Geoengineering and Non-Ideal Theory

Public Affairs Quarterly 30 (1):85-104 (2016)
  Copy   BIBTEX


The strongest arguments for the permissibility of geoengineering (also known as climate engineering) rely implicitly on non-ideal theory—roughly, the theory of justice as applied to situations of partial compliance with principles of ideal justice. In an ideally just world, such arguments acknowledge, humanity should not deploy geoengineering; but in our imperfect world, society may need to complement mitigation and adaptation with geoengineering to reduce injustices associated with anthropogenic climate change. We interpret research proponents’ arguments as an application of a particular branch of non-ideal theory known as “clinical theory.” Clinical theory aims to identify politically feasible institutions or policies that would address existing (or impending) injustice without violating certain kinds of moral permissibility constraints. We argue for three implications of clinical theory: First, conditional on falling costs and feasibility, clinical theory provides strong support for some geoengineering techniques that aim to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Second, if some kinds of carbon dioxide removal technologies are supported by clinical theory, then clinical theory further supports using those technologies to enable “overshoot” scenarios in which developing countries exceed the cumulative emissions caps that would apply in ideal circumstances. Third, because of tensions between political feasibility and moral permissibility, clinical theory provides only weak support for geoengineering techniques that aim to manage incoming solar radiation.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Aerosol Geoengineering Deployment and Fairness.Toby Svoboda - 2016 - Environmental Values 25 (1):51-68.
Distributive Justice, Geoengineering and Risks.Pak-Hang Wong - 2014 - The Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Papers.
Human Engineering and Climate Change.S. Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg & Rebecca Roache - 2012 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 15 (2):206 - 221.


Added to PP

835 (#13,422)

6 months
78 (#32,572)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

David R. Morrow
American University
Toby Svoboda
Colgate University

References found in this work

The idea of justice.Amartya Sen - 2009 - Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Ideal and nonideal theory.A. John Simmons - 2010 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (1):5-36.
Prescribing Institutions Without Ideal Theory.David Wiens - 2011 - Journal of Political Philosophy 20 (1):45-70.

View all 13 references / Add more references