My third key idea rebels against the profound politicization of nature suggested by both sulfate injection and climate extortion. We should resist turning global climate into a political domain where justice and legitimacy are the salient values. To motivate this, consider another analogy:
Suppose scientists develop a device that allows someone to insert thoughts inside another’s brain. Few would argue that the main concern of public policy should be to facilitate the most efficient methods of thought control. Neither would many suggest that the most important questions would concern what thought controllers owe their victims in terms of procedural justice and the distribution of burdens (however demanding). Instead, thought control ought simply to be off limits. Governments should prevent such power being exerted (just as it should prevent the kidnapping of people’s daughters).
Many of us have the same instincts when it comes to climate. We are appalled to get to the point where sulfate injection schemes are even on the table, and shocked by the suggestion that we should load future generations with debt so that they can “bribe” us to stop. We do not want a grand ethics that tells us how to do “just” or “efficient” geoengineering (for example), any more than we want plans for “just” or “efficient” kidnapping or thought control. We favor withdrawing interference from the climate (e.g., mitigation) over “managing” it. In short, we seek an ethics that forecloses some options as incompatible with who we are and aspire to be. One sign of this is that even if we get to the point where geoengineering becomes inevitable, this saddens us and comes at some further moral cost.44
As with thought control, the central issues involve (first) concerns about unnecessarily extending the powers of humans over one another, and (second) a broader vision of how we want to live. In the climate case, “how we want to live” includes not just our relationships with each other, here and now, but also with future generations and nature. It includes taking seriously the question of what limits we want to set in order to respect those relationships. Without limits, we give free rein to extortion, and risk becoming “the scum of the Earth.”