Distributive Justice, Geoengineering and Risks

The Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Papers (2014)
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It is generally recognised that the potential positive and negative impacts of geoengineering will be distributed unevenly both geographically and temporally. The question of distributive justice in geoengineering thus is one of the major ethical issues associated with geoengineering. Currently, the question of distributive justice in geoengineering is framed in terms of who gets what (potential) benefits and harms from geoengineering, i.e. it is about the distribution of the outcomes of geoengineering. In this paper, I argue that the discussions on distributive justice in geoengineering should not be outcome-based. Instead, it should be risk-based. I identify two problems for framing the question of distributive justice in geoengineering in terms of the distribution of its outcomes, i.e. the ‘if and then’ syndrome and the limited applicability of distributive principles in geoengineering policy, and suggest risk is a more proper object of distribution in the case of geoengineering. Following Hayenhjelm, I argue that the object of distribution in the case of fair distribution of risk should be (i) sources of risks and (ii) precautionary measures. I shall then demonstrate how it can be applied to the question of distributive justice in geoengineering. Finally, I end this paper by exploring the possible responses to the question of distributive justice in geoengineering by three major accounts of distributive justice, i.e. egalitarianism, prioritarianism, and sufficientarianism.



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