Research Topic

The Ethics of Carbon Dioxide Removal Technologies

About this Research Topic

Although the idea of “geoengineering” has been risen up the climate research and policy agenda over the last decade and a half, the question of desirability of SRMs has dominated the discussions in ethics. The ethical questions raised by CDR technologies have only recently started to receive any substantive investigation, after their importance was highlighted in the 2018 IPCC 1.5 special report. The research, use and governance of CDRs raise many ethical concerns due to potential positive, as well as negative, side-effects, and the relationships between CDRs and other responses to climate change. Additionally, criteria for assessing such outcomes are value-laden, yet usually implicit – and therefore unrecognised - in climate modelling assumptions. As such, the overall implications for fair resource use and distribution are unclear. There are also unresolved questions about the appropriate role of public, charitable and private sectors. Answers to these and other questions imply for investigating ethical and philosophical challenges in CDR governance, now and in the near future.

Reflection on the ethical and social implications of the governance of CDR technologies is vital for informed decision-making within research and public policy. The discussion of these questions - and more - from an ethical point of view is a central step in navigating the balance between technological possibilities, political demands and moral requirements.

This Research Topic aims to contribute to this task by analysing the ethical and social implications in governing CDR technologies, and discussing the fairness of potential implementations in practice.
We invite papers which substantively engage with one ethical issue (some suggestions below). Literature reviews or papers offering a general overview of ethical issues will not be accepted for this collection.
• CDRs and “emissions budgets”: e.g. setting zero emissions targets, risking overshoot and\or “moral hazard”, assumptions surrounding the role of CDRs in meeting climate targets, links to carbon pricing, taxation, ownership of stored carbon\carbon sequestration capacity.
• Financing: e.g. international financing, role of private sector compared to public sector, intellectual property issues.
• Governance of externalities e.g. avoiding or compensating different types of negative externalities (land, water, food, biodiversity etc.), storage of CO2 (within and external to national borders).
• Social and environmental justice: e.g. social inequalities as a consequence of CDR deployment, environmental justice issues in case of CO2 storage, equal opportunity in access to CDR.


Keywords: CDR technologies, SRMs, climate research, policy, ethical issues, CDR governance, decision-making, emissions budgets, moral hazard, climate targets, carbon sequestration


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

Although the idea of “geoengineering” has been risen up the climate research and policy agenda over the last decade and a half, the question of desirability of SRMs has dominated the discussions in ethics. The ethical questions raised by CDR technologies have only recently started to receive any substantive investigation, after their importance was highlighted in the 2018 IPCC 1.5 special report. The research, use and governance of CDRs raise many ethical concerns due to potential positive, as well as negative, side-effects, and the relationships between CDRs and other responses to climate change. Additionally, criteria for assessing such outcomes are value-laden, yet usually implicit – and therefore unrecognised - in climate modelling assumptions. As such, the overall implications for fair resource use and distribution are unclear. There are also unresolved questions about the appropriate role of public, charitable and private sectors. Answers to these and other questions imply for investigating ethical and philosophical challenges in CDR governance, now and in the near future.

Reflection on the ethical and social implications of the governance of CDR technologies is vital for informed decision-making within research and public policy. The discussion of these questions - and more - from an ethical point of view is a central step in navigating the balance between technological possibilities, political demands and moral requirements.

This Research Topic aims to contribute to this task by analysing the ethical and social implications in governing CDR technologies, and discussing the fairness of potential implementations in practice.
We invite papers which substantively engage with one ethical issue (some suggestions below). Literature reviews or papers offering a general overview of ethical issues will not be accepted for this collection.
• CDRs and “emissions budgets”: e.g. setting zero emissions targets, risking overshoot and\or “moral hazard”, assumptions surrounding the role of CDRs in meeting climate targets, links to carbon pricing, taxation, ownership of stored carbon\carbon sequestration capacity.
• Financing: e.g. international financing, role of private sector compared to public sector, intellectual property issues.
• Governance of externalities e.g. avoiding or compensating different types of negative externalities (land, water, food, biodiversity etc.), storage of CO2 (within and external to national borders).
• Social and environmental justice: e.g. social inequalities as a consequence of CDR deployment, environmental justice issues in case of CO2 storage, equal opportunity in access to CDR.


Keywords: CDR technologies, SRMs, climate research, policy, ethical issues, CDR governance, decision-making, emissions budgets, moral hazard, climate targets, carbon sequestration


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

28 May 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

28 May 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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