It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
it's not really a moral hazard, it's more like free riding on our grandkids.
But maybe on that day we also find that the Greenland ice sheet is really melting unacceptably fast, fast enough to put meters of sea level on the oceans in the next 100 years, and remove some of the biggest cities from the map. That's an absolutely possible scenario. We might decide at that point that even though geo-engineering was uncertain and morally unhappy, that it's a lot better than not geo-engineering.
And that's a very different way to look at the problem. It's using this as risk control, not instead of action. It's saying that you do some geo-engineering for a little while to take the worst of the heat off, not that you'd use it as a substitute for action.
But there is a problem with that view. And the problem is the following: knowledge that geo-engineering is possible makes the climate impacts look less fearsome. And that makes a weaker commitment to cutting emissions today. This is what economists call a moral hazard. And that's one of the fundamental reasons that this problem is so hard to talk about, and in general I think it's the underlying reason that it's been politically unacceptable to talk about this. But you don't make good policy by hiding things in a drawer.
I'll leave you with three questions, and then one final quote. Should we do serious research on this topic? Should we have a national research program that looks at this? Not just at how you would do it better, but also what all the risks and downsides of it are. Right now you have a few enthusiasts talking about it, some in a positive side, some in a negative side -- but that's a dangerous state to be in because there's very little depth of knowledge on this topic. A very small amount of money would get us some. Many of us -- maybe now me -- think we should do that. But I have a lot of reservations. My reservations are principally about the moral hazard problem, and I don't really know how we can best avoid the moral hazard.
On “Moral Hazard”, this is a technical point for economists. when you think carefully about the definition its clear that’s quite the right way to describe SRM [Solar Radiation Management], “free riding” another econ term that more accurately describes what we are doing when we don’t cut CO2 emissions. To be clear, I do mean “putting off addressing the problem of climate change is like free-riding on our grandkids”. It’s not that SRM is free riding, it’s that over enthusiasm about its potential may encourage less action to cut emissions.