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Engineering the Climate

The Ethics of Solar Radiation Management

Edited by Christopher J. Preston - Contributions by Albert Borgmann; Holly Jean Buck; Wylie Carr; Forrest Clingerman; Maialen Galarraga; Benjamin Hale; Marion Hourdequin; Ashley Mercer; Konrad Ott; Clare Palmer; Ronald Sandler; Dane Scott; Patrick Taylor Smith; Bronislaw Szerszynski and Kyle Powys Whyte

Engineering the Climate: The Ethics of Solar Radiation Management discusses the ethical issues associated with deliberately engineering a cooler climate to combat global warming. Climate engineering (also known as geoengineering) has recently experienced a surge of interest given the growing likelihood that the global community will fail to limit the temperature increases associated with greenhouse gases to safe levels. Deliberate manipulation of solar radiation to combat climate change is an exciting and hopeful technical prospect, promising great benefits to those who are in line to suffer most through climate change. At the same time, the prospect of geoengineering creates huge controversy. Taking intentional control of earth’s climate would be an unprecedented step in environmental management, raising a number of difficult ethical questions. One particular form of geoengineering, solar radiation management (SRM), is known to be relatively cheap and capable of bringing down global temperatures very rapidly. However, the complexity of the climate system creates considerable uncertainty about the precise nature of SRM’s effects in different regions. The ethical issues raised by the prospect of SRM are both complex and thorny. They include: 1) the uncertainty of SRM’s effects on precipitation patterns, 2) the challenge of proper global participation in decision-making, 3) the legitimacy of intentionally manipulating the global climate system in the first place, 4) the potential to sidestep the issue of dealing with greenhouse gas emissions, and, 5) the lasting effects on future generations. It has been widely acknowledged that a sustained and scholarly treatment of the ethics of SRM is necessary before it will be possible to make fair and just decisions about whether (or how) to proceed. This book, including essays by 13 experts in the field of ethics of geoengineering, is intended to go some distance towards providing that treatment. « less more »
Lexington Books
Pages: 274Size: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4
978-0-7391-7540-8 • Hardback • June 2012 • $95.00 • (£65.00)
978-0-7391-9054-8 • Paperback • December 2013 • $39.99 • (£24.95)
978-0-7391-7541-5 • eBook • June 2012 • $37.99 • (£24.95)
Christopher J. Preston is an Associate Professor of Environmental Ethics at the University of Montana. He is the author of Saving Creation: Nature and Faith in the Life of Holmes Rolston, III (Trinity University Press, 2009) and Grounding Knowledge: Environmental Philosophy, Epistemology, and Place (University of Georgia Press, 2003), an edited collection of essays titled Nature Value, and Duty: Life on Earth with Holmes Rolston, III (Springer, 2007), and a special issue of the journal Ethics and the Environment on the “Epistemic Significance of Place.”
Introduction: The Extraordinary Ethics of Solar Radiation Management
Christopher J. Preston
Part I. Present and Future Generations
Chapter 1: Geoengineering, Solidarity, and Moral Risk
Marion Hourdequin
Chapter 2: Might Solar Radiation Management Constitute a Dilemma?
Konrad Ott
Chapter 3: Domination and the Ethics of Solar Radiation Management
Patrick Taylor Smith
Part II. Marginalized, Vulnerable, and Voiceless Populations
Chapter 4: Indigenous Peoples, Solar Radiation Management, and Consent
Kyle Powys Whyte
Chapter 5: Solar Radiation Management and Vulnerable Populations: The Moral Deficit and its Prospects
Christopher J. Preston
Chapter 6: Solar Radiation Management and Non-human Species
Ronald Sandler
Part III. Moral Hazards and Hidden Benefits
Chapter 7: The World That Would Have Been: Moral Hazard Arguments Against Geoengineering
Ben Hale
Chapter 8: Climate Remediation to Address Social Development Challenges: Going Beyond Cost Benefit and Risk Approaches to Assessing Solar Radiation Management
Holly Jean Buck
Part IV. Ethics of Framing and Rhetoric
Chapter 9: Insurance Policy or Technological Fix: The Ethical Implications of Framing Solar Radiation Management
Dane Scott
Chapter 10: Public Concerns About the Ethics of Solar Radiation Management
Wylie Carr, Ashley Mercer, and Clare Palmer
Part V. The Cultural Milieu
Chapter 11: The Setting of the Scene: Technological Fixes and the Design of the Good Life
Albert Borgmann
Chapter 12: Between Babel and Pelagius: Religion, Theology, and Geoengineering
Forrest Clingerman
Chapter 13: Making Climates: Solar Radiation Management and the Ethics of Fabrication” by Maia Galarraga and Bronislaw Szerszynski
This well-written, well-edited work makes the assumption that solar radiation management (SRM) would be accomplished by putting reflective aerosols into the atmosphere since the world is not doing much to alleviate global warming in other ways. However, the book is not primarily concerned with the actual method. Contributors recognize that scientists will have difficulty predicting the effects (e.g., local climate changes) of SRM. They cover various issues, such as the fact that using SRM may prevent people from taking firm measures to control CO2 emissions. Authors also explore the ramifications for future generations, who will probably need to continue the practice of SRM; the importance of involving poor and marginalized peoples in decisions about SRM; and effects on nonhuman species. In addition, the book includes chapters suggesting that SRM might be used to help solve other social problems, rather than causing new ones, and that it is foolish to deal with the moral choices involved in using SRM without considering people's religion and other matters. This is a wide-ranging and important book, apparently the only one on the subject--scholarly, but accessible to intelligent readers who are not geoengineers or ethicists. Good index and excellent scholarly apparatus. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.

The pursuit of geoengineering requires us to ameliorate the fundamental dichotomy between taking responsibility for the climate future of our planet and the hubris of intentional management of the complex Earth system. So far, it can be argued, we have done a poor job of accepting responsibly for the future climate and we have a history of causing negative unintended consequences when we try. Never-the-less, we can no longer escape this problem. There is no hope of 'going back to nature,' and we have to find better ways to manage our home planet. The study of the ethical ramifications is one important part of this effort and this new volume illuminates many of the issues and provides a good basis for furthering our scholarship and societal decisions on this most difficult issue.

Jane Long, Associate Director at Large, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Geoengineering is a new and vitally important topic, and this is the first major collection on the ethical issues. Its insights are a service not just to students and their professors, but also to humanity at large.
Stephen Gardiner, Professor of Philosophy, University of Washington