Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Alastair Norcross

Second Advisor

Benjamin Hale

Third Advisor

David Boonin


The earth is presently warming at a dangerous and potentially catastrophic rate. While attempts to mitigate the effects of the industrial processes that lead to this warming are necessary, some have advocated for direct, intentional intervention in our climate’s processes as a way to prevent disastrous warming. Such interventions are called geoengineering. In this thesis I discuss the kinds of geoengineering technologies that presently exist, and argue that geoengineering is a member of a moral class called earth altering actions. I hold that the only way to consistently morally evaluate geoengineering is by understanding it as a member of this continuous class. I review the sorts of moral principles philosophers have offered to govern geoengineering, then turn and provide an alternative set of principles for this governance that are consistent with consequentialism: (1) EAAs are not different in moral kind from other “accidental” forms of earth alteration; (2) governance of EAAs need not be different from governance of other public goods that have potential costs; (3) the degree to which an EAA is wrong is a function of its expected consequences; (4) overwhelmingly preferable consequences ought to overrule other moral considerations.