Accepted Paper:

Developmental moral cosmology, climate turmoil and geoengineering  


Jonathan Marshall (University of Technology, Sydney)

Paper short abstract:

Cosmologies and morality are connected through prediction. When faced with climate turmoil developmentalist cosmologies lead to geoengineering and disaster.

Paper long abstract:

Moralities assuming that the results of actions are predictable, and therefore that moral actions should always result in beneficial consequences, or at least the avoidance of vitally unpleasant consequences, are based in cosmologies assuming such prediction is possible. However, in complex interactive systems, accurate predictions are rarely viable. Social and ecological systems are such complex and surprising systems; while predicting trends may be possible, it is impossible to predict events or consequences in detail. This dilemma has particular force with climate change, especially when the main drivers of the problem appear to be the success of carbon fuel based development. Development relies on the supposed predictable benefits of using particular kinds of technology, and is seen as the only way to gain international recognition and preserve sovereignty. One way of saving developmentalist cosmologies from the challenge of climate turmoil is through the fantasies of geoenegineering. Geoengineering proposes that technological developments such as Solar Radiation Management or Carbon Capture and Storage can change the complex natural systems of the world and preserve both developmentalism and fossil fuel company profits. If accepted, this move is likely to lead to greater problems later on, yet most opposition is also bound into ethics of prediction, and suffers similar paradoxes.

While exploring the moral cosmological nexus of developmentalism and climate turmoil, this paper wonders if an ethics of non-predictability and non-destructiveness can arise in contemporary life. Data comes from official documents from corporations, governments and NGOs, and from 'popular' arguments on various internet sites.

Panel Tem01
Technological visions of the future: political ontologies and ethics