Choosing carbon mitigation strategies using ethical deliberation

Rebecca Bendick, Kyla M. Dahlin, Brian V. Smoliak, Lori Kumler, Sierra J. Jones, Athena Aktipis, Ezekiel Fugate, Rachel Hertog, Claus Moberg, Dane Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions change earth's climate by altering the planet's radiative balance. An important first step in mitigation of climate change is to reduce annual increases in these emissions. However, the many suggested means of limiting emissions rates have led to few actual changes in policy or behavior. This disconnection can be attributed in part to the difficulty of convening groups of stakeholders with diverse values, the polarizing nature of current political systems, poor communication across disciplines, and a lack of clear, usable information about emission mitigation strategies. Here, electronically facilitated ethical deliberation, a method of determining courses of action on common goals by collaborative discussion, is used to evaluate Pacala and Socolow's climate change stabilization strategies based on economic, technological, social, and ecological impacts across a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. Few previous analyses of climate mitigation strategies include all of these factors; rather, short-term technological feasibility studies and economic cost-benefit analyses predominate. After accounting for tradeoffs among disparate criteria, strategies involving end-user efficiency (e.g., efficient buildings and vehicles), wind, and solar power rank highest, while carbon capture and storage, hydrogen fuel cells, and biofuels options rank lowest. This electronically facilitated deliberation method offers an alternative to oppositional debate or cost-benefit analysis for assessing strategies where both quantitative and qualitative factors are important, information from disparate disciplines is relevant, and stakeholders are geographically dispersed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-147
Number of pages8
JournalWeather, Climate, and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2010


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