Geoengineering: neither economical, nor ethical—a risk–reward nexus analysis of carbon dioxide removal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article addresses a central debate in combatting climate change: whether we should focus on reducing CO2 emissions or on removing the emitted CO2 from the atmosphere. We favor the former by arguing against the economic viability of the carbon dioxide removal (CDR) branch of geoengineering. This is of course not a question of either or, but we argue that the perception of CDR as a viable option reduces the willingness to reduce CO2 emissions. Using the recently developed approach of risk–reward nexus (RRN) in the economics of innovation, we question the economic viability of CDR. The main argument is simple: if one uses the new framework of RRN in evaluating the innovations involved in the CDR branch of geoengineering, not only does one include more areas of risk but also one has to consider a broader base for distributing the rewards. Consequently, from RRN’s point of view, it would be less likely to find investing in CDR economically viable for the investor firms. Although the core argument of the paper concerns the economics of CDR, in a final section the paper tries to show that the economic argument has also ethical implications against relying on CDR.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Climate Research


  • Carbon dioxide removal, Economics of geoengineering, Hegelian ethics, Justice and economics, Risk-reward nexus
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-77
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics
Issue number1
Early online date2018 Jan 4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Feb
Publication categoryResearch