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Front. Environ. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2018.00038

Blurred lines: the ethics and policy of Greenhouse Gas Removal at scale

 Emily M. Cox1, 2*, Nick Pidgeon1, 2,  Elspeth Spence1, 2 and  Gareth Thomas1
  • 1Department of Psychology, Cardiff University, United Kingdom
  • 2The Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation, University of Sheffield, United Kingdom

The topic of Greenhouse Gas Removal (GGR) for climate geoengineering is becoming increasingly salient following the IPCC’s 5th Assessment Report and the Paris Agreement. GGR is thought of as a separate category to mitigation techniques such as low-carbon supply or demand reduction, yet multiple social, ethical and acceptability concerns cut across categories. We propose moving beyond classifying climate strategies as a set of discrete categories (which may implicitly homogenise diverse technologies), towards a prioritisation of questions of scale of both technology and decision-making in the examination of social and ethical risks. This is not just a theoretical issue: important questions for policy, governance and finance are raised, for instance over the future inclusion of GGR in carbon markets. We argue that the conclusions drawn about how best to categorise, govern and incentivise any strategy will depend on the framing used, because different framings could lead to very different policy recommendations being drawn. Because of this, a robust approach to developing, governing and financing GGR should pay attention first to urgent concerns regarding democracy, justice and acceptability.

Keywords: Geoengineering, Carbon dioxide removal, Ethics, Acceptability, risk, policy, Greenhouse gas removal

Received: 12 Dec 2017; Accepted: 11 May 2018.

Edited by:

William C. Burns, Forum for Climate Engineering Assessment, School of International Service, American University, United States

Reviewed by:

Xander Wang, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, United States
David Morrow, American University, United States  

Copyright: © 2018 Cox, Pidgeon, Spence and Thomas. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Emily M. Cox, Cardiff University, Department of Psychology, Tower Building, 70 Park Place, Cardiff, CF10 3AX, United Kingdom,