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Climate change and technology: examining opinion formation of geoengineering

Abstract

The term “climate change” has evolved from what was originally a technical term employed by scientists into a symbolic referent involving complex social, political, and moral considerations that have spurred worldwide debate. As evidence of the anthropogenic influence on the Earth’s climate has grown over the past few decades, climate change has come to be viewed as a primary challenge to be confronted in the twenty-first century. Geoengineering, or climate engineering, is a set of large-scale technological interventions proposed to offset climatic changes. This study seeks to understand which factors contribute to, or alternatively, detract from public acceptance of geoengineering through robust path analytic modeling of public perceptions of geoengineering that may better serve the academic community and decision-makers. This study finds that familiarity, epistemic trust, preference for alternative solutions to climate change, and media consumption are interrelated in their influences on opinions toward geoengineering proposals and support for funding further geoengineering research. Such predictive modeling can enable risk communicators and policy-makers with vital information to support anticipatory governance approaches to policy initiatives and improve future public engagement and communication about geoengineering.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The authors note that this single-item measure is limited in its capacity to illustrate differences between safety and efficacy opinions, but was created to reflect the Royal Society’s (2009) conclusion that geoengineering has “yet to be demonstrated to be effective at an affordable cost, with acceptable side effects” (p. x). Some participants may feel that geoengineering is safe but not effective, or vice versa, which cannot be extrapolated from the current data. However, this question still assesses general positive and negative opinions of geoengineering.

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Correspondence to Christopher L. Cummings.

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Cummings, C.L., Rosenthal, S. Climate change and technology: examining opinion formation of geoengineering. Environ Syst Decis 38, 208–215 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10669-018-9683-8

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Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Public opinion
  • Geoengineering
  • Path analysis