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Perceptions of geoengineering: public attitudes, stakeholder perspectives, and the challenge of ‘upstream’ engagement

Author(s): Corner A, Parkhill K, Pidgeon N

Published: June, 2012

Publisher: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change

DOI: 10.1002/wcc.176

Tags: Public Perception

URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.176/abstract

Abstract: Geoengineering—the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the planetary environment to counteract anthropogenic climate change—is receiving an increasing amount of attention from academics, policy and civil society stakeholders, and members of the general public. This article reviews the available literature on perceptions of geoengineering, including public attitudes and stakeholder perspectives. We describe some of the challenges of engaging with these audiences at such an ‘upstream’ phase in the development of geoengineering technologies. We conclude with reflections on the importance of eliciting public and stakeholder views, despite the challenges associated with upstream engagement, and identify a number of key research priorities for those involved in upstream engagement on geoengineering.


Americans Cool on Geoengineering Approaches to Addressing Climate Change

Author(s): Borick C, Rabe B

Published: May, 2012

Publisher: Brookings

Tags: Public Perception

URL: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2012/05/30-geo-engineering-rabe-borick

Abstract: Given the political and economic challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there is growing interest in finding alternative methods of dealing with climate change. In a new paper, Christopher Borick and Barry Rabe look at the American public's attitude towards using geoengineering solutions as a means to combat global warming.


Metaphors We Die By? Geoengineering, Metaphors, and the Argument From Catastrophe

Author(s): Nerlich B, Jaspal R

Published: April, 2012

Publisher: Metaphor and Symbol

DOI: 10.1080/10926488.2012.665795

Tags: Public Perception

URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10926488.2012.665795

Abstract: Geoengineering the climate by reflecting sunlight or extracting carbon dioxide from the atmosphere has attracted increasing attention from natural scientists, social scientists, policy makers and the media. This article examines promotional discourse related to geoengineering from the 1980s to 2010. It asks in particular how this option for dealing with the problems posed by climate change were framed through the use of conceptual and discourse metaphors and whether one can argue that these are metaphors we “live by” or metaphors we might “die by.” Findings show that an overarching argument from catastrophe was bolstered by three conceptual master-metaphors, namely “THE PLANET IS A BODY,” “THE PLANET IS A MACHINE,” and “THE PLANET IS A PATIENT/ADDICT,” linked to a variety of discourse metaphors, older conceptual metaphors, and clichés. This metaphorical landscape began to shift while the article was being written and will have to be closely monitored in the future.


Public understanding of solar radiation management

Author(s): Mercer AM, Keith DW, Sharp JD

Published: October, 2011

Publisher: Environmental Research Letters

DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/6/4/044006

Tags: Moral Hazard, Public Perception

URL: http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/6/4/044006

Abstract: We report the results of the first large-scale international survey of public perception of geoengineering and solar radiation management (SRM). Our sample of 3105 individuals in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom was recruited by survey firms that administer internet surveys to nationally representative population samples. Measured familiarity was higher than expected, with 8% and 45% of the population correctly defining the terms geoengineering and climate engineering respectively. There was strong support for allowing the study of SRM. Support decreased and uncertainty rose as subjects were asked about their support for using SRM immediately, or to stop a climate emergency. Support for SRM is associated with optimism about scientific research, a valuing of SRM's benefits and a stronger belief that SRM is natural, while opposition is associated with an attitude that nature should not be manipulated in this way. The potential risks of SRM are important drivers of public perception with the most salient being damage to the ozone layer and unknown risks. SRM is a new technology and public opinions are just forming; thus all reported results are sensitive to changes in framing, future information on risks and benefits, and changes to context.


Public perceptions and governance of controversial technologies to tackle climate change: Nuclear power, carbon capture and storage, wind, and geoengineering

Author(s): Poumadère M, Bertoldo R, Samadi J

Published: September, 2011

Publisher: Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change

DOI: 10.1002/wcc.134

Tags: Public Perception

URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/wcc.134/abstract?userIsAuthenticated=false&deniedAccessCustomisedMessage=

Abstract: The role carbon emissions play in contributing to climate change makes clear the necessity for a global reconsideration of current modes of energy production. In recent years, as concerns over the threats of climate change (CC) have become more acute, four technologies have notably risen to the forefront of academic and public discourse: nuclear power, carbon capture and storage (CCS), wind power, and geoengineering. The particular interest of these four approaches lies in the fact that they reflect both energy production and climate control technologies, are often socially controversial, and present complex challenges of governance. Nuclear and wind power both deserve an important place among the variety of low-carbon energy options. In countries where public acceptance is evaluated, although, support for nuclear energy appears to be conditional upon simultaneous development of other renewable energies alongside a feasible plan to address the disposal of nuclear waste. The Fukushima accident sharply increased public concern about the safety and vulnerability of nuclear reactors. While wind power receives general public support, issues of accommodation can arise when it comes to siting wind farms. Persistent dependency upon carbon-producing energy has made favorable the option of CCS. However, in addition to technical and geological factors, social resistance to the placement of carbon storage units remains a key obstacle. Geoengineering offers the technological capacity to directly act on the climate should levels of atmospheric CO2 become dangerously high. Public perception regarding the risk of climate change can be labile, and the alternatives reviewed here share the characteristic that their technical and political dimensions are intertwined. The variety of options for combining and implementing these technologies, coupled with the inherently time-sensitive nature of CC, underscore the complexity of the endeavor. In order to bridge these various levels of analysis and decision making, and to better understand and integrate people's involvement, exercises in risk governance could be developed at both the national and international levels.


“Global warming” or “climate change”? Whether the planet is warming depends on question wording

Author(s): Schuldt JP, Konrath SH, Schwarz N

Published: February, 2011

Publisher: Public Opinion Quarterly

DOI: 10.1093/poq/nfq073

Tags: Public Perception

URL: http://poq.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/02/21/poq.nfq073.abstract

Abstract: In public discourse and survey research, global climate change is sometimes referred to as “global warming” and sometimes as “climate change.” An analysis of web sites of conservative and liberal think tanks suggests that conservatives prefer to use the term “global warming” whereas liberals prefer “climate change.” A question wording experiment (N = 2267) illustrates the power of these frames: Republicans were less likely to endorse that the phenomenon is real when it was referred to as “global warming” (44.0%) rather than “climate change” (60.2%), whereas Democrats were unaffected by question wording (86.9% vs. 86.4%). As a result, the partisan divide on the issue dropped from 42.9 percentage points under a “global warming” frame to 26.2 percentage points under a “climate change” frame. Theoretical and methodological implications are discussed.


Experiment Earth? Report on a Public Dialogue on Geoengineering

Author(s): Natural Environment Research Council

Published: August, 2010

Publisher: Natural Environment Research Council

Tags: Public Perception

URL: http://www.nerc.ac.uk/about/consult/geoengineering.asp?cookieConsent=A

Abstract: NERC carried out a public dialogue on geoengineering to assess public opinion on how future research relating to the subject should be directed, conducted and communicated. We worked in partnership with Sciencewise-ERC, which supports public dialogue activities in government.


Initial Public Perceptions of Deep Geological and Oceanic Disposal of Carbon Dioxide

Author(s): Palmgren CR, Morgan MG, de Bruin WB, Keith DW

Published: December, 2004

Publisher: Environmental Science & Technology

DOI: 10.1021/es040400c

Tags: Terrestrial Carbon Storage, Marine Carbon Storage, Public Perception

URL: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es040400c

Abstract: Two studies were conducted to gauge likely public perceptions of proposals to avoid releasing carbon dioxide from power plants to the atmosphere by injecting it into deep geological formations or the deep ocean. Following a modified version of the mental model interview method, Study 1 involved face-to-face interviews with 18 nontechnical respondents. Respondents shared their beliefs after receiving basic information about the technologies and again after getting specific details. Many interviewees wanted to frame the issue in the broader context of alternative strategies for carbon management, but public understanding of mitigation strategies is limited. The second study, administered to a sample of 126 individuals, involved a closed-form survey that measured the prevalence of general beliefs revealed in study 1 and also assessed the respondent's views of these technologies. Study results suggest that the public may develop misgivings about deep injection of carbon dioxide because it can be seen as temporizing and perhaps creating future problems. Ocean injection was seen as more problematic than geological injection. An approach to public communication and regulation that is open and respectful of public concerns is likely to be a prerequisite to the successful adoption of this technology.


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