Geoengineering in a Climate of Uncertainty

In Jeremy Moss (ed.), Climate Change and Justice. Cambridge University Press (2015)
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Against the background of continuing inadequacy in global efforts to address climate change and apparent social and political inertia, ever greater interest is being generated in the idea that geoengineering may offer some solution to this problem. I do not take a position, here, on whether or not geoengineering could ever be morally justifiable. My goal in this paper is more modest – but also has broader implications. I aim to show that even if some form of geoengineering might be ethically acceptable in certain specific circumstances, lab-based research into such techniques could nevertheless have morally problematic consequences. I support this claim by explaining that our current state of uncertainty regarding how the impacts of geoengineering interventions could be geographically distributed may help to promote international agreement on fair rules for the governance of geoengineering. In these circumstances of scientific uncertainty, international actors also face uncertainty regarding who the winners and losers could be with respect to potential rules of geoengineering governance, thereby obstructing the pursuit of self-interest in the selection of such rules. Instead of a research first approach, then, we have reason to take a governance first approach – ensuring that fair international institutions to regulate geoengineering activities are established before further research is conducted into how the costs and benefits of such interventions could be distributed.



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Megan Blomfield
University of Sheffield

References found in this work

Ethics and intentional climate change.Dale Jamieson - 1996 - Climatic Change 33 (3):323--336.

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