The Ethics of Geoengineering: A Literature Review

Science and Engineering Ethics 26 (6):3069-3119 (2020)
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Geoengineering as a technological intervention to avert the dangerous climate change has been on the table at least since 2006. The global outreach of the technology exercised in a non-encapsulated system, the concerns with unprecedented levels and scales of impact and the overarching interdisciplinarity of the project make the geoengineering debate ethically quite relevant and complex. This paper explores the ethical desirability of geoengineering from an overall review of the existing literature on the ethics of geoengineering. It identifies the relevant literature on the ethics of geoengineering by employing a standard methodology. Based on various framing of the major ethical arguments and their subsets, the results section presents the opportunities and challenges at stake in geoengineering from an ethical point of view. The discussion section takes a keen interest in identifying the evolving dynamics of the debate, the grey areas of the debate, with underdeveloped arguments being brought to the foreground and in highlighting the arguments that are likely to emerge in the future as key contenders. It observes the semantic diversity and ethical ambiguity, the academic lop-sidedness of the debate, missing contextual setting, need for interdisciplinary approaches, public engagement, and region-specific assessment of ethical issues. Recommendations are made to provide a useful platform for the second generation of geoengineering ethicists to help advance the debate to more decisive domains with the required clarity and caution.



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Bert Gordijn
Dublin City University

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