A Critical Examination of the Climate Engineering Moral Hazard and Risk Compensation Concern

J.L.(Jesse) Reynolds

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    The widespread concern that research into and potential implementation of climate engineering would reduce mitigation and adaptation is critically examined. First, empirical evidence of such moral hazard or risk compensation in general is inconclusive, and the empirical evidence to date in the case of climate engineering indicates that the reverse may occur. Second, basic economics of substitutes shows that reducing mitigation in response to climate engineering implementation could provide net benefits to humans and the environment, and that climate engineering might theoretically increase mitigation through strong income effects. Third, existing policies strive to promote other technologies and measures, including climate adaptation, which induce analogous risk-compensating behaviours. If the goal of climate policy is to minimize climate risks, this concern should not be grounds for restricting or prohibiting climate engineering research. Three potential means for this concern to manifest in genuinely deleterious ways, as well as policy options to reduce these effects, are identified.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)174-191
    Number of pages18
    JournalThe Anthropocene Review
    Issue number2
    Early online date8 Oct 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2015


    • mitigation
    • climate economics
    • climate change
    • global warming
    • climate engineering
    • geoengineering
    • moral hazard
    • risk compensation


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