Technology and Climate Change, Technology of Climate Change: Philosophy of Technology Meets Climate Ethics

Technology and Climate Change, Technology of Climate Change: Philosophy of Technology Meets Climate Ethics

Work in progress – Please do not cite, quote or summarise or circulate without permission.

Abstract for Multi-disciplinary Perspectives on Climate Ethics Workshop, Lake Como, Italy

The relations between modern technology and anthropogenic climate change should be obvious. For instance, it is difficult to deny the use of technology has contribute to – or, in effect, make possible – anthropogenic climate change by enabling new forms of production and consumption, which require a much larger amount of natural resources and, at the same time, have a much greater impact on the climate system. Surprisingly, questions about the nature of technology and its roles in relation to anthropogenic climate change are often left underexplored in climate ethics, where the primary focus is on human decisions and actions. Yet, the exclusive focus on human in climate ethics, however, is at best inadequate and at worst mistaken given the constitutive role technology plays in anthropogenic climate change; and, more importantly, given the increasing technological capabilities to intervene with the climate system directly via geoengineering techniques. Accordingly, technology ought to be taken into account in ethical reflection on anthropogenic climate change.

In recent philosophy of technology (and science and technology studies (STS)), researchers have recognised the significance of technology in our (ethical) life and proposed new ways to analyse its ethical implications. Particularly, they have taken seriously the idea that human decisions and actions are technologically-mediated, and therefore ‘human’ problems (i.e. ethical issues) are not merely ‘human’ and should not be examined in isolation from the technology involved. By introducing philosophy of technology into the debate about climate ethics, this paper seeks to provide a much-needed ethical reflection on the place(s) of technology in anthropogenic climate change.