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The Political Economy of Geoengineering as Plan B: Technological Rationality, Moral Hazard, and New Technology

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Geoengineering would mask and reproduce capital’s contradictory needs to self-expand, on the one hand, and maintain a stable climate system, on the other. The Plan B frame, which presents geoengineering as a back-up plan to address climate change in case there is a failure to sufficiently reduce emissions (Plan A), is one means to depict this condition to the public and is a product of, and appeals to, a prevalent ‘technological rationality’. Despite its misleading simplicity, logical flaws, and irrational rationality, the Plan B frame is a relatively valid representation of geoengineering in current political-economic conditions. Although the Plan B frame will gain traction because Plan A is too expensive in the short term and does not serve powerful interests, there are alternative social futures in which technology could be used to address climate change in ways that preserve the environment and reduce social risks.
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Keywords: Frankfurt School; Marcuse; Solar radiation management; framing; stratospheric sulfate injection; technology studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology and Gerontology, Miami University, Oxford, OH, USA 2: School of Earth Sciences and Sustainability, Program in Sustainable Communities, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA 3: Department of Geography, Planning and Recreation, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

Publication date: September 3, 2019

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