Removing carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere to prevent global warming from becoming catastrophic may be a fool’s game amounting to a “moral hazard par excellence,” according to a paper published Thursday in the journal Science.

Nobody knows if atmospheric carbon removal — known as negative emissions — will work, and it could delay critical cuts to emissions while tacitly giving people license to pollute, the paper says.

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WildEarth Guardians

“Negative-emission technologies are not an insurance policy, but rather an unjust and high-stakes gamble,” write the paper’s authors, Kevin Anderson and and Glen Peters. Anderson is deputy director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, and Peters is a researcher at CICERO, a climate research organization in Norway.

Leading negative emissions researchers fear the paper’s strong opposition to their work will serve to undermine research into a process they believe could prove critical to the future of the Earth.