Why Geoengineering is not Plan B

In Christopher J. Preston (ed.), Climate Justice and Geoengineering: Ethics and Policy in the Atmospheric Anthropocene. Rowman & Littlefield International. pp. 15-32 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Geoengineering – roughly “the intentional manipulation of the planetary systems at a global scale” (Keith 2000) – to combat climate change is often introduced as a “plan B”: an alternative solution in case “plan A”, reducing emissions, fails. This framing is typically deployed as part of an argument that research and development is necessary in case robust conventional mitigation is not forthcoming, or proves insufficient to prevent dangerous climate impacts. Since coming to prominence with the release of the Royal Society report in 2009 (Shepherd et al. 2009, v), the Plan B framing has proved popular with scientists, in policy circles, and in the news media (see Nerlich and Jaspal 2012; Luokkanen, Huttunen, and Hilden 2014). Though sometimes used to refer to geoengineering as a whole, it is associated particularly strongly with stratospheric sulfate injection (SSI) techniques. Consequently, these will be our focus here. We argue that the plan B framing is particularly ill-suited to the integrative assessment of options within climate policy, because it oversimplifies a complex issue in a misleading and deceptive way. For instance, it highlights extreme positions, presents SSI as an alternative independent from mainstream policies, ignores the multiplicity of options available, and neglects threats of morally indecent SSI in a context of ongoing political inertia. We are particularly concerned about the way ‘Plan B’ risks conveying an implicit hyper-optimism about SSI, and so obscures the need for ethical standards.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 92,075

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Distributive Justice, Geoengineering and Risks.Pak-Hang Wong - 2014 - The Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Papers.
Consenting to Geoengineering.Pak-Hang Wong - 2016 - Philosophy and Technology 29 (2):173-188.
Geoengineering as Collective Experimentation.Jack Stilgoe - 2016 - Science and Engineering Ethics 22 (3):851-869.
Geoengineering as a Matter of Environmental Instrumentalism.Shane J. Ralston - forthcoming - In W. C. G. Burns & J. Blackstock (eds.), Geoengineering and Climate Change. Cambridge University Press.
The Public and Geoengineering Decision-Making.Pak-Hang Wong - 2013 - Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology 17 (3):350-367.


Added to PP

34 (#471,090)

6 months
20 (#130,915)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

Stephen M. Gardiner
University of Washington
Augustin Fragnière
University of Washington

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references