The Climate Geoengineering Governance Working Papers (2014)
While geoengineering may counteract negative effects of anthropogenic climate change, it is clear that most geoengineering options could also have some harmful effects. Moreover, it is predicted that the benefits and harms of geoengineering will be distributed unevenly in different parts of the world and to future generations, which raises serious questions of justice. It has been suggested that a compensation scheme to redress geoengineering harms is needed for geoengineering to be ethically and politically acceptable. Discussions of compensation for geoengineering harms, however, sometimes presume geoengineering has presented new and unique challenges to compensation that cannot be readily accommodated by existing compensation practices. The most explicit formulation of this view was recently presented by Toby Svoboda and Peter J. Irvine, who argued that two forms of uncertainty in geoengineering — namely, ethical uncertainty and scientific uncertainty — make it immensely difficult to devise an ethically and politically satisfactory compensation scheme for geoengineering harms.
In this paper, we argue against the view that geoengineering presents new and unique challenges relating to compensation. More specifically, we show that placing these challenges within the broader context of anthropogenic climate change reveals them to be less serious and less specific to geoengineering than some appear to believe.