Geoengineering and Licensing: In Search of a Climate Relevant Moral Hazard

Author: ORCID icon
Austin, Maura, Psychology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Converse, Benjamin, Psychology / BA-Frank Batten School, University of Virginia

As climate predictions become more dire and traditional mitigation strategies become less viable, climatologists have been developing geoengineering technology to directly intervene on the climate through ‘solar radiation management’ and ‘carbon dioxide removal’. Some are concerned that the perceived availability of geoengineering options will weaken the public’s commitment to mitigation efforts. However, so far, lab studies have not shown a direct effect of geoengineering awareness on mitigation behaviors. Across seven experiments (N = 1,985) I investigated various circumstances that might afford a risk for geoengineering to jeopardize two facets of the public’s commitment to mitigation: 1) feelings of urgency about mitigation efforts and 2) motivation for pro-environmental behavior. I do not find compelling evidence that feelings of urgency for mitigation nor pro-environmental behavior are immediately diminished after reading neutral prompts about geoengineering technologies. I describe the 7 experiments and results, then draw from psychology theory to discuss the implications and contextualize this investigation within the wider discussion about the moral-hazard threat.

MA (Master of Arts)
climate change, geoengineering, goal licensing, goal pursuit
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