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Ethical Aspects of Climate Engineering

Gregor Betz
Sebastian Cacean

5. Coherent Positions and their Logico-argumentative Implications

Texte intégral

Analysing a complex controversy as an argument map allows to check proponent positions (actually or possibly held) for coherence. A core position, which consists in accepting or rejecting certain arguments and theses, has logico-argumentative implications that go beyond the core position itself because (i) one is bound to accept the logical consequences of the sentences one accepts and (ii) one must reject the direct objections to one’s core position. Proponents endorsing R&D into some CE method, thus, are obliged to reject the relevant objections to R&D into CE; proponents rejecting CE R&D have to specify on which points they disagree with the diverse research justifications. It is these very considerations that are relevant when drafting coherent political positions.
For illustrative purposes, the following positions can be checked for coherence: Endorsement of SRM research for reasons of easiness and efficiency; endorsement of R&D into ocean fertilization to detect the associated risks; rejection of SRM R&D on account of basic considerations from democratic theory and fairness; endorsement of CDR development for the purpose of achieving ambitious climate targets in the future.

1Argument maps serve to structure controversies and reveal how different considerations are related to each other. In addition, they can be used to check positions, which proponents do or might adopt in a controversy, for coherence. Argument maps, however, do not mark out one single position as being particularly plausible or well-founded. Quite the contrary: There are always various admissible (coherent) points of views between which argumentation analysis (and, hence, ethics) cannot further decide. In this context, to say that a position is not coherent means that it does not acknowledge the logico-argumentative consequences resulting from its concessions or that it gets tangled up in contradictions.

2For scientific policy advice, checking the diverse positions in a debate for coherence may very well represent the most important benefit of argument analysis. Such checking enables political stakeholders to trace whether they have taken into account all relevant considerations with a view to their own position. In particular, argument analysis can be of significant help already in the initial process of setting up a position. At this stage, provisional and partial positions can be pictured and thought through tentatively based on the argument maps. That’s what this concluding chapter is all about: It aims to point out how the argument maps of the CE controversy can be used to clarify particular positions. The procedure of checking positions for their coherence is demonstrated by examples, i. e. by mapping out four arbitrary, merely illustrative positions. These positions do not have any special status; in particular, the argument maps don’t show these positions to be extremely important, well-founded or anything like that. They have been chosen such that they give at least an idea of the broad spectrum of conceivable coherent positions.

3Proponents can assume positions by accepting or rejecting the arguments and theses in a controversy. In that context, acceptance and rejection are defined as follows:

  • Acceptance of a thesis = def the thesis is accepted as true;
  • Acceptance of an argument = def all premisses as well as the conclusion of the argument are accepted as true;
  • Rejection of a thesis = def the thesis is considered to be false;
  • Rejection of an argument = def at least one premiss is considered to be false.

4It is important to bear in mind that in order to (coherently) reject an argument, it suffices to say which of its premisses one does not accept; it is not necessary to justify why the respective premiss is believed to be false.

5To describe a position assumed in the CE controversy, it is not enough, however, to state which arguments and theses of the above-presented reconstruction are being accepted or rejected. This is because, strictly speaking, the arguments are not made up of sentences that can be true or false – the argument maps merely contain argument patterns which employ two types of placeholders (cf. Section 1.3). So, before one can adopt a position by accepting or rejecting arguments and theses, two things have to be done: First, one has to specify which CE technologies one addresses (placeholder “T”) and, second, one has to determine which kind of R&D one considers (placeholder “R”). Consequently, the four exemplary positions are described hereunder by (1.) specifying the CE technology “T” and the type of R&D “R”, (2.) pointing out the core position (acceptance and rejection of theses and arguments), and (3.) explaining the logico-argumentative obligations arising from the core position.

5.1. First Position: SRM is More Efficient than Mitigation

6The first illustrative position discusses the technologies of cloud-albedo enhancement (Royal Society 2009, p. 27) and recommends developing them immediately for reasons of efficiency (cf. argument maps T and U). The SRM technology of cloud-albedo enhancement is aimed at increasing oceanic cloud formation by injecting particles into lower atmospheric layers to increase the direct reflection of incident sunlight.

7Subject Matter of the Position

  • T = Cloud-albedo enhancement
  • R = Technology development

8In essence, the position justifies immediate R&D into cloud-albedo enhancement by saying that measures of that kind are more efficient than emission reduction (mitigation). Hence, besides the central R&D justification (A1 Making CE Technologies Ready), also arguments A39 Efficiency Argument and A41 Easiness Argument are accepted.

9Core Position

  • Acceptance: T1-T5, A1, A2, A39, A41
  • Rejection: –

10The above core position possesses a number of logico-argumentative implications: Whoever assumes the core position must also accept or reject further arguments and theses for reasons of coherence. Most evidently, the position in question is bound to reject the prohibition of R&D into cloud-albedo enhancement. Hence, any direct justification of such an R&D prohibition must be rejected as well (cf. Section 3.5.2). In addition, the direct objections (A42-A44) to the efficiency argument need to be rejected. Efficiency considerations, moreover, conflict with thesis T14 according to which mitigation ought to be principally preferred to CE deployment (cf. Section 4.3). Accordingly, the above position is bound to reject T14 and all its justifications (A102-A106). Moreover, all arguments that assume the priority of mitigation (see Section 4.3), namely A9, A67, A83, must be discarded. Further consequences arise from accepting T2. Not only does the position have to reject the geopolitical-military objections and argument A65 against T2, but thesis T9 (which holds that deployment of cloud-albedo enhancement is morally wrong) must be denied, too. Consequently, all justifications of T9 are to be rejected. In order to coherently maintain that R&D side-effects are negligible (T3), it is necessary to reject at least argument A8. Either the position under review weights the side-effects of R&D differently (that is negates premiss (8.8)), or it contests that some of the predicted R&D side-effects are actually negative and possible (or probable). The latter has already been accomplished through the rejection of A9. Finally, the core position is required to reject the attack (A93) on T4 (No Alternatives to R&D).

11Logico-argumentative Implications

  • Acceptance: T10
  • Rejection: T6, any direct justification of T6; objections to the efficiency argument A42-A44; T14, each of the arguments A102-A106 as well as A9, A67, and A83; geopolitical-military objections (A69, A70), and A65; T9, any justification of T9; argument A8; objection (A93) to the thesis that there are no alternatives to R&D
  • Neutral (selected arguments and theses): Lesser-evil argumentation; R&D neutrality

Argument Map T: First Position

Argument Map U: First Position

5.2. Second Position: Disclosing the Risks of Ocean Fertilization

12The second exemplary position favours R&D into ocean fertilization (Royal Society 2009, p. 16) with the objective of disclosing the risks and side-effects of such interventions (cf. argument maps V and W). Ocean fertilization refers to the process of introducing nutrients (mostly iron) into oligotrophic oceans to boost primary production (algae growth, among other things) and to sequester CO2 from the atmosphere.

13Subject Matter of the Position

  • T = Ocean fertilization
  • R = Risk assessment

14In essence, the position justifies R&D by saying that risk research tends to prevent (rather than foster) premature technology deployment (A81 AVOIDING HASTY CE DEPLOYMENT) and supports mitigation efforts (A83 FOSTERING MITIGATION). The deployment of ocean fertilization is considered to be morally wrong.

15Core Position

  • Acceptance: T1, T5, A81-A84, variants of T3 and T12 (cf. Section 3.4), T9
  • Rejection: –

16The general prohibition of R&D into the risks of ocean fertilization (T6) must be rejected together with all of its justifications (among other things, thesis T7 and premiss 7.3 of argument A7 can be rejected; the direct justifications of the R&D prohibition, moreover, seem to be aimed at technology development). The acceptance of T9, in addition, implies that T2 must be rejected. Accordingly, all justifications of T2 have to be rejected as well: The lesser-evil argument (A23) could be discarded because, for example, ocean fertilization is not suited as an emergency option anyway (premiss (23.1) is wrong). For the same reason, the sick-patient analogy (A30) appears to be lopsided, too. On top of that, the efficiency and feasibility considerations must be rejected just as the 350 ppm argumentation. Further logico-argumentative implications result from the fact that variants of T3 and T12 are accepted. Thus, the second position, too, is bound to claim that the side-effects of R&D (i. e. the side-effects of R&D into the risks of ocean fertilization) are negligible. Argument A8 could be rejected, for example, by insisting that such specific risk research by no means leads to a reduction of mitigation efforts. In doing so, A9 would be discarded as well. In addition, the position must reject objections to thesis T12: Moratoriums or legally binding agreements, the position is bound to claim, are no suitable alternatives for reaching the respective R&D targets (i. e. enhancement of mitigation, avoidance of hasty deployment).

17Logico-argumentative Implications

  • Acceptance: T14
  • Rejection: T6, any justification of T6; T2, any justification of T2; A8, some of the arguments A9-A15 (A10 and A12 in the argument map); objection A94 to variants of T12
  • Neutral (selected arguments and theses): Objections to T2, justifications of T9

Argument Map V: Second Position

Argument Map W: Second Position

5.3. Third Position: No SRM Development

18The third exemplary position argues against the development of aerosol-based SRM technologies (Royal Society 2009, p. 29) (cf. argument maps X and Y). Such methods are aimed at increasing the share of the reflected and re-emitted solar radiation by stratospheric sulphur aerosol injection.

19Subject Matter of the Position

  • T = Aerosol-based SRM
  • R = Technology development

20Essentially, the position subscribes to the prohibition of R&D into SRM technologies (T6) by holding that the respective measures (1.) solely end up transferring risks to future generations (A96 Risk Transfer Argument), and (2.) cannot obtain informed global consent anyway (A97 No Informed Consent). The position, moreover, accepts the priority of mitigation policies by agreeing that problems should be solved by those who have caused them (A104 Polluter-pays Principle).

21Core Position

  • Acceptance: T6, A96, A97, T14, A104
  • Rejection: –

22For reasons of coherence, anyone who considers the development of aerosol-based SRM technologies wrong is bound to negate the opposite R&D obligation (T1). From this, it evidently follows that all justifications of the R&D obligation must be rejected as well. On the one hand, it is necessary to discard the central consequentialist R&D justification (A1). On the other hand, all of the alternative R&D justifications (A81-A88) must also be rejected. If, as will be assumed below, the position accepts the general principle T5, one of the theses T2-T4 must definitely be discarded. Depending on which of the latter theses is being discarded, one gets confronted with additional logico-argumentative implications: Denial of, for example, T2 implies that each justification of T2 must be rejected (see Section 5.2). The efficiency and feasibility considerations must be refuted at any rate, since they run counter to the priority of mitigation (T14) (see Section 4.3). Concerning the argument cluster “Neutrality of R&D”, arguments A89 and A92 need to be rejected. The third position outlined in this subsection is, however, uncommitted to many of the reconstructed arguments. It is, for instance, not bound to accept the objections to theses T2-T4. These objections may be cited to back up the rejection of T2-T4, but they may as well be discarded.

23Logico-argumentative Implications

  • Acceptance: –
  • Rejection: T1, any justification of T1, one of the theses T2-T4, and any justification of the latter (T2 in the argument map, and all justifications of T2); A39-A41; A89 and A92 of the R&D neutrality argumentation
  • Neutral (selected arguments and theses): Objections to T2 (e.g. T9), objections to T3 (e.g. A8), objections to T4

Argument Map X: Third Position

Argument Map Y: Third Position

5.4. Fourth Position: Developing Air Capture Technologies

24The fourth exemplary position holds that R&D into air capture technologies ought to be carried out (Royal Society 2009, p. 15) in order to attain ambitious climate protection goals such as the 350 ppm target (cf. argument maps Z and AA). Using energyintensive chemical methods, the technologies referred to capture CO2 directly from the ambient air, so that it can be stored subsequently.

25Subject Matter of the Position

  • T = Air capture
  • R = Technology development

26In essence, the position accepts theses T1-T5, the central, consequentialist justification of the development of air capture methods, and the 350 ppm argumentation (A32-A38).

27Core Position

  • Acceptance: T1-T5, A1, A2, 350 ppm argumentation
  • Rejection: –

28Just like the first and second positions, the fourth one, too, is bound to reject the research prohibition thesis (T6) and the direct justifications of a prohibition of air capture development. In this particular case, one might claim that the development of CDR technologies involves much less intergenerational risk transfer than the development of SRM methods (against A96), and that informed consent could be achieved much more easily (against A97). Besides, the position must reject objection A8 to the negligibility of R&D side-effects (T3). It could try to insist, for example, that CDR measures hardly bear any moral-hazard risk and that, hence, argument A9 can be discarded. Next, the direct objections to T2 must be rejected. Some of these objections (A69 and A70) seem to concern SRM only, anyway. The position must also reject thesis T9, according to which it would be morally wrong to deploy air capture methods, and, along with this, any justification of T9. In order to do so, one might claim, once again, that some of the arguments, e.g. the termination problem (A45), solely apply to SRM technologies anyway. But, in addition, several substantial objections (e.g. A67-A68) must be rejected, too. To be able to coherently adhere to T4, the position under review finally needs to reject A93: Since, to be effective in time, air capture technologies have to be deployed as early as possible, postponing R&D, it might be claimed, is no appropriate alternative to starting R&D immediately.

29Logico-argumentative Implications

  • Acceptance: –
  • Rejection: T6, any justification of T6; A8 (e.g. through rejection of A9); direct objections to T2; T9 and any of its justifications; A93
  • Neutral (selected arguments and theses): Efficiency and feasibility considerations (A39-A41), lesser-evil argument (A23), alternative justifications of R&D (A81-A88), priority of mitigation (T14)

Argument Map Z: Fourth Position

Argument Map AA: Fourth Position

Table des illustrations

Légende Argument Map T: First Position
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Légende Argument Map U: First Position
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Légende Argument Map V: Second Position
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Légende Argument Map W: Second Position
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Légende Argument Map X: Third Position
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Légende Argument Map Y: Third Position
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Légende Argument Map Z: Fourth Position
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Légende Argument Map AA: Fourth Position
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