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Climate change, collective responsibility and geoengineering

Applicant Fragnière Augustin
Number 161111
Funding scheme Return CH Advanced Postdoc.Mobility
Research institution Institut de géographie et durabilité Faculté des géosciences et de l'environnemen Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.12.2016 - 30.09.2017
Approved amount 86'450.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Discipline
Philosophy
Political science

Keywords (5)

Climate ethics; Geoengineering; Political philosophy; Responsibility; Legitimacy

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
Utilisant les méthodes de l’éthique appliquée et de la philosophie politique anglo-américaine, cette recherche vise à analyser et à mieux comprendre les questions de responsabilité et de légitimité politique associées aux propositions de plus en plus nombreuses d’ingénierie du climat (ou géoingénierie).
Lay summary

La question de la responsabilité est centrale dans le domaine du changement climatique. Dans la mesure où celui-ci est le produit d’innombrables sources d’émissions de gaz à effet de serre, l’on assiste à une sorte de dilution des responsabilités à cet égard.  Qui doit-être tenu responsable d’agir en priorité pour prévenir une transformation dangereuse du système climatique ? Depuis quelques années, la recherche s’est focalisée en particulier sur la distribution des responsabilités entre le niveau individuel et le niveau collectif/institutionnel. Cela pose entre autres de potentiels conflits entre la responsabilité d’un gouvernement à l’égard de ces propres citoyens (à court terme et en termes économiques) et celle qu’il possède à l’égard des autres peuples plus vulnérables au changement du climat.

Ce projet cherche vise à étendre ces questions au sujet de la géoingénierie (la manipulation de l’environnement à large échelle pour contrebalancer les effets du changement climatique). En effet, si la première responsabilité d’un gouvernement est d’assurer la sécurité et le bien-être de ses citoyens, la géoingénierie peut apparaître à première vue comme une réponse adéquate. Elle semble éviter les décisions économiquement difficiles et répondre à la menace climatique dans le même temps. Mais les effets de telles manipulations du système climatique peuvent être dramatiques et sont en général distribués de manière irrégulière. D’autre part, certaines pratiques comme l’injection d’aérosols dans la stratosphère pourraient être déployées de manière unilatérale par un État suffisamment avancé sur le plan technique. Cela pose d’importantes questions de responsabilité et de légitimité politique qui n’ont pas encore reçu suffisamment d’attention.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 14.09.2015

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Ecological Limits and the Meaning of Freedom: A Defense of Liberty as Non-Domination
Fragnière Augustin (2017), Ecological Limits and the Meaning of Freedom: A Defense of Liberty as Non-Domination, in De Ethica, 3(3), 33-49.
Transition écologique et liberté
Fragnière Augustin (2017), Transition écologique et liberté, in La pensée écologique, 1(1), 1-19.
How demanding is our climate duty? An application of the no-harm principle to individual emissions
Fragnière Augustin, How demanding is our climate duty? An application of the no-harm principle to individual emissions, in Environmental Values.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Ethics Center / University of Zürich Switzerland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
Leverhumlme program on Climate Justice / University of Reading Great Britain and Northern Ireland (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication
Seattle Geoengineering Group/University of Washington United States of America (North America)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results
- Publication

Scientific events



Self-organised

Title Date Place
Geoengineering, Political Legitimacy and Justice 02.11.2017 University of Washington, Seattle, United States of America

Knowledge transfer events



Self-organised

Title Date Place
Climate Engineering: what is it and should it be field tested? 02.11.2017 Greenwood, Seattle, United States of America

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Talks/events/exhibitions Climate Engineering: what is it and should it be field tested? International 2017

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
151774 Causal responsibility and moral duties in the field of Climate change 01.06.2014 Early Postdoc.Mobility

Abstract

In a nutshell: using the methods of Anglo-American applied ethics and political philosophy, the present research project carries on with the analysis of responsibility for climate change conducted during my EPM fellowship, but with more emphasis on the collective level, and intends to apply this to the particular case of geoengineering.My current research (EPM) aims at a better understanding of individual responsibilities and duties for the emissions of harmful greenhouse gases. In other terms, its goal is to assess who can (and should) be held morally or legally responsible for climate-related harms and who has a duty to stop emitting GHG: each person individually, as they are the ultimate source of GHG, or all emitters taken all together, since climate change is above all a collective problem? So far, my current research has led me to argue for moderate individual duties to reduce one’s carbon footprint. This result points to the fact that unilateral individual duties will not be enough to stop deteriorate Earth’s climate, even if one assumes that individuals will comply with their climate duties. From that point we can infer the necessity for collective institutions to take up the slack and assume their part of responsibility.The present proposal (APM) connects to this issue, but adds two layers of complexity to it. The first layer concerns the locus of responsibility in assessing the particular role of collective institutions. For instance, what are the particular responsibilities and duties of governments regarding climate change? This question raises difficult issues about potential conflicts between a government’s duties toward its own citizens and its duties of justice toward other people. This issue is particularly challenging (and this is the second layer) when it comes to geoengineering. Indeed, if a government’s primary responsibility is to secure the well-being of its own citizens, geoengineering might appear as an expedient response. At first glance, it seems to allow avoiding hard economic choices and the bad consequences of climate change as the same time. The downside of it is that the effects of such manipulations of the climate system are usually uneven and involve potentially dangerous side effects. Furthermore, unlike climate mitigation (i.e. the reduction of GHG emissions) some kinds of geoengineering might be implemented by a technically advanced state unilaterally. This raises acute questions of political legitimacy and liability, which have not been addressed in depth yet.
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