Accepted paper:

The Security Implications of Geoengineering


Paul Nightingale (University of Sussex)
Rose Cairns (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

Geoengineering raises indirect security concerns that have received limited attention. The military, rather than scientists, may drive SRM, and it may require a significant and costly security infrastructure to prevent disruption and manage blame, creating unforeseen governance problems.

Paper long abstract:

The prospect of geoengineering in response to climate change raises a number of security concerns that have traditionally been understood within a standard geo-political framing of security. This relates to their direct application in inter-State warfare or to a securitisation of climate change. While direct military applications are unrealistic, indirect security implications are potentially significant. Current capability, security threats and international law loopholes suggest the military, rather than scientists would undertake SRM. SRM activity would be covered by Critical National Infrastructure policies, which would necessitate a significant level of secondary security infrastructure to protect them. Concerns about termination effects, the need to impose international policy agreement (given the ability of 'Rogue States' to disrupt SRM and existing difficulties in producing global agreement on climate policy), and a world of extreme weather events, where weather is engineered and hence blameworthy rather than natural, suggest these cost may well be large. Evidence on how blame is attributed suggest blame for extreme weather events may be directed towards more technologically advanced nations, (such as the USA) even if they are not engaged in geoengineering. From a security perspective SRM may well end up being very costly, and difficult to govern. These secondary security concerns are of a sufficient magnitude to suggest that questions can be raised about the viability of geoengineering (SRM) as a policy option.

panel T133
Tackling climate change by other means: opening up geoengineering governance