PS: Political Science & Politics

Symposium: Climate Change Justice

The Desperation Argument for Geoengineering

Stephen M. Gardiner

University of Washington

Geoengineering has been roughly defined as “the intentional manipulation of planetary systems at a global scale” (Keith 2000; Schelling 1996). This definition is neither as precise nor as informative as some would like. Nevertheless, we can fix ideas by focusing on the most prominent current proposal, which is to inject sulfate aerosols into the stratosphere to deflect incoming radiation and so cool the Earth's surface. This is a paradigm case: if anything counts as geoengineering, stratospheric sulfate injection (hereafter SSI) does.

Stephen M. Gardiner is the Ben Rabinowitz Endowed Professor of the Human Dimensions of the Environment at the University of Washington, Seattle. He specializes in ethics, political philosophy and environmental ethics. He also has interests in ancient philosophy, bioethics, and the philosophy of economics. His current research focuses on global environmental problems (especially climate change), future generations, and Aristotelian virtue ethics. He is the author of A Perfect Moral Storm: the Ethical Tragedy of Climate Change (2011), a coeditor of Climate Ethics: Essential Readings (2011), and the editor of Virtue Ethics: Old and New (2005). He has also published more than 20 articles, on topics as diverse as climate ethics, geoengineering, precaution in international law, nuclear protection, Aristotle's doctrine of the unity of the virtues, and Socrates' pessimism about politics. He can be reached at