Research Topic

Security Politics, Risk and Climate Geoengineering

About this Research Topic

In security terms, climate change is widely studied and debated and often understood as a threat or risk multiplier, including in emerging accounts of planetary, ecological or human security. However, security imaginaries of climate geoengineering are undeveloped and only now beginning to emerge. While climate geoengineering might diffuse threats related to climate change and help ameliorate risks associated with global temperature rise, on the other hand, the physical side effects of geoengineering techniques, uncertainties surrounding their viability, and the political context in which deployment might take place might all generate novel risks, injustices and security dilemmas.

In the contemporary world, military intervention is typically justified with reference to international legal principles, future risks or human rights concerns, yet a close nexus remains between military interests, socio-technical regimes and natural resources. So far, the historical involvement of military actors in weather modification (now restricted by the ENMOD convention) has not been openly replicated in interests in climate geoengineering techniques (such as stratospheric aerosol injection or marine cloud brightening). However, it is reasonable to anticipate security concerns or military interest regarding the regional or local impacts of such techniques, and military involvement in (and surveillance implications of) delivery mechanisms (stratospheric flights, robot vessels etc), amongst other things. Security concerns may also be raised by aspects of planetary scale ‘carbon geoengineering’ (or Negative Emissions Techniques), as a result of impacts on global commons, such as oceans, or by demands for land or other resources.

Geoengineering scholarship has barely scratched the surface of potential security concerns, with most extant literature focusing on ‘governance’ of risks rather than ‘security’. Scholars in international law and human rights have engaged deeply with climate change and climate justice, but in the context of climate geoengineering the relationship between these aspects and security politics has yet to be substantially explored. Simultaneously, novel understandings of planetary, ecological and human security raise questions about the role of geoengineering in climate security in a wider sense, including how risk management increasingly intersects with security politics.

This Research Topic aims to stimulate and convene scholarship in this area. Contributions might address (but need not be limited to) questions such as:
- How is climate geoengineering understood in security terms? Which geo-political and security interests (military, intelligence etc.) might be served by or are already investigating climate geoengineering and why?
- What security or risk-based justifications might be deployed for climate geoengineering? What new interests emerge in the securitization of climate geoengineering? How might such shifts interact with climate justice concerns and drivers?
- What might alternative security imaginaries, drawing on ideas of human security, environmental security or planetary security, contribute in consideration of geoengineering as a risk management tool? How might climate geoengineering interventions be justified in security terms directly, through the securitization of climate impacts, or via the growth of risk-management logics in security practices?
- What is (or may be) the role of the military in delivering climate geoengineering proposals or techniques? What forms, characteristics and deployments of climate geoengineering technologies might be favoured by military and security interests? What can we learn for climate geoengineering from experiences with other large-scale, earth-altering technologies of military interest (such as weather modification or nuclear weapons)?
- What role might climate policy / climate geoengineering play in critical regional or global geopolitics (e.g. the Arctic, or the Indian subcontinent, or in the US-China axis)? What does post-coloniality and the legacy of empires mean for security politics, justice and climate geoengineering?
- What governance mechanisms and institutions (national, international, multilateral) are implied by security and risk imaginaries of climate geoengineering?
- What is the role of non-state actors in producing security imaginaries of climate geoengineering? What roles do corporate interests, NGOs, think-tanks or climate scientists and modellers play in modulating risks and (in)securities related to climate?
We would also welcome national or regional case studies of climate security arguments and their (possible) relevance for climate engineering.

Types of manuscripts:
• Original research articles reporting on primary and unpublished studies about security and geoengineering;
• Review articles covering aspects of geoengineering and security that have seen significant development in recent years, with comprehensive depth and a balanced perspective;
• Policy and practice reviews of current topics in climate security related to geoengineering techniques and their implications;
• Perspective articles presenting a viewpoint on a specific aspect of geoengineering and security;
• Policy briefs that provide practical and evidence-based guidance for proposals and measures related to security and geoengineering.


Keywords: Geoengineering, Security, International Relations, Climate securitization


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.

In security terms, climate change is widely studied and debated and often understood as a threat or risk multiplier, including in emerging accounts of planetary, ecological or human security. However, security imaginaries of climate geoengineering are undeveloped and only now beginning to emerge. While climate geoengineering might diffuse threats related to climate change and help ameliorate risks associated with global temperature rise, on the other hand, the physical side effects of geoengineering techniques, uncertainties surrounding their viability, and the political context in which deployment might take place might all generate novel risks, injustices and security dilemmas.

In the contemporary world, military intervention is typically justified with reference to international legal principles, future risks or human rights concerns, yet a close nexus remains between military interests, socio-technical regimes and natural resources. So far, the historical involvement of military actors in weather modification (now restricted by the ENMOD convention) has not been openly replicated in interests in climate geoengineering techniques (such as stratospheric aerosol injection or marine cloud brightening). However, it is reasonable to anticipate security concerns or military interest regarding the regional or local impacts of such techniques, and military involvement in (and surveillance implications of) delivery mechanisms (stratospheric flights, robot vessels etc), amongst other things. Security concerns may also be raised by aspects of planetary scale ‘carbon geoengineering’ (or Negative Emissions Techniques), as a result of impacts on global commons, such as oceans, or by demands for land or other resources.

Geoengineering scholarship has barely scratched the surface of potential security concerns, with most extant literature focusing on ‘governance’ of risks rather than ‘security’. Scholars in international law and human rights have engaged deeply with climate change and climate justice, but in the context of climate geoengineering the relationship between these aspects and security politics has yet to be substantially explored. Simultaneously, novel understandings of planetary, ecological and human security raise questions about the role of geoengineering in climate security in a wider sense, including how risk management increasingly intersects with security politics.

This Research Topic aims to stimulate and convene scholarship in this area. Contributions might address (but need not be limited to) questions such as:
- How is climate geoengineering understood in security terms? Which geo-political and security interests (military, intelligence etc.) might be served by or are already investigating climate geoengineering and why?
- What security or risk-based justifications might be deployed for climate geoengineering? What new interests emerge in the securitization of climate geoengineering? How might such shifts interact with climate justice concerns and drivers?
- What might alternative security imaginaries, drawing on ideas of human security, environmental security or planetary security, contribute in consideration of geoengineering as a risk management tool? How might climate geoengineering interventions be justified in security terms directly, through the securitization of climate impacts, or via the growth of risk-management logics in security practices?
- What is (or may be) the role of the military in delivering climate geoengineering proposals or techniques? What forms, characteristics and deployments of climate geoengineering technologies might be favoured by military and security interests? What can we learn for climate geoengineering from experiences with other large-scale, earth-altering technologies of military interest (such as weather modification or nuclear weapons)?
- What role might climate policy / climate geoengineering play in critical regional or global geopolitics (e.g. the Arctic, or the Indian subcontinent, or in the US-China axis)? What does post-coloniality and the legacy of empires mean for security politics, justice and climate geoengineering?
- What governance mechanisms and institutions (national, international, multilateral) are implied by security and risk imaginaries of climate geoengineering?
- What is the role of non-state actors in producing security imaginaries of climate geoengineering? What roles do corporate interests, NGOs, think-tanks or climate scientists and modellers play in modulating risks and (in)securities related to climate?
We would also welcome national or regional case studies of climate security arguments and their (possible) relevance for climate engineering.

Types of manuscripts:
• Original research articles reporting on primary and unpublished studies about security and geoengineering;
• Review articles covering aspects of geoengineering and security that have seen significant development in recent years, with comprehensive depth and a balanced perspective;
• Policy and practice reviews of current topics in climate security related to geoengineering techniques and their implications;
• Perspective articles presenting a viewpoint on a specific aspect of geoengineering and security;
• Policy briefs that provide practical and evidence-based guidance for proposals and measures related to security and geoengineering.


Keywords: Geoengineering, Security, International Relations, Climate securitization


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

19 January 2021 Abstract
03 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

19 January 2021 Abstract
03 May 2021 Manuscript

Participating Journals

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

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