Dao of Climate Engineering: From Confucian and Daoist Perspectives

Dao of Climate Engineering: From Confucian and Daoist Perspectives

Work in progress – Please do not cite, quote or summarise or circulate without permission.

Abstract for Workshop on Religious and Spiritual Perspectives on Climate Engineering, The Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS), Potsdam, Germany

Research on the ethical issues raised by research and development (R&D) and implementation of geoengineering (or, climate engineering), i.e. “the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change”, is burgeoning; and, the research has provided us with a better understanding of what ethical problems are associated with geoengineering, and how we might respond to them. Yet, the discussion of the ethical issues raised by geoengineering proceeds predominately – if not exclusively – with Anglo-American and European perspectives, which utilise specific moral theories and assume particular understandings of nature and technology. In this respect, the current discussion of the ethical problems associated with geoengineering is inevitably limited, because it has so far failed to engage with other ethical traditions and different understandings of nature and technology, and has overlooked their importance in the global ethical dialogue on geoengineering.

In environmental philosophy and philosophy of technology, researchers have already attempted to (re)construct environmental philosophy and philosophy of technology from Confucian and Daoist perspectives; and, particularly relevance to the ethical debate on geoengineering are the alternative ethical frameworks and views on nature and technology offered by their works. As geoengineering is, ultimately, the use of technology to intervene nature (or, natural phenomena), different understandings of nature and technology will elicit different responses and judgements towards geoengineering. Hence, I shall focus on Confucian and Daoist understandings of nature and technology in this paper, and discuss their implications to the ethical debate on geoengineering. More specifically, I argue that neither Confucian nor Daoist understanding of nature and technology suggests geoengineering is (morally) impermissible; but, at the same time, I note that due to their different understanding of nature and technology, Confucianism and Daoism express different ethical considerations with regards to geoengineering in general, and various geoengineering options (e.g. Carbon Dioxide Removal and Solar Radiation Management) in particular.