Exploring early public responses to geoengineering

Nick Pidgeon, Adam Corner, Karen Parkhill, Alexa Spence, Catherine Butler, Wouter Poortinga

Abstract

Proposals for geoengineering the Earth's climate are prime examples of emerging or ‘upstream’ technologies, because many aspects of their effectiveness, cost and risks are yet to be researched, and in many cases are highly uncertain. This paper contributes to the emerging debate about the social acceptability of geoengineering technologies by presenting preliminary evidence on public responses to geoengineering from two of the very first UK studies of public perceptions and responses. The discussion draws upon two datasets: qualitative data (from an interview study conducted in 42 households in 2009), and quantitative data (from a subsequent nationwide survey (n=1822) of British public opinion). Unsurprisingly, baseline awareness of geoengineering was extremely low in both cases. The data from the survey indicate that, when briefly explained to people, carbon dioxide removal approaches were preferred to solar radiation management, while significant positive correlations were also found between concern about climate change and support for different geoengineering approaches. We discuss some of the wider considerations that are likely to shape public perceptions of geoengineering as it enters the media and public sphere, and conclude that, aside from technical considerations, public perceptions are likely to prove a key element influencing the debate over questions of the acceptability of geoengineering proposals.

Footnotes

View Full Text