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Re-Thinking the Unthinkable: Environmental Ethics and the Presumptive Argument Against Geoengineering

Christopher J. Preston

Environmental Values 20 (2011): 457-479. doi: 10.3197/096327111X13150367351212

ABSTRACT

The rapid rise in interest in geoengineering the climate as a response to global warming presents a clear and significant challenge to environmental ethics. The paper articulates what I call the 'presumptive argument' against geoengineering from environmental ethics, a presumption strong enough to make geoengineering almost 'unthinkable' from within that tradition. Two rationales for suspending that presumption are next considered. One of them is a 'lesser evil' argument, the other makes connections between the presumptive argument, ecofacism, and the anthropocentrism/non-anthropocentrism debate. The discussion is designed to prompt reflection on how environmental ethicists should orient themselves to the rapidly moving geoengineering debate and what they should think about the moral significance of the earth's large-scale biogeochemical processes compared to the moral significance of individuals, species, and ecosystems.


KEYWORDS

Geoengineering, presumptive argument, environmental ethics, lesser of two evils, anthropocentrism, fundamental biogeochemical processes

REFERENCES to other articles in Environmental Values:

Saving Nature, Feeding People and Ethics. Robin Attfield

Some Early Ethics of Geoengineering the Climate: A Commentary on the Values of the Royal Society Report. Stephen M. Gardiner

A Perfect Moral Storm: Climate Change, Intergenerational Ethics and the Problem of Moral Corruption. Stephen M. Gardiner

Remediation and Respect: Do Remediation Technologies Alter Our Responsibility?. Benjamin Hale and W.P. Grundy

No Experience Necessary? Foundationalism and the Retreat from Culture in Environmental Ethics. Ben A. Minteer

Synthetic Biology: Drawing a Line in Darwin's Sand. Christopher J. Preston

CITATIONS in other Environmental Values articles

Editorial: Building on the Past, Creating a Future Isis Brook

Editorial: Response and Responsibility. Clive L. Spash

Governing Climate Technologies: Is there Room for Democracy? Hayley Stevenson

Should We Move the Whitebark Pine? Assisted Migration, Ethics and Global Environmental Change.Clare Palmer and Brendon M.H. Larson


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