Published on: 04 Oct '12Published in: Astrobiology
Proposals to address present-day global warming through the large-scale application of technology to the climate system, known as geoengineering, raise questions of environmental ethics relevant to the broader issue of planetary engineering. These questions have also arisen in the scientific literature as discussions of how to terraform a planet such as Mars or Venus in order to make it more Earth-like and habitable. Here we draw on insights from terraforming and environmental ethics to develop a two-axis comparative tool for ethical frameworks that considers the intrinsic or instrumental value placed upon organisms, environments, planetary systems, or space. We apply this analysis to the realm of planetary engineering, such as terraforming on Mars or geoengineering on present-day Earth, as well as to questions of planetary protection and space exploration.