The Comparative Culpability of SAI and Ordinary Carbon Emissions

| December 2017
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Abstract: In his article “Carbon Emissions, Stratospheric Aerosol Injection, and Unintended Harms,” Christopher J. Preston compares the culpability of carbon emitters versus that of geoengineers deploying stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI). This comparison relies on a parallel between carbon emitters and SAI deployers that requires both to be agents. However, both are not. While the harms of geoengineering will be caused by culpable agents acting intentionally, the harms connected to climate change emerge out of the uncoordinated actions of billions of people. Taken as a large group, carbon emitters cause harm but do not constitute an agent. Taken individually, carbon emitters are agents but do not cause the harms of climate change. As a result, the parallel collapses, and Preston’s “surprising” conclusion is one that he is not entitled to reach.

Keywords: climate engineering, solar radiation management, stratospheric aerosol injection, carbon emissions, unintended harms, doctrine of double effect, culpability, agency.

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Category: Climate Change, Issue 31.4, Response

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