Consenting to Geoengineering

Philosophy and Technology 29 (2):173-188 (2016)
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Abstract

Researchers have explored questions concerning public participation and consent in geoengineering governance. Yet, the notion of consent has received little attention from researchers, and it is rarely discussed explicitly, despite being prescribed as a normative requirement for geoengineering research and being used in rejecting some geoengineering options. As it is noted in the leading geoengineering governance principles, i.e. the Oxford Principles, there are different conceptions of consent; the idea of consent ought to be unpacked more carefully if, and when, we invoke it in the discussion. This article offers a theoretical reflection on different conceptions of consent and their place in geoengineering governance. More specifically, I discuss three models of consent, i.e. explicit consent, implied consent and hypothetical consent, and assess their applicability to geoengineering governance. Although there are different models of consent, much discussion of geoengineering governance has committed only to explicit consent. I note that such a commitment springs from a specific ideal political order. Accordingly, we should be wary of any naïve commitment to it so long as the political order we hope for remains open to debate. Finally, I illustrate two approaches to introduce consent into a geoengineering governance framework.

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