The Hazard of Environmental Morality

Foreign Policy

One pillar of conservative policy doctrine is that moral hazards should be avoided at all costs. Criticisms of universal health care, for example, are based on the idea that shielding individuals from some of the consequences of their decisions creates an incentive for riskier behavior. Many take the argument one step further, equating moral hazard with moral failing: government policy, the argument goes, makes people too dependent on handouts and crowds out personal responsibility.

In the 1990-ties the moral-hazard argument was used against climate change adaptation and lately resurfaced in climate conversations, this time in the context of carbon removal and solar geoengineering. Carbon removal refers to technologies that suck excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. Solar geoengineering refers to proposed interventions that would reflect or release a small fraction of sunlight back into space in an effort to cool the planet.


Gernot Wagner