Pak-Hang Wong on Virtuous Climate Making?


Pak-Hang Wong on Virtuous Climate Making?

Towards a Virtue-Theoretic Approach to Geoengineering: In the final Uehiro Seminar of Trinity Term, Pak-Hang Wong offered a novel approach to the ethics of geoengineering. He argues that if we view geoengineering as a large socio-technical system (LTS), which he asserts we should, then traditional approaches to the ethics of geoengineering that focus on intentions and outcomes are inadequate. Using a standard definition of geoengineering, “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change,” and the understanding of geoengineering as an LTS, Wong suggests two key problems with existing attempts to address the ethics of geoengineering. Current approaches focus on the ethics of intentions and outcomes in geoengineering. For example, two common questions asked in the field at present are, 1) whether R&D and implementation of geoengineering are morally permissible; and, 2) if they are morally permissible, how should costs, risks, and benefits be shared? Yet because LTSs 1) are big, layered, and complex such that individual intentions will often be irrelevant, and 2) are subject to a high degree of uncertainty such that arguments based on consequences will be inappropriate, Wong argues that we need a new ethical approach to geoengineering. He suggests virtue ethics, as its focus on questions like ‘how should we live?’ rather than ‘what is the right action?’ or ‘what is the best consequence,’ allows the development of an applicable ethical framework in spite of geoengineering’s high degree of uncertainty and complexity as an LTS. –Kyle Edwards

You can listen to an audio recording of Wong’s talk here:


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