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Precautionary Principle (PP)

Last updated Sep 23, 2022 Edit Source

# Tripod Framework

Manson’s Framework for when to use the precautionary principle

  1. Serious damage (damage condition): some outcomes exceed a threshold of badness and are considered catastrophic
    • Thresholds for levels of harm: serious, catastrophic, irreversible, civilization collapse
    • Thresholds for time scales: present, pre-2100 (current population), post-2100 (future generations)
    • Scope: local, global
  2. Uncertainty (knowledge condition): some outcomes meet a required threshold of evidence to count as a serious threat
    • Probability: possible, non-negligible probability, predicted by a model, predicted by a well-understood scientific mechanism
  3. Proportional remedy: response should correspond to the plausibility and severity of the threat
    • Prohibition/ban, further research, moratorium, mitigation/restriction

However, could potentially lead to irrational outcomes or outcomes that are contradictory. e.g.

  1. Greenhouse gases (GHG) may cause catastrophic temperature rise ⇒ Ban GHG at once
  2. Banning GHG may lead to economic crisis, world war and nuclear holocaust ⇒ Don’t ban GHG

# Versions of PP

  1. If the activity meets the damage condition, and
  2. If the link between the e-activity and the e-effect meets the knowledge condition,
  3. Then apply the e-remedy.

But, PP versions must be internally consistent; it cannot ban its own remedies

# Catastrophe Principle

If an effect is catastrophic, and there is a possible link between the activity and the effect, then the remedy is to ban the activity completely.

For example, ban nukes because their possible use has a catastrophic effect