Ethical Issues

Intentional climate alteration, including SRM, raises important issues with respect to ethics and responsibility (Gardiner, 2010; Jamieson, 1996). First and foremost is the is sue of equity. Issues of inequities include unequal representation in relevant decisionmaking bodies in relationship to benefits, and intergenerational equity, where future generations inherit the long-term commitment to certain types of interventions, or face the consequences involved in phasing out past SRM interventions. Second, consideration of SRM may pose a "moral hazard," where focus on SRM as a solution to climate change may detract from efforts to reduce GHG emissions or adapt to the consequences of climate change, or create an institutional inertia that essentially commits us to its deployment (Gardiner, 2010). Finally, there is the question—probably impossible to discern scientifically but nonetheless powerful in coloring public debate—about the "appropriate" place of the human species in the global ecology and whether human attempts to control the complex Earth system are a matter of hubris or a desirable evolution (e.g., Jamieson, 1996; Keutartz, 1999; Lovelock, 2008; Schneider, 1996, 2008).

Issues of ethics are likely to affect the social acceptability and political feasibility of planetary-scale, intentional manipulation of the climate system. Judging from past experience with siting and deployment of potentially fear-invoking technologies, these issues may dominate the political process (e.g., Douglas, 1985; Erikson, 1994; Fischhoff, 1981; Freudenburg and Pastor, 1992; Kates et al., 1984). Little if anything is known at present, however, about how U.S. citizens or other countries perceive SRM or other geoengineering options, and improved understanding of these perceptions may be critical inputs to governance discussions.

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