Behnam Taebi, Dominic Lenzi et al.

Published On


Page Range

pp. 83–112


  • English

Print Length

30 pages

4. Climate Engineering and the Future of Justice

This chapter discusses the societal and ethical challenges of climate engineering or large-scale intentional intervention in the climate system. Climate engineering is highly controversial, and raises many questions about the values of human societies and the desirability of technological visions of the future. Yet existing ethical theories and concepts may not be equipped to deal with the resulting ethical issues. To understand the potential social and political disruptiveness of climate engineering, we argue it must be placed in the context of global environmental changes caused by human activity. Yet climate engineering is also accompanied with a high degree of uncertainty and risk in terms of potential and actual unintended impacts on natural processes and society. An important challenge stems from epistemic and normative uncertainties about the reversibility and variability in spatial and temporal scales of deployment. Epistemic uncertainties arise in the methodological framework of climate science, while normative uncertainties arise faced with the challenge of reconciling a plurality of values. A key question is how forms of climate engineering enforce or hinder disruption in social practices and institutional settings in the direction of a sustainable future. Climate engineering technologies can affect and potentially disrupt existing conceptions of climate and environmental justice, due to the scale and scope of impacts upon people currently alive, future generations, and non-human species and ecosystems. The availability of climate engineering may also require rethinking the responsibility for mitigation, as well as applications of the precautionary principle. Climate engineering also raises the question of how the perspectives of affected communities can be adequately represented. While it remains unclear whether climate engineering techniques can genuinely assist in lessening the impacts of climate change, the question is whether and to what extent it should be used as a complementary approach to systemic changes in social, economic and political practices.


Behnam Taebi

Professor of Energy & Climate Ethics at Technische Universiteit Delft

Behnam Taebi is Professor of Energy & Climate Ethics at Delft University of Technology. Taebi is the co-Editor-in-Chief of Science and Engineering Ethics, and co-editor of The Ethics of Nuclear Energy (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and the author of Ethics and Engineering. An Introduction (Cambridge University Press, 2021). ORCID: 0000-0002-2244-2083

Dominic Lenzi

Assistant Professor in Environmental Ethics at University of Twente

Dominic Lenzi is an Assistant Professor in Environmental Ethics at the University of Twente. His research focuses on ethics and political philosophy in the Anthropocene, including topics related to climate ethics, planetary boundaries and natural resource justice, and environmental values and valuation. ORCID: 0000-0003-4388-4427

Lorina Buhr

Postdoctoral Researcher at Utrecht University

Lorina Buhr is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Utrecht University. Her research examines conceptual, ontological and normative aspects of finitude and irreversibility in nature, using the examples of extinction and technologies for de-extinction. ORCID: 0000-0002-0718-6026

Kristy Claassen

PhD candidate at University of Twente

Kristy Claassen is a PhD candidate at the University of Twente. Her research focuses on Intercultural Philosophy, Ubuntu and Artificial Intelligence. ORCID: 0000-0001-5162-2529

Alessio Gerola

PhD candidate, Philosophy Group at Wageningen University & Research

Alessio Gerola is a PhD candidate in the Philosophy Group of Wageningen University. He explores the philosophical and ethical impacts of biomimetic design, the intentional imitation of nature for technological innovation. ORCID: 0000-0003-4417-9367

Ben Hofbauer

PhD candidate, Technology, Policy & Management at Technische Universiteit Delft

Ben Hofbauer is a PhD candidate at TU Delft, at the faculty for Technology, Policy & Management. His work focuses on the ethical implications of the research on, and potential deployment of Solar Climate Engineering Technologies. ORCID: 0000-0003-4839-5315

Elisa Paiusco

PhD candidate in Philosophy at University of Twente

Elisa Paiusco is a PhD candidate in Philosophy at the University of Twente, where she investigates the social and ethical implications of carbon dioxide removal. Her work focuses on climate change and intergenerational justice. ORCID: 0009-0008-2369-294X

Julia Rijssenbeek

PhD candidate in Philosophy of Technology at Wageningen University & Research

Julia Rijssenbeek is a PhD candidate in Philosophy of Technology at Wageningen University and Research. She investigates the philosophy and ethics of synthetic biology, focusing on the conceptual and normative shifts in thinking about biological matter and lifeforms that the field brings about and its contribution to a bio-based future. ORCID: 0000-0001-7377-2667