Carbon Emissions, Stratospheric Aerosol Injection, and Unintended Harms

Ethics and International Affairs 31 (4):479-493 (2017)
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In the rapidly expanding literature on the ethics of climate engineering, a lot has been made of the fact that stratospheric aerosol injection would for the first time create a world whose climate had been intentionally shaped by deliberate human decisions. Intention has always mattered in ethics. Due to the importance of intention in assigning culpability for harms, one might expect that the moral responsibility for any harms created during an attempt to reconstruct the global climate using stratospheric aerosols would be considerable. This article investigates such an expectation by making a comparison between the culpability for any unintended harms resulting from stratospheric aerosol injection and culpability for the unintended harms already taking place due to carbon emissions. To make this comparison, both types of unintended harms are viewed through the lens of the doctrine of double effect. The conclusion reached goes against what many might expect. The article closes by suggesting that a good way to read this surprising conclusion is that it points toward the continuing moral importance of prioritizing emission reductions.



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Christopher Preston
University of Montana

Citations of this work

Geoengineering Tensions.Adrian Currie - forthcoming - Futures.
The Most Good We Can Do or the Best Person We Can Be?Michel Bourban & Lisa Broussois - 2020 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 23 (2):159-179.
The Need for Governance of Climate Geoengineering.Janos Pasztor - 2017 - Ethics and International Affairs 31 (4):419-430.

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