People across Australia and New Zealand have a negative view of climate engineering, the deliberate large-scale manipulation of the environment to counteract climate change, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.
Some scientists think that climate engineering approaches will be required to combat the inexorable rise in atmospheric CO2 due to the burning of fossil fuels. Climate engineering could involve techniques that reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere or approaches that slow temperature rise by reducing the amount of sunlight reaching the Earth’s surface.
Given that the concept of climate engineering is highly controversial, researchers from the University of Southampton and Massey University wanted to evaluate public opinion, arguing that there is a pressing need to consult the public and understand their concerns before policy decisions are made.
The results show that the public has strong negative views towards climate engineering. Where there are positive reactions, they favour approaches that reduce carbon dioxide over those that reflected sunlight.
“It was a striking result and a very clear pattern,” said lead author Professor Malcolm Wright of Massey University. “Interventions such as putting mirrors in space or fine particles into the stratosphere are not well received. More natural processes of cloud brightening or enhanced weathering are less likely to raise objections, but the public react best to creating biochar (making charcoal from vegetation to lock in CO2) or capturing carbon directly from the air.”
Nonetheless, even the most well regarded techniques still has a net negative perception.