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Beliefs and values explain international differences in perception of solar radiation management: insights from a cross-country survey

Abstract

Solar radiation management (SRM) aims to counteract the negative consequences of global warming and is considered for deployment in the event that mitigation and adaptation efforts appear insufficient. However, because the potential ecological and political side effects of SRM are not well understood, and because SRM will cross national boundaries, an international research perspective on the general public’s perception of this technology is required. We conducted an online survey on the general public’s perception and acceptance of SRM in Canada, China, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. Our findings confirmed the need for an international perspective, as we found several cross-country differences. Chinese respondents, for example, indicated greater acceptance for SRM than their North American and European counterparts. Moreover, results of regression analyses on acceptance of SRM by country revealed that lower acceptability ratings for SRM in Canada and Europe were mostly related to stronger beliefs that SRM tampers with nature. Chinese respondents, by contrast, were more accepting of SRM when they held stronger beliefs that it may reduce the motivation to adopt burdensome climate change mitigation efforts. Although our research—and previous studies—suggest that opposition to SRM remains, dismissing the technology entirely on these grounds and without conducting a careful, cross-national, and transdisciplinary decision-support process to set up an international policy regime seems premature as people from countries that are less prepared to mitigate and adapt to climate change seem to be more supportive of SRM.

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Acknowledgements

Jing Shi received financial support from the China Scholarship Council (CSC). We would also like to thank Respondi AG, InterfaceASIA Holden, and Insightrix Research Inc. for assistance with the survey.

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Correspondence to Vivianne H. M. Visschers.

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Visschers, V.H.M., Shi, J., Siegrist, M. et al. Beliefs and values explain international differences in perception of solar radiation management: insights from a cross-country survey. Climatic Change 142, 531–544 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1970-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-1970-8

Keywords

  • Solar radiation management
  • Public perception
  • Cross-country survey
  • Tampering with nature
  • Moral hazard
  • Human values