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

  • Christopher J. Preston
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    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.

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    Article provided by White Horse Press in its journal Environmental Values.

    Volume (Year): 20 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 4 (November)
    Pages: 457-479

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    Handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev20:ev2022
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    1. Christopher J. Preston, 2008. "Synthetic Biology: Drawing a Line in Darwin's Sand," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 17(1), pages 23-39, February.
    2. Benjamin Hale & W.P. Grundy, 2009. "Remediation and Respect: Do Remediation Technologies Alter Our Responsibility?," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 18(4), pages 397-415, November.
    3. Stephen M. Gardiner, 2011. "Some Early Ethics of Geoengineering the Climate: A Commentary on the Values of the Royal Society Report," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 20(2), pages 163-188, May.
    4. Scott Barrett, 2008. "The Incredible Economics of Geoengineering," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 39(1), pages 45-54, January.
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