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Geoengineering Governance: Addressing the Problems of Moral Corruption, Moral Hazard, and Intergenerational Inclusion

Wells, J. (2020) Geoengineering Governance: Addressing the Problems of Moral Corruption, Moral Hazard, and Intergenerational Inclusion. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00096799


This thesis is concerned with how geoengineering, specifically Stratospheric Sulphur aerosol Injection (SSI), could be ethically governed. Geoengineering refers to a set of technologies which can be used to affect the global temperature, such as SSI. Geoengineering has been proposed as possible response to climate change. This thesis focuses on three problems which the ethical governance of SSI faces: namely the problems of moral corruption, moral hazard and intergenerational inclusion. The result of this is that the thesis furthers our understanding of how SSI governance could address each of these three problems. By doing so the thesis contributes t an important debate on how SSI should be governed. The first chapter presents a case in favour of the importance of the ethical governance of SSI. Chapter two introduces two framings which are seldom used together, the risk-risk trade off frame, and the perfect moral storm frame. Chapter two argues that it is important to adopt both of these frames if we are going to consider geoengineering governance. The benefit of these frames is that they provide a context against which thinking about SSI governance occurs. Chapter three explains the problem of moral corruption, and argues that a well-functioning accountability mechanism could help to address it. In making this argument, the chapter shows that transparency, publicity, and accountability are poorly understood in reports on geoengineering governance, in which these principles are often endorsed. The chapter offers a clearer account of the meaning of these principles, and why it is essential to be aware of the relationship between transparency and these other principles if they going to be used to address moral corruption or any problem in SSI governance. Chapter four provides conceptual clarity to the often-cited moral hazard concern about SSI. The chapter breaks the moral hazard problem down into five different variables. By doing so this analysis highlights the lack ambiguity and disagreement in the literature about the moral hazard.. This chapter also provides an answer to the question of should we act on the hazard if the empirical evidence about the hazard effect is inconclusive. Drawing on the work of Henry Shue on threshold likelihoods, I argue that we should act on the moral hazard problem even if the empirical evidence is inconclusive, due to the mechanisms by which the hazard can occur being well-understood, and that these mechanism are accumulating. . Chapter five explores the possibility of secrecy as a response to the moral hazard concern. The chapter has four components. Firstly it provides clarity about how secrecy can be understood. Secondly, it considers what this theoretical account of secrecy teaches us about the practice of secrecy. This is done by applying the theory to the historical example of the Manhattan project, which highlights some key components of governing in secrecy. Thirdly, the chapter shows us why we should expect such an approach to secrecy to be effective at addressing the moral hazard problem. Fourthly, the chapter has a normative component, whereby it considers instrumental reasons to be opposed to secrecy in SSI governance despite its promise in addressing the moral hazard problem. Chapter 6 considers the question of intergenerational inclusion in decision-making about SSI. It identifies representation of interests as the appropriate form of inclusion for future people. It argues in favour of ‘A Statement of What is Owed to the Future’, whereby the minimal interests of future generations are expressed and accepted by states. The chapter proceeds by considering different mechanisms through which these interests could be represented, and argues in favour of a second chamber as the ideal mechanism through which this can occur. . The idea of ethical SSI governance is complicated and confusing, it faces many challenges, and we face a genuine risk of SSI being governed in a poor or unethical way. Even if agents wished to govern SSI ethically it is not at all clear how this can be done. This thesis makes the prospect of ethical SSI governance more attainable by helping agents understand what to do in light of three important ethical problems SSI governance ought to address.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:McKinnon, C. and Baderin, A.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Politics, Economics & International Relations
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Politics, Economics and International Relations
ID Code:96799


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