sala, E., Mayorga, J., Bradley, D., Cabral, R.B., Atwood, T.B., Auber, A., Cheung, W., Costello, C., Ferretti, F., Friedlander, A.M., Gaines, S.D., Garilao, C., Goodell, W., Halpern, B.S., Hinson, A., Kaschner, K., Kesner-Reyes, K., Leprieur, F., McGowan, J., Morgan, L.E., Mouillot, D., Palacios-Abrantes, J., Possingham, H.P., Rechberger, K.D., Worm, B., Lubchenco, J., 2021. Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate. Nature 592, 397–402.


Saunders, F.P., 2015. Planetary boundaries: At the threshold… again: Sustainable development ideas and politics. Environ. Dev. Sustain. 17, 823–835.

Schellnhuber, H.J., 1999. “Earth system” analysis and the second Copernican revolution. Nature 402, C19–C23.

Serna de la Garza, J.M., 2009. The Concept of Jurisprudencia in Mexican Law. Mex. Law Rev. Vol. 1, No. 2, 2009 1, 5.

Shapiro, M., Shukla, J., Brunet, G., Nobre, C., Béland, M., Dole, R., Trenberth, K., Anthes, R., Asrar, G., Barrie, L., Bougeault, P., Brasseur, G., Burridge, D., Busalacchi, A., Caughey, J., Chen, D., Church, J., Enomoto, T., Hoskins, B., Hov, Ø., Laing, A., Le Treut, H., Marotzke, J., McBean, G., Meehl, G., Miller, M., Mills, B., Mitchell, J., Moncrieff, M., Nakazawa, T., Olafsson, H., Palmer, T., Parsons, D., Rogers, D., Simmons, A., Troccoli, A., Toth, Z., Uccellini, L., Velden, C., Wallace, J.M., 2010. An Earth-system prediction initiative for the twenty-first century. Bull. Am. Meteorol. Soc. 91, 1377–1388.

Spash, C.L., 2020. Apologists for growth: passive revolutionaries in a passive revolution. Globalizations 0, 1–26.

Steffen, W., Leinfelder, R., Zalasiewicz, J., Waters, C.N., Williams, M., Summerhayes, C., Barnosky, A.D., Cearreta, A., Crutzen, P., Edgeworth, M., Ellis, E.C., Fairchild, I.J., Galuszka, A., Grinevald, J., Haywood, A., Ivar do Sul, J., Jeandel, C., McNeill, J.R., Odada, E., Oreskes, N., Revkin, A., Richter, D. de B., Syvitski, J., Vidas, D., Wagreich, M., Wing, S.L., Wolfe, A.P., Schellnhuber, H.J., 2016. Stratigraphic and Earth System approaches to defining the Anthropocene. Earth’s Futur.

Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Cornell, S.E., Fetzer, I., Bennett, E.M., Biggs, R., Carpenter, S.R., De Vries, W., De Wit, C.A., Folke, C., Gerten, D., Heinke, J., Mace, G.M., Persson, L.M., Ramanathan, V., Reyers, B., Sörlin, S., 2015. Planetary boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet. Science (80-. ). 347.

Steffen, W., Richardson, K., Rockström, J., Schellnhuber, H.J., Dube, O.P., Dutreuil, S., Lenton, T.M., Lubchenco, J., 2020. The emergence and evolution of Earth System Science. Nat. Rev. Earth Environ. 1, 54–63.

Steffen, W., Sanderson, A., Tyson, P., Jäger, J., Matson, P., Moore, B., Oldfield, F., Richardson, K., Schellnhuber, H.J., Turner, B.L., Wasson, R.J., 2005. Global Change and the Earth System: A Planet Under Pressure, Global Change — The IGBP Series. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Sterner, T., Barbier, E.B., Bateman, I., van den Bijgaart, I., Crépin, A.S., Edenhofer, O., Fischer, C., Habla, W., Hassler, J., Johansson-Stenman, O., Lange, A., Polasky, S., Rockström, J., Smith, H.G., Steffen, W., Wagner, G., Wilen, J.E., Alpízar, F., Azar, C., Carless, D., Chávez, C., Coria, J., Engström, G., Jagers, S.C., Köhlin, G., Löfgren, Å., Pleijel, H., Robinson, A., 2019. Policy design for the Anthropocene. Nat. Sustain. 2, 14–21.

Stoltenborg, D., Boelens, R., 2016. Disputes over land and water rights in gold mining?: the case of Cerro de San Pedro , Mexico. Water Int. 41, 447–467.

Stringer, L.C., Reed, M.S., Fleskens, L., Thomas, R.J., Le, Q.B., Lala-Pritchard, T., 2017. A New Dryland Development Paradigm Grounded in Empirical Analysis of Dryland Systems Science. L. Degrad. Dev. 28, 1952–1961.

Supreme Court of Justice of the Republic of Colombia, 2018. Demanda Generaciones Futuras v. Minambiente. Sentencia 4360-2018 de la Corte Suprema de Justicia, Sala de Casacion Civil, Magistrado Ponente Luis Armando Tolosa Villabona. Bogota, Colombia.

Svampa, M., 2019. Las fronteras del neoextractivismo en América Latina. Conflictos socioambientales, giro ecoterritorial y nuevas dependencias. Bielefeld University Press, Wetzlar.

Vásquez Bustamante, J.P., 2015. La tensión histórica norte-sur global en el debate ambiental. El conflicto en torno a la iniciativa Yasuni ITT. Rev. Estud. Hemisféricos y Polares 6, 1–28.

Wackernagel, M., Hanscom, L., Jayasinghe, P., Lin, D., Murthy, A., Neill, E., Raven, P., 2021. The importance of resource security for poverty eradication. Nat. Sustain. 1–8.