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Ethical Aspects of Climate Engineering

Gregor Betz
Sebastian Cacean

3. The Detailed Structure of the Sub-debates

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3.1. The Central Justification of R&D

The central justification of R&D represents a consequentialist argument. R&D into CE technologies is claimed to be a suitable means for reaching the goal that CE methods be ready for deployment in the future. This argument rests essentially on theses T2 – T4.

1The argument map below shows the dialectical structure of the central justification of R&D.

2The central argument in favour of R&D into CE technology T justifies thesis T1 by saying that R&D is required to have CE technologies ready for deployment in the future. Accordingly, this justification infers appropriate means from a desired end and can be reconstructed as a so-called consequentialist argument, A1 Making CE Technologies Ready,

  1. The CE technology T should be ready for deployment at a future point in time. [T2]
  2. Immediate R&D into the CE technology T under the aspect R [probably] brings about that T is ready in time.
  3. There are no more appropriate alternatives to immediate R&D into the CE technology T under the aspect R which bring about that T is ready in time while at the same time being more appropriate than immediate R&D into the CE technology. [T4]
  4. The side-effects of R&D into the CE technology T under the aspect R are negligible as compared to T being [probably] ready for deployment in time. [T3]
  5. R&D into a technology ought to be carried out immediately if the following conditions are met: 1. The technology should be ready for deployment at a future point in time; 2. Immediate R&D [probably] brings about that the technology will be ready for deployment; 3. There are no alternatives which bring about that the technology is ready in time while at the same time being more appropriate than immediate R&D; 4. The side-effects of R&D are negligible as compared to the technology being ready for deployment.
  6. Thus (from 1-5): R&D into the CE technology T under the aspect R ought to be carried out.

3Besides assuming theses T2-T5, the central argument relies on the thesis that research is in fact effective (i.e. it is at least likely to bring about that the respective technology becomes ready for deployment, premiss 1.2), as well as on a means-end principle in premiss (1.5) which is a special case of a more general principle of instrumental rationality (T5).

4The prohibition of R&D (T6) contradicts the obligation to carry out research (T1), as argument A3 makes explicit. Negating one of the three theses T2-T4, which are assumed in R&D justification A1, yields immediately a justification of the R&D prohibition (cf. arguments A4-A6). The decisive general premiss that these arguments are based on establishes the necessary normative conditions of R&D into a technology,

• [T7 Preconditions of Permissible R&D] R&D into a technology under the aspect R may be carried out only if each of the following conditions is met:
1. There is a chance of achieving readiness for deployment.
2. The direct costs of R&D are reasonable.
3. The readiness for deployment of the technology outweighs, considering the probability that such readiness be actually achieved, the expected certain, probable, and possible side-effects of R&D.
4. It is desirable to have the technology ready for deployment.

5These preconditions, once again, can be derived from a more general principle (argument A7) if one assumes that the purpose of R&D consists in achieving readiness for deployment (premiss 7.3).

6Theses T2-T4 thus constitute jointly sufficient and individually necessary conditions for the R&D obligation (T1). Hence, they represent decisive statements and focal points of the debate. It is therefore not surprising that these theses are suited for structuring the overall debate as explained in Section 2.

7The argument map introduced under Section 3.1 reconstructs the core of the CE controversy. That core, however, remains by and large implicit in the current debate. It seems that most participants in the debate tacitly conceive R&D to be justified along the lines of A1 Making CE Technologies Ready. But this is only revealed through further considerations (supporting arguments and objections) made by the proponents which can be related to the premisses of A1. So, since the central argument of the debate is hardly ever made explicit, Section 3.1, unlike the following sections, cannot be backed by references.

3.2. Side-effects of R&D

Thesis T3, which holds that the side-effects of R&D into CE are negligible, is challenged in the controversy by pointing out possible or probable harmful side-effects such as, in particular, the impact on mitigation policies (moral-hazard objection), the inevitable deployment of the technologies researched into, the commercial control of CE methods, risky field tests, and the risk of unilateral use.

8The sub-debate about the negligibility of R&D side-effects can be represented as follows:

9Here, thesis T3 is challenged by the central argument A8 Overwhelming Negative Side-Effects which (i) points out the diverse side-effects of R&D into CE, (ii) assesses them as being harmful, and (iii) weighs them against the intended R&D objective (achievement of readiness for deployment). The decisive premiss within argument A8 is

8) The possible and probable negative side-effects SE1-SE7 clearly outweigh the sum of all [certain, probable, and possible] useful side-effects and the [probable] intended effect that technology T is ready for deployment.

10Arguments A9 to A15 in argument map C identify the alleged, harmful side-effects of R&D.

11One of the most frequently mentioned and, thus, most prominent objections to CE argues that the very R&D into such technologies could cause a substantial reduction of mitigation efforts (cf. e. g. Keith 2000:276; Royal Society 2009; Gardiner 2010b: 292; Jamieson 1996:333 et seq.; Robock 2008a, b; ETC 2009:34). Carrying out R&D into CE, the argument warns, might suggest that there is a technical solution to the climate problem, and this in turn could prevent public and private stakeholders from implementing more or less painful mitigation measures. This argument, A9, which is sometimes also referred to as “moral-hazard objection”, identifies a potential side-effect of mere R&D into CE and, thus, supports argument A8. But why should there be a trade-off between mitigation on the one side and R&D into CE on the other one? Critics suggest different mechanisms which, should CE be researched into, could at least potentially affect mitigation policies in a negative way:

  • [A17 Interest Groups] With larger sums going into CE R&D, lobby groups that tend to be opposed to ambitious mitigation policies will be established and strengthened.
  • [A18 CE Hype] R&D into CE could trigger an outright CE hype. And the discussion of CE alone could undermine the motivation for realising costly mitigation and adaptation policies.
  • [A19 Undermining Better Options] The financial and cognitive resources that are used for R&D into CE are not available for preparing and implementing mitigation policies.

12Still, the argument of mitigation obstruction has also been criticised. While the Royal Society (2009) and Corner & Pidgeon (2010) point out that the actual extent of the assumed trade-off is uncertain (A20), David Keith et al. (2010) accuse the argument of presuming false exclusiveness and say that R&D and mitigation may well coexist. Whether, however, these objections definitely affect the argument of mitigation obstruction (A9) can only be determined through a detailed reconstruction and, thus, has to be settled in future research.

13The arguments below identify further assumed side-effects of R&D into CE:

  • [A10 Unstoppable Development] Research into CE might create an internal dynamic which inevitably leads to deployment even if deployment is dispensable. Yet, one must be able to halt R&D into risk technologies at any moment. (Jamieson 1996:333 et seq.)
  • [A11 Commercial Control] CE technologies might ultimately be controlled by big business that acts purely on the basis of commercial interest. This would lead to problems similar to those experienced in the pharmaceutical sector. (Robock 2008a; ETC 2009:29,34)
  • [A12 Field Tests] R&D into the CE technology T under the aspect R inevitably goes along with large-scale field tests which actually lead to deployment of T before T has been thoroughly probed. (Elliott 2010:11; Robock 2010)
  • [A13 Techno Escalation] R&D into CE may sanction technical interventions into nature on any scale whatsoever. (cf. Keith 2000)
  • [A14 Political Economy] CE promotes the militaryindustrial sectors and the business branches that are the most reactionary in terms of climate policy. (Ott 2010a, b, d)
  • [A15 Unilateral Deployment] R&D into CE might lead to unilateral deployment with catastrophic impacts. (Goodell 2010:195-7)

14While arguments A9 to A15, via A8, challenge the thesis of the negligibility of side-effects of R&D by listing potential negative side-effects, the positive side-effects of CE R&D counterbalance, in principle, such criticism. If the positive and negative side-effects were balanced, they could, in sum, turn out to be negligible indeed. Yet, proponents of the current debate, as analysed in this study, hardly advance positive side-effects of R&D at all. It is only Ott (Ott 2010a, b, d) who mentions a useful side-effect:

• [A16 Innovation Argument] R&D into new technologies such as CE triggers spin-offs and creates jobs.

15This argument, however, rests on fairly strong assumptions, as the detailed reconstruction reveals, A16,

  1. As a possible positive side-effect, R&D into the CE technology under the aspect R might lead to the creation of spin-offs and jobs.
  2. The potential creation of spin-offs and jobs, together with the intended achievement of readiness for deployment, outweighs the possible and probable negative side-effects SE1-SE7.
  3. Thus (from 1,2): It is not true that: The possible and probable negative side-effects SE1-SE7 clearly outweigh the sum of all [certain, probable, and possible] useful side-effects and the [probable] intended consequence that technology T is ready for deployment.

3.3. Readiness for Deployment

The most extensive sub-controversy is based on thesis T2. Three different arguments justify why readiness for deployment of CE is desirable: At some future point in time, the deployment of CE methods could be the lesser of two evils, and we should prepare for that case (lesser-evil argumentation); without using CE methods, ambitious climate policy targets cannot be achieved anymore (two-degree target/350 ppm argumentation); CE methods are more efficient and can be implemented more easily than extensive mitigation policies (efficiency and feasibility considerations). These arguments in favour of T2 are countered by numerous objections to T2. To start with, critical arguments based on the ethics of risk stress that the deployment of CE is accompanied by massive, irreducible hazards. The prominent termination problem belongs to this category of objections, too. The arguments from justice and fairness point out the uneven regional consequences of CE deployment. Geopolitical concerns arise because of the dual use problem and the fear that a “global thermostat” could induce new conflicts. Finally, several fundamental objections are raised in the controversy: They either rest on a general critique of technology and civilization or consist in religious, existentialist, or environmental-ethics considerations.

16The sub-controversy about the readiness for deployment is ignited by thesis T2 Readiness for Deployment Desirable. It is the most comprehensive sub-debate within the CE controversy. The mesostructure of this sub-debate is illustrated in the argument map below, where argument clusters are combined into groups.

17Thesis T2 is supported by three argument clusters. These pro arguments are discussed in Sections 3.3.1-3.3.3. The objections to T2 either target T2 directly (cf. geopolitical considerations, Section 3.3.7, and some of the justice-theory arguments, Section 3.3.5) or indirectly oppose it by supporting T9 CE Deployment Wrong (this holds for argument clusters 3.3.4, 3.3.5, 3.3.6, 3.3.8, 3.3.9). According to T9, the deployment of CE is morally wrong anyhow, and, thus, readiness for deployment is not desirable (A22). Considerations from ethics of risk, moreover, give rise to an objection to the lesser-evil argumentation (via T11, A53). In addition, the feasibility considerations, on the one hand, and objections based on a fundamental critique of civilization, on the other hand, make use of one and the same premiss:

• [T10 CE Easy] Implementation of the CE technology is comparatively easy.

18Hence, what in some arguments and for some proponents represents a reason in favour of readiness for deployment becomes a principal objection to deployment in other arguments and for other proponents.

3.3.1. Lesser-evil Argumentation (Pro)

19The lesser-evil argument is certainly among the most important justifications of thesis T2, and, consequently, of the central R&D obligation in general. It already figures prominently in early articles by Stephen Schneider and Dale Jamieson, which include cautious pleas in favour of R&D into CE (Schneider 1996, Jamieson 1996). The mesostructure of the lesser-evil argumentation, together with closely related arguments and direct objections, is shown below.

20The central lesser-evil argument, A23, justifies thesis T2 by saying that there may be future situations (e.g. if climate sensitivity turns out to be very high or if our mitigation efforts prove to be insufficient) where the (admittedly extremely risky) deployment of the CE technology T may be considered the lesser evil – since, without CE deployment, we would face uncompensated catastrophic climate change. The lesser-evil argument holds that, in view of such possible climate emergency, the CE technologies should, as a precautionary measure, at least be ready for deployment. A detailed reconstruction of this important argument reveals that, simple as it may seem, it builds on subtle decision-theoretic considerations, A23 Lesser-Evil,

  1. At some future point in time t, we may end up in a situation where (a) the worst possible impacts of the deployment of the CE technology T are clearly less severe than the worst possible consequences of not deploying it; where (b) relevant probability forecasts are not at our disposal; and where (c) the worst possible consequences of not deploying CE would in fact be catastrophic.
  2. If relevant probability forecasts are unavailable and if the worst possible consequences of a decision are actually catastrophic, one should choose the option for action with the comparatively best worst possible consequences. (version of the precautionary principle)
  3. Thus (from 1,2): At some future point in time t, we may get into a situation where we should deploy the CE technology T.
  4. If we may get into a situation where a technology T ought to be deployed, the technology T should be ready for deployment in the future, provided that there are no more significant moral reasons against T being ready for deployment. (precautionary reasoning)
  5. There are no such more significant moral reasons against the readiness for deployment of the CE technology T.
  6. Thus (from 3-5): The CE technology T should be ready for deployment at a future point in time.

21The lesser-evil argument is based on a (complex) possibility forecast, which already entails a normative assessment (23.1), as well as on two precautionary principles (23.2 and 23.4) and the general normative assessment that the moral objections to readiness for deployment do not outweigh the precautionary considerations (23.5). The possibility forecast that the deployment of CE could be the lesser evil in case a climate emergency occurs is backed up in different ways. High climate sensitivity and failure of emission reductions may lead to CE being the only remaining possibility of saving unique ecosystems (A24, e. g. D. Keith in Goodell 2010:39). The argument A25, discussed by Pidgeon & Corner (2010:32), goes much further, still: Climate emergencies may well endanger the survival of the entire human species; that’s why the worst possible consequence of uncompensated catastrophic climate change would be worse than the worst possible consequence of CE deployment (23.1).

22The lesser-evil argument is criticised in different ways. While argument A26 is directed against the complex possibility forecast (23.1), the counter-arguments A27 and A29 attack premiss (23.5). Argument A26 asserts that CE deployment could further aggravate harmful climate impacts, rather than alleviating them. Because this uncertainty is irreducible, the objection goes, premiss (23.1) is false. In contrast to what (23.1) assumes, not deploying CE might actually be the lesser of the two evils. Argument A26 is based on

• [T11 CE Worsens Climate Impacts] It is certain that the future deployment of CE technologies might even worsen the most catastrophic anthropogenic climate impacts instead of alleviating them.

23Thesis T11 itself is justified or defended by arguments that are assigned to the ethics of risk argument cluster (cf. Section 3.3.4). At first sight, the formulation of T11 and, hence, of argument A26, seems to be unduly sophisticated. Does it not suffice to simply say that CE deployment may worsen the whole situation? Well, actually no, that would not suffice – strictly spoken – to attack the above-reconstructed lesser-evil argument. The criticism A26 of the lesser-evil argument thus directly brings up the question as to how far the uncertainties of CE technologies (concerning effectiveness and side-effects) can be reduced through future research.

24The further arguments A27 and A29 both attack premiss (23.5) by claiming that the moral reasons against readiness for deployment outweigh the precautionary considerations:

  • [A27 Intention Makes a Difference] Intentional interventions into the climate system are (morally) worse than unintentional ones. (Keith 2000)
  • [A29 Intentional Harm] Deploying CE involves harming some (rather than other) people; this reduces the ethical value of our lives. (Gardiner 2010b: 304)

25By making use of the ethical principle of double effect (cf. also K. C. Elliott 2010:18) and by thus assuming that there is a substantial moral difference between bringing about a consequence and not preventing it, argument A27, in fact, becomes vulnerable. Here, different counter-arguments that defend the lesser-evil argument can be anticipated. Referring to R. Elliot’s environmental ethics (1982, 1997), one could, for instance, argue that the principle of double effect no longer applies in the case of renaturation measures that are considered compensations: In such cases, we would definitely be obliged to act and provide compensations, whereas passive inaction would be morally wrong (A28).

26The sick-patient analogy (A30) spells out the basic idea of the lesser-evil argument by using a metaphor: The Earth could become a terminally ill patient whom we prescribe a highly risky, hardly understood therapy for she is apparently doomed to die anyway (cf. Lovelock in Goodell 2010:106). Just like the lesser-evil argument, the sick-patient analogy justifies the central thesis T2 Readiness for Deployment Desirable. A detailed reconstruction of this argument by analogy reads, A30 Sick-Patient Analogy,

  1. A terminally ill patient ought to be prescribed a highly risky therapy if such therapy is found to be the only treatment option.
  2. If, in the coming decades, greenhouse gas emissions remain unabated and if the climate sensitivity exceeds 6° C, the Earth, by about 2050, will resemble – in every relevant respect (especially as regards the fact that the situation cannot worsen) – a terminally ill patient for whom the only treatment option consists in a highly risky therapy (i.e., in analogy, in the deployment of a CE technology).
  3. If two situations are equal in every morally relevant respect, an option for action in one of these situations ought to be taken whenever the analogous option ought to be taken in the other situation.
  4. Thus (from 1-3): If, in the coming decades, greenhouse gas emissions should remain unabated and if the climate sensitivity should exceed 6° C, CE technology T ought to be deployed by about 2050.
  5. It is possible that, in the coming decades, greenhouse gas emissions will remain unabated and climate sensitivity will exceed 6° C.
  6. If it is possible to get into a situation where a technology T ought to be deployed, the technology T should be ready for deployment in the future, provided that there are no more significant moral reasons against T being ready for deployment. (precautionary consideration)
  7. There are no such more significant moral reasons against the readiness for deployment of the CE technology T.
  8. Thus (from 4-7): The CE technology T should be ready for deployment at a future point in time.

27Argument A25, according to which climate change might endanger the survival of the entire human species, can be used to justify the analogy statement (3.2). This very premiss (3.2) represents the crucial assumption of argument A30. Any relevant difference between the two situations considered could defeat the sick-patient analogy. Such a difference is pinpointed in argument A31.

• [A31 No Absolute Bottom Line] In contrast to a terminally ill person, who, at worst, dies, anthropogenic climate impacts, no matter how bad they are, can always become worse.

28The analogy assumed in A30, this objection says, is therefore severely flawed.

3.3.2. Two-degree Target/350 ppm Argumentation (Pro)

29A second argumentation in support of thesis T2 Readiness for Deployment Desirable results from the stipulation to stabilize the atmospheric CO2 concentration at a value of at most 350 ppm (cf. Hansen 2009, Greene et al. 2010). (In analogy, the argument cluster could be reconstructed based on a global 2° or 1.5° target.) Since the present concentration, however, is clearly above that value, the 350 ppm target demands a large-scale removal of carbon from the atmosphere. The mesostructure of that line of reasoning is as follows:

30The argumentation’s structure is comparatively straight. The obligation to have CE technologies ready for deployment (T2) results from

• [A32 Ready CE Technologies Needed] Only with the help of a ready CE technology T can the atmospheric CO 2 level be reduced to 350 ppm. (Hansen 2009; Greene et al. 2010)

31Arguments A33 and A34 point out that a reduction of the CO2 concentration to 350 ppm is required to avoid dangerous climate change (Hansen 2009). The following independent evidence is provided to substantiate this claim:

  • Values above 350 ppm may lead to a melting of the ice sheets and a catastrophic sea level rise (A35) – a scenario corroborated by palaeo-climatic data (A36).
  • Values above 350 ppm may cause mass extinctions (A37).
  • At values above 350 ppm, the radiation budget of the Earth is not balanced, which could trigger extreme global warming if climate sensitivity were high (A38).

3.3.3. Efficiency and Feasibility Considerations (Pro)

32A third cluster of arguments that support T2 Readiness for Deployment Desirable is made up of efficiency and feasibility considerations.

33The efficiency argument A39 and the closely related do-it-alone (A40) and easiness arguments (A41) underline that the deployment of CE technologies would be easier and more cost-effective than burdensome mitigation or adaptation measures. All of these arguments thus consider CE a substitute for instead of a potential complement to mitigation policies.

• [A39 Efficiency Argument] The direct and indirect costs of the deployment of CE are clearly below those of mitigation and adaptation. (Ott 2010a, b, d; Gardiner 2010b: 287; Elliott 2010:20; Wood in Goodell 2010:129)
• [A40 Do-it-Alone Argument] If necessary, CE technologies can be deployed by a small group of determined nations to the benefit of the entire world. (Ott 2010a, b, d)
• [A41 Easiness Argument] CE allows avoiding dangerous climate change without changing life styles, habits, and the current mode of our economy. (Ott 2010a, b, d)

34Having said this, the easiness argument portrays a certain CE feature as advantageous (T10) that critics consider as disadvantageous (cf. Section 3.3.8).

35The efficiency argument has been discussed and criticised extensively in the current ethical debate. In particular, the following reasons have been invoked against argument A39:

• [A42 Only Partial Offset] The CE method T often neutralises only a fraction of all anthropogenic climate impacts, e. g. not ocean acidification. In principle, its benefits are obviously smaller than those of mitigation. (Gardiner 2010b: 288; Robock 2008a, b; ETC 2009:19)
• [A43 Indirect Costs Underestimated] The CE method T is anything but cheap, if one considers all indirect costs that arise due to unintended side-effects. (Gardiner 2010b: 288)
• [A44 Harming Others] We do not compensate for harming others by merely providing them with technologies which might be used to moderate the harm we have caused. (Gardiner 2010b: 293)

3.3.4. Arguments from Ethics of Risk (Contra)

36Incalculable side-effects and imponderables constitute one of the main reasons against CE technology deployment. Arguments from ethics of risk, which point out uncertainties in future deployment, are primarily supporting thesis T9 CE Deployment Wrong and make up an argument cluster with a comparatively complex dialectical structure.

37Before taking a closer look at some of the relevant arguments, a broad outline of the argumentation’s mesostructure is given. There are five arguments from ethics of risk which justify that deploying CE technologies – today as in the future – would be morally wrong (A45, A46, A47, A49, A54). Three of these arguments, namely A47, A49, and A54, are further supported and attacked. The unseen side-effects argument (A49), in particular, is based on the premiss that the uncertainties of CE deployment are irreducible, i.e. cannot be reduced substantially through further R&D. This claim, in turn, is supported by argument A52. The irreducibility of CE uncertainties is substantiated through several arguments (A55-A58), which all support A52. Argument A52, however, is also dialectically related to the it-might-get-worse argument (A54). This is because the latter is based on thesis T11, and T11 is attacked by argument A53 according to which further R&D could eliminate the uncertainties. Argument A52, finally, rebuts this progress-of-R&D objection by pointing out irreducible uncertainties.

38The first three justifications of thesis T9 can be outlined as follows:

• [A45 Termination Problem] CE measures do not possess viable exit options. If deployment is terminated abruptly, rapid and catastrophic climate change ensues. (Ott 2010a, b, d; Robock 2008a, b)
• [A46 No long-term control] Our social systems and institutions are possibly not capable of controlling risk technologies on long time scales and of ensuring that they are handled with proper technical care. (Corner & Pidgeon 2010:31)
• [A47 No Irreversible Interventions] CE represents an irreversible intervention.

39The prohibition of irreversible interventions, which A47 assumes, is justified by:

• [A48 Retaining Options] Irreversible interventions narrow the options of future generations in an unacceptable way. (Jamieson 1996:330 et seq.)

40A47, in turn, is attacked by:

• [A50 Mitigation, Too] Mitigation, too, is, at least to some extent, an irreversible intervention with unseen side-effects. (Corner & Pidgeon 2010:28)

41In fact, this objection may also be understood as attacking the following argument, which supports T9 CE Deployment Wrong:

• [A49 Unseen Side-Effects] As long as the side-effects of CE technologies cannot be reliably predicted, their deployment is morally wrong. (Jamieson 1996:326 et seq.; ETC 2009:34)

42A51 is another argument which, just like A50, is only vaguely articulated in the debate:

• [A51 Never Perfect Foresight] We do never completely foresee the consequences of our actions. (Goodell 2010:135)

43A detailed reconstruction of A49, however, shows that arguments A50 and A51 may fail to gain traction, A49,

  1. It is not true that: Further R&D into the CE technology T may (a) ensure its effectiveness and (b) exclude catastrophic side-effects of its deployment.
  2. If further R&D into the CE technology T cannot exclude catastrophic side-effects of its deployment for sure, then side-effects of deployment cannot be predicted reliably at any future point in time.
  3. As long as the side-effects of a risk technology cannot be reliably predicted, its deployment is morally wrong.
  4. The CE technology T is a risk technology.
  5. Thus (from 1-4): A future deployment of the CE technology T is in any case (morally) wrong.

44None of these premisses seems to be challenged by A50 or A51. Claiming that some uncertainties of CE are irreducible, premiss (49.1), moreover, is backed by argument A52.

• [A52 Irreducible Uncertainties] There are major irreducible uncertainties regarding the effectiveness and side-effects of CE deployment (Cf. Keith 2000:277; Robock 2008a; Bunzl 2009)

45Further reasons are given to support that argument:

• [A55 Human Error] Complex technical interventions that are sustained on longer time scales are susceptible to human error and are hence unpredictable. (Robock 2008a; ETC 2009:34)
• [A56 Complexity of Earth System] As a consequence of the earth system’s complexity, we will never be in a position to grasp, let alone quantify, all side-effects of large-scale interventions. (Grunwald 2010; ETC 2009:34)
• [A57 Large-scale Field Tests] Only large-scale field tests, which effectively amount to full-fledged deployment, can robustly demonstrate the effectiveness and reliability of CE methods. Hence, we will know whether CE works only once we have deployed it. (Robock 2010)
• [A58 Socio-political Uncertainties] The effectiveness and reliability of CE presuppose a stable institutional framework over several decades. Such boundary conditions are unpredictable.

46This last-mentioned argument, however, is qualified by:

• [A59 Short Deployment Conceivable] In case mitigation efforts are carried out and highly effective CDR methods are available, SRM might be deployed for no longer than a decade. (Wigley in Goodell 2010:133)

47A fifth justification of thesis T9 CE DEPLOYMENT WRONG in the ethics of risk cluster says that:

• [A54 It Might Get Worse] In the worst case (which is the decisive one), CE aggravates catastrophic climate impacts.

48The detailed reconstruction shows that A54, similarly to the lesserevil argument (A23), employs a precautionary principle, A54,

  1. It is certain that future deployment of CE technologies might even worsen the most catastrophic anthropogenic climate impacts instead of alleviating them.
  2. There are no relevant probability forecasts available regarding the impacts of a future deployment of CE technologies.
  3. If relevant probability forecasts are unavailable and if the worst possible consequences of a decision are actually catastrophic, one should choose the option for action with the comparatively best worst possible consequences. (version of the precautionary principle)
  4. Thus (from 1-3): The CE technology T should not be deployed in the future.
  5. Thus (from 4): A future deployment of the CE technology T is in any case (morally) wrong.

49Premiss (54.1), which is also shown as thesis T11 CE Worsens Climate Impacts in the argument map, is obviously incompatible with the view that scientific progress and acquisition of further knowledge are possible in the context of CE:

• [A53 Predictive Progress Possible] Scientific research might advance our understanding so that we will be in a position, when actually deploying CE, to robustly rule out the worst case that CE aggravates climate impacts.

50Once again now, considerations about irreducible uncertainties arise because the argument A52 Irreducible Uncertainties, supported by A55-A58, refutes precisely that further research could lead to a substantial reduction of uncertainties.

3.3.5. Arguments from Justice and Fairness (Contra)

51The fact that consequences of CE may vary widely on a regional scale – both as regards compensation of climate impacts and non-intended effects – constitutes the starting point of another significant group of arguments against the deployment of CE. On the basis of such regional differences, arguments that stress justice and fairness considerations support thesis T9.

52In general, arguments from justice and fairness have not yet been discussed or elaborated fully in the current CE controversy. The common basis of different fairness arguments, which is also referred to in the literature, reads:

• [A60 Distributional Effects] The uneven distributions of regional climate offsets (benefits), costs, and negative side-effects that go along with CE deployment are deeply unjust. (Keith 2000:276; Robock 2008a; ETC 2009:34)

53On the one hand, spelling out of such an argumentation requires precise details of the diverse regional impacts of CE deployment. On the other hand, the arising regional differences must be assessed normatively according to a given theory or principle of justice. Such an assessment can be carried out on the basis of the below-mentioned theories, for example. Each of these four theories might provide independent arguments in support of A60 (note that these arguments are anticipated by the authors of this study as the corresponding theories have not yet been explicitly applied to assess CE):

• [A61 Capabilities] CE deployment will bring about that less people possess elementary capabilities to lead a successful, good, flourishing human life. (Nussbaum/Sen 1993)
• [A62 Difference Principle] CE deployment will even aggravate the situation of those who are globally already worst off. (Rawls 1975)
• [A63 Egalitarianism] CE deployment widens the existing global socio-economic inequalities instead of reducing them.
[A64 Human Rights] CE deployment alters the global institutional and economic conditions such that human rights will be realised to a lesser degree. (Pogge 2002)

54Another argument from fairness which, however, does not support T9 CE Deployment Wrong but directly opposes T2 Readiness for Deployment Desirable has been introduced by Stephen Gardiner:

• [A65 Overcoming Global Opposition] Getting global legitimisation (in terms of factual consent and acceptance) for CE deployment is no less difficult than winning broad support for mitigation; if the former could be achieved, global mitigation efforts would not be blocked anymore and the prime reason for CE would fade away. (Gardiner 2010b: 294)

55Being based on the idea of procedural justice, the argument voiced by Gardiner can be understood in two ways. Its first version implies that the central motivation for CE deployment gets lost as soon as the problems of achieving concerted multilateral implementation are overcome. As a matter of fact, should the community of states be able to agree on the deployment of CE it could as well agree on mitigation policies. With global mitigation on the way, Gardiner asserts, there would be no more demand for CE. This first version though can be opposed by:

• [A66 Risk of High Climate Sensitivity] Even with ambitious mitigation policies, we might fail to achieve the two-degree target such that CE deployment is the lesser of two evils. (Keith et al. 2010)

56In the second version, Gardiner’s A65 is based on the pessimistic assumption (of one of the variants) of the lesser-evil argument and of some supporters of CE that, due to insurmountable clashes of interest, the international community will not agree on binding mitigation targets and policies anyway. But then, the argument goes, there will be no multilateral CE consensus for analogous reasons, either. And without such consensus, deployment will cease to be desirable.

3.3.6. Side-effects of Deployment (Contra)

57Arguments pointing out the (uncertain) consequences and side-effects of CE deployment are already found in the cluster referring to ethical risks. Another side-effect argumentation, bearing a great similarity to the moral-hazard problem (cf. A9 Mitigation Obstruction), has been identified by Klepper und Rickels (2011).

58Not only R&D into but also the deployment of CE could undermine further mitigation measures:

• [A67 Impediment to Mitigation] The deployment of CE makes it highly unlikely that far-reaching mitigation policies are implemented and sustained.

59The negative impact on mitigation stems supposedly from the high capital intensity of CE measures:

• [A68 Amortization Effect] Significant investments, required by capital-intensive CE technologies upfront, will amortize only in case the technology is deployed for a sufficiently long period of time. This requires not reducing CO2 emissions too much.

3.3.7. Geopolitical Objections (Contra)

60Geopolitical and military strategic effects of having CE technologies ready for deployment represent the starting points of consequentialist objections to T2 Readiness for Deployment Desirable.

61A69 refers to a problem that is also known from other technology debates, e. g. the nuclear energy controversy:

• [A69 Dual Use] The CE technology T may potentially serve as (the basis for) weapons of mass destruction. (Keith 2000:275; Corner & Pidgeon 2010:30: Goodell 2010:210-2; Robock 2008a; ETC 2009:34)

62Yet another prominent argument of the CE controversy states:

• [A70 Climate Control Conflicts] CE puts future generations in a position to control the climate. This ability generates new conflicts and might even bring about climate wars. (Hulme 2010:351; Robock 2008a)

63According to that argument, a global thermostat would generate more risks and problems than it solves.

3.3.8. Critique of Technology and Civilization (Contra)

64Objections of a completely different kind are compiled in the argument cluster on fundamental critique of technology and civilization.

65Based on more or less radical normative premisses that express a critical attitude towards the scientific-technical civilization, these arguments reason that the deployment of CE would be deeply wrong.

• [A71 No Rethink] The deployment of CE prevents and postpones the urgently needed rethinking in our societies and the inevitable reforms of our economies. (Corner & Pidgeon 2010:32)
• [A72 Exploitation] CE is just a cover for our ongoing exploitation of other people, generations, and species. (Gardiner 2010b: 304)
• [A73 Technical Fix] CE is a “technical fix”, tinkering with symptoms instead of resolving the causes. As such, it is fundamentally flawed. (Keith 2000; Gardiner 2010b: 303; ETC 2009:5)
• [A74 Ruling Nature] CE methods are but another means for ruling nature and point into a fundamentally wrong direction. (Gardiner 2010b: 288)
• [A75 Hubris Argument] CE belongs to a tradition of largescale interventions which have ignored the boundaries of technical manipulation. It testifies to arrogance and a form of self-deceit that will heavily backfire. (Ott 2010a, b, c, d; Gardiner 2010b: 303; Jamieson 1996:332; Fleming 2010)

3.3.9. Religious, Existentialist, and Environmental-ethics Arguments (Contra)

66Arguments that are based on highly specific ethical assumptions are outlined in the next argument map.

67Environmental-ethics considerations emphasize the large-scale loss of wilderness through CE deployment and contribute a prominent argument to the CE controversy:

• [A76 Loss of Intangible] The deployment of CE triggers a loss of wilderness, originality, and intangibility on unprecedented scales. (Ott 2010a, b, d; Keith 2000:277 et seq.; Robock 2008a)

68In connection with that argument, attention is sometimes called to perceptible large-scale changes such as noticeably different sunsets. Focusing on the value of wilderness, originality, and naturalness, the environmental-ethics argument, however, does not depend on such perceptible side-effects of CE (concerning the environmental-ethics debate about the value of wilderness, cf. also Birnbacher 2006). Reference to changed sunsets or the loss of blue skies (due to SRM) may as well, however, arise from aesthetic considerations.

69Stephen Gardiner articulates two arguments against CE deployment that appeal to our self-conception as moral persons and may thus be called “existentialist”:

• [A77 Elementary Failure] CE testifies that mankind has failed to meet an elementary challenge: To live and to survive on this planet as we have found it. (Gardiner 2010b: 304; Jamieson 1996:332)
• [A78 Conception of Ourselves] CE risks undermining our conception of ourselves as moral beings. (Gardiner 2010b: 303)

70The latter argument is only hinted at by Gardiner as he asks what the decision to implement CE or research into it may tell about us: What are humans like that make such decisions? Which are the virtues that guide their actions?

71Two religious arguments have been anticipated from statements by the Catholic and Protestant churches, specifically from a social encyclical by Pope John Paul II and from the report by an EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland – Evangelical Church in Germany) working group on genetic engineering. Although both arguments have not yet been introduced into the debate, they establish an inferential connection between religious beliefs and CE:

• [A79 Contempt for the Given] By deploying the CE technology T, we would not perceive and respect nature as what is given to humans; rather, nature would become something we create intentionally by way of technical reproduction (cf. Zimmerli et al. 1997, III. 1)
• [A80 Betrayal of the Divine Creation] By deploying the CE technology T, man subjects the Earth without restraint to his will and betrays its prior God-given purpose. (According to Pope John Paul II, Centesimus annus, IV, 37; WCC 1998)

72It is important to note that the genetic engineering statement made by the EKD working group draws an extremely differentiated picture and suggests acting carefully without flatly denouncing each and every genetic engineering method. In line with this, EKD could be assumed to be evaluating CE measures in a likewise differentiated way and be supposed not to argue generally against all CE measures with A79. Ultimately, however, such predictions remain purely speculative.

3.4. Alternative Justifications of R&D

Although alternative research justifications consider R&D into CE methods as being a suitable means for a given end, they differ from the central justification by specifying an altogether different purpose of research. According to these alternative arguments, research does not aim at making CE methods ready for deployment. Rather, research should help, for example, to avoid hasty CE deployment by pointing out the real risks and hazards involved.

73Not least because of the numerous objections to the central R&D justification A1 Making CE Technologies Ready, the CE controversy has turned to the question as to whether there may not be other reasons in favour of R&D that are entirely independent of such contentious issues as CE deployment or readiness for deployment. Such alternative research justifications are compiled in the argument map below.

74Just like the central justification, each of the alternative justifications of R&D represents a means-end argument and realises the general consequentialist inference pattern T5. The alternative arguments A81-A88 merely differ from the original one by citing other targets than deployment readiness to be pursued through CE R&D, namely:

  • Avoidance of hasty CE deployment. [A81, A82] (cf. Leisner and Müller-Klieser 2010; Keith et al. 2010)
  • Fostering of mitigation policies. [A83, A84] (cf. Keith et al. 2010; Lovelock in Goodell 2010:107)
  • Planning of a long-term R&D strategy. [A85, A86]
  • Preparation of an informed decision (on deployment in the future). [A87, A88]

75The latter of these four variants (A87) comes closest to the central justification of R&D. In fact, to prepare an informed decision on future deployment, it takes more than just compiling relevant information: The respective technologies must, in addition, be developed to maturity. Hence, A81, A83, and A85 seem to be the only genuine alternatives. Each of these alternative arguments evidently claims that (i) the respective target shall be reached, (ii) R&D into the CE technology contributes to reaching the target, (iii) there are no alternatives to R&D in that respect, and (iv) R&D side-effects are negligible. In view of these claims, the alternative justifications obviously also imply variants of theses T3 Side-Effects of R&D Negligible and T4 No Alternatives to R&D (Readiness). Unlike the central R&D justification A1 Making CE Technologies Ready, these alternatives, however, steer clear of the comprehensive sub-controversy on readiness for deployment (T2). Nonetheless, arguments A81, A83, and A85 are partially based on other problematic assumptions. Since the allegedly lacking alternatives to R&D will be discussed separately (cf. Section 3.5.1), we confine ourselves at this point to questions of effectiveness. It is all but obvious why R&D into CE should contribute effectively to avoiding hasty deployment (A81) and to fostering mitigation policies (A83). In fact, the relevant arguments are rather based on the assumption that the risks and side-effects of CE are currently systematically underestimated and that a closer scientific investigation of such technologies reveals their limitations (as regards feasibility, effectiveness, and acceptability of side-effects). The basic idea behind A83 holds that such revelations would keep the international community from relying prematurely on CE and losing sight of mitigation policies.

76Finally, there remains one last kind of justification, which is briefly mentioned for completeness’sake. Gardiner discusses an argument that emphasizes the neutrality of R&D:

• [A89 R&D First] R&D should not be constrained; once technologies have been developed, a decision can be taken as to their deployment. (Gardiner 2010b: 288 et seq.)

77However, he discards the argument immediately on the following grounds:

• [A90 R&D No Goal in Itself] R&D is no intrinsic goal and not for free, either: Research projects compete for limited funds, requiring a choice as to which projects to pursue. (Gardiner 2010b: 288 et seq.; Jamieson 1996:333 et seq.)
• [A91 R&D Related to Applications] R&D cannot be separated neatly from its potential results’applications because of psychological as well as socio-economic mechanisms. Frequently, automatic applications cannot be avoided. (Gardiner 2010b: 288 et seq.)

78Also, these objections rebut the following attack against the R&D prohibition:

• [A92 Technology Neutral] The CE technology T is, in itself, neutral and may be applied for good or bad purposes. Its mere development cannot reasonably be prohibited. (Goodell 2010:192)

3.5. Further Arguments

Further arguments of the CE controversy are related to the lack of alternatives to CE R&D (T4), provide direct justifications of the R&D prohibition, broach the issue of national bans, and give reasons for the priority of mitigation measures over CE methods.

3.5.1. Lack of R&D Alternatives

79All R&D justifications decisively depend on the assumption that no means are more appropriate for achieving the presumed purpose (e. g. readiness for deployment in time) than immediate R&D into CE technology T (T4). In spite of its central importance, this prerequisite is – as opposed to theses T2 and T3 – hardly paid attention to. The following argument map compiles considerations that are directed against T4 or variants thereof.

80Thesis T4 is a premiss of the central R&D justification. In this context, Gardiner makes the following objection:

• [A93 Postpone R&D] Preparing a technical intervention which is to be carried out in 50 years is a waste of resources: The technological means upon which the intervention will ultimately rely are not available today at all. (Gardiner 2010b: 288 et seq.)

81In line with this, R&D with the goal of developing the respective technology to maturity in time may as well be postponed. This objection obviously presumes that, if at all, the technology T shall not be deployed until the remote future (in several decades).

82The premiss of R&D justification A81 Avoiding Hasty CE Deployment, however, which claims that there are no alternatives to R&D if hasty deployment of the CE technology T is to be avoided (T12), is opposed by the following obvious consideration:

• [A94 Moratorium] Hasty and premature deployment of CE technologies might be avoided (alternatively) by an international moratorium.

83A moratorium of that kind has recently been recommended unanimously by the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) (cf. Tollefson 2010). But not only does such a moratorium undermine one of the premisses of R&D justification A81, it also weakens the analogous assumption of argument A83 Fostering Mitigation. Concerns that a moratorium would hardly be effective and would not inhibit R&D lead up to the following objection:

• [A95 Clandestine Research] A moratorium would merely push research activities „underground“. (Goodell 2010:200)

3.5.2. Direct Justifications of R&D Prohibition

84So far, the justification of the R&D prohibition thesis (T6) has been linked up with the criticism of theses T2 to T4. Should one of the latter be wrong, it follows, through A4-A6, that R&D ought to be refrained from. This assumes, though, that the objective of research consists in the development of ready-for-deployment technologies (cf. Section 3.1). If R&D is being endorsed (thesis T1) for alternative reasons, arguments A4-A6 cease to apply. The CE controversy, however, contains further arguments that can be understood as direct justifications of the thesis T6.

85Several authors argue that mere CE planning already represents part of an unacceptable transfer of risks from present to future generations:

• [A96 Risk Transfer Argument] Planning for deployment and carrying out R&D today means transferring risks to future generations. (Ott 2010a, b, d; Gardiner 2010b: 293; Jamieson 1996:331)

86However, argument A96 must (presumably) assume that CE measures are conceived as alternatives to mitigation policies or, at least, that such mitigation measures will not be implemented because of CE planning.

87While A96 is based on a principle of intergenerational ethics, A97 is founded on democratic theory:

• [A97 No Informed Consent] R&D into CE requires a broad and well-informed consent of those potentially affected, which is not given. (Jamieson 1996:329 et seq.; Ott 2010a, b, d; Gardiner 2010b: 293 et seq.; Elliott 2010:19)

88The following justification of the R&D obligation, in contrast, shows parallels to objections that are critical of civilization and technology (cf. Section 3.3.8):

• [A98 True Motives] R&D into CE is but a rationalisation for “passing the buck” on to future generations and for not addressing the CO 2 problem in earnest. (cf. Gardiner 2010b: 295)

89Eventually, Ott has developed another variant of the risk transfer argument where he denounces R&D into CE for possibly burdening future generations with a fatal dilemma:

• [A99 Dilemma Generation] R&D into CE is likely to lead to future dilemmata. (Ott 2010c)

90Dilemmata, however, curb the rights of future generations in an unacceptable way (A100).

3.5.3. The Problem of National Bans

91A particular ethical problem, which has not been discussed explicitly in the current debate but is of relevance nonetheless, pertains – in a broad sense – to the problem of free-riding: How can limited, for example national, bans still be justified if, on a global scale, numerous stakeholders do not abide by comparable prohibitions anyway? Or, do universal norms which have been justified under the assumption that they be collectively accepted and adopted lose their authority – for everybody – once sufficiently many agents don’t comply? Picking up on these questions, the argument below takes for granted the universal research prohibition T6 and concludes that it would be wrong to enforce such a prohibition on a small (e. g. European) scale, A101,

  1. R&D into the CE technology T under the aspect R ought not to be carried out (immediately). (thesis T6)
  2. Some nations and businesses get away with defying R&D prohibition.
  3. If an action A is prohibited (or morally forbidden) to all stakeholders but some get away with defying the related rules, it seems unjust to uphold the prohibition for the remaining stakeholders.
  4. Any prohibition whatsoever ought not to be unjustly upheld and imposed on any stakeholder.
  5. Thus (from 1-4): The prohibition of R&D into the CE technology T ought not to be upheld towards German or European stakeholders.

3.5.4. Priority of Mitigation Policies

92Many objections to R&D into CE, but also numerous justifications thereof, are based on the assumption that, prima facie, mitigation – rather than CE – represents the more appropriate means for avoiding dangerous climate change (cf. Section 4.3). This comparative assessment (thesis T14) is justified in different ways in the CE controversy.

93Several independent reasons are given to substantiate the priority of mitigation:

• [A102 Argument from Reversibility] Changes in behaviour (induced by mitigation policies) are much more reversible than technical interventions. (Jamieson 1996:331)
• [A103 Avoiding Dilemmata] We should avoid upfront to end up in a situation where we are compelled to choose between two evils. (Gardiner 2010b: 300 et seq.; Elliott 2010:13)
• [A104 Polluter-pays Principle] Problems should be solved by those (generations) who have caused them; therefore, mitigation is preferable to CE. (Jamieson 1996:331)
• [A105 No Respect] An initial act of pollution would even be morally wrong if perfect neutralisation of negative impacts were possible ex post, because it is an expression of a lack of respect. (Hale 2009; Hale and Grundy 2009)
• [106 Worst Case] No matter whether CE technologies are carried out or not: The worst case, given mitigation policies are carried out, is comparatively better than the worst case without mitigation.

Table des illustrations

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