Green Moral Hazards

Gernot Wagner and Daniel Zizzamia
NYU Wagner Research Paper (8 July 2020).

Moral hazards are ubiquitous. Green ones typically involve technological fixes: Environmentalists often see ‘technofixes’ as morally fraught because they absolve actors from taking more difficult steps towards systemic solutions. Carbon removal and especially solar geoengineering are only the latest example of such technologies. We here explore green moral hazards throughout American history. We argue that dismissing (solar) geoengineering on moral hazard grounds is often unproductive. Instead, especially those vehemently opposed to the technology should use it as an opportunity to expand the attention paid to the underlying environmental problem in the first place, actively invoking its opposite: ‘inverse moral hazards’.

Wagner Faculty