Geoengineering and the Precautionary Principle

International Journal of Applied Philosophy 24 (2):237-253 (2010)
  Copy   BIBTEX


As it becomes more and more doubtful that the international community will take adequate steps to mitigate climate change, interest has grown in the possibility of engineering earth’s climate to prevent catastrophic levels of warming. Unfortunately, geoengineering schemes have the potential to create grave, unintended consequences. This paper explores the extent to which the precautionary principle (PP), which was developed as a guideline for responding to uncertainty in the policy sphere, can provide guidance for responding to the potential benefits and hazards associated with geoengineering. The paper argues that there are so many different versions of the precautionary principle and so many potential strategies for geoengineering that there cannot be any single, simple relationship between the two. Nevertheless, it is possible to identify a set of lessons that many versions of the PP suggest for those considering geoengineering proposals. Moreover, examination of the geoengineering case provides an opportunity to reflect on a range of important situations—what this paper will call self-defeating scenarios—in which most versions of the PP provide limited guidance compared to other ethical principles.



    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 89,408

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

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.
Human Engineering and Climate Change.S. Matthew Liao, Anders Sandberg & Rebecca Roache - 2012 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 15 (2):206 - 221.
Toward understanding aspects of the precautionary principle.Carl F. Cranor - 2004 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 29 (3):259 – 279.
Future technologies, dystopic futures and the precautionary principle.Steve Clarke - 2005 - Ethics and Information Technology 7 (3):121-126.
Ethics and intentional climate change.Dale Jamieson - 1996 - Climatic Change 33 (3):323--336.
Formulating the Precautionary Principle.Neil A. Manson - 2002 - Environmental Ethics 24 (3):263-274.
Precaution and Solar Radiation Management.Lauren Hartzell-Nichols - 2012 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 15 (2):158 - 171.
Is the precautionary principle unscientific?B. D. - 2003 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 34 (2):329-344.


Added to PP

167 (#104,037)

6 months
2 (#640,495)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?