Document Type


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Ecology Law Quarterly



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Algorithm-based decision tools in environmental law appear policy neutral
but embody bias and hidden values that affect equity and democracy. In effect,
algorithm-based tools are new fora for law and policymaking, distinct from
legislatures and courts. In turn, these tools influence the development and
implementation of environmental law and regulation. As a practical matter,
there is a pressing need to understand how these automated decision-making
tools interact with and influence law and policy. This Article begins this timely
and critical discussion.

After introducing the challenge of adapting water and energy systems to
climate change, this Article synthesizes prior multidisciplinary work on
algorithmic decision making and modeling-informed governance—bringing
together the works of early climate scientists and contemporary leaders in
algorithmic decision making. From this synthesis, this Article presents a
framework for analyzing how well these tools integrate principles of equity,
including procedural and substantive fairness—both of which are essential to
democracy. The framework evaluates how the tools handle uncertainty,
transparency, and stakeholder collaboration across two attributes. The first
attribute has to do with the model itself—specifically, how and whether existing
law and policy are incorporated into these tools. These social parameters can be
incorporated as inputs to the model or in the structure of the model, which
determines its logic. The second attribute has to do with the modeling process—
how and whether stakeholders and end-users collaborated in the model’s

The Article then applies this framework and compares two algorithm assisted
decision-making tools currently in use for adapting water and energy
systems to climate change.



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