Before long, geo-engineering may offer the most cost-effective option for preventing further harm from climate change. Should this be the case, utilitarians and liberals will have difficulty explaining the sense of aversion and tragedy many feel about intentionally manipulating the climate. Appeals to precaution only partially explain these feelings. For a fuller picture, we need a thicker conception of the proper values and ends of political society. To this end, I examine how classical Buddhist and Greek notions of temperance, justice, and freedom bear on the question of geo-engineering.My intention is not to pronounce on whether geo-engineering is morally “right” or “wrong,” but to highlight reasons for thinking it unattractive in a broader sense, thereby strengthening the case for exhausting conventional, emissions-reductions options.
Ross Mittiga is a PhD candidate with the Department of Politics, and the co-chair of the American Political Science Association’s Green Politics and Theory Related Group. His primary research examines the politically disruptive potential of global climate change and the principles, policies, and values bearing on efforts to mitigate it. He is scheduled to defend his doctoral thesis, entitled “Before Collapse: A Political Theory of Climate Catastrophe,” on December 1st, 2017.