The influence of learning about carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on support for mitigation policies

Abstract

A wide range of carbon dioxide removal (CDR) strategies has been proposed to address climate change. As most CDR strategies are unfamiliar to the public, it is unknown how increased media and policy attention on CDR might affect public sentiment about climate change. On the one hand, CDR poses a potential moral hazard: if people perceive that CDR solves climate change, they may be less likely to support efforts to reduce carbon emissions. On the other hand, the need for CDR may increase the perceived severity of climate change and, thus, increase support for other types of mitigation. Using an online survey of US adults (N = 984), we tested these competing hypotheses by exposing participants to information about different forms of CDR. We find that learning about certain CDR strategies indirectly reduces support for mitigation policies by reducing the perceived threat of climate change. This was found to be true for participants who read about CDR in general (without mention of specific strategies), bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, or direct air capture. Furthermore, this risk compensation pattern was more pronounced among political conservatives than liberals—although in some cases, was partially offset by positive direct effects. Learning about reforestation, by contrast, had no indirect effects on mitigation support through perceived threat but was found to directly increase support among conservatives. The results suggest caution is warranted when promoting technological fixes to climate change, like CDR, as some forms may further dampen support for climate change action among the unengaged.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

Notes

  1. 1.

    Study vignettes (available as Electronic Supplementary Material) contain more information about these CDR approaches.

  2. 2.

    The attention check consisted of a single item embedded in the items relating to the dependent variable (mitigation policy support). The item instructed participants to “Please select ‘slightly opposed’ as your answer for this item.”

  3. 3.

    Ninety-one participants did not complete the survey (7.6% of combined complete and incomplete surveys). Within this group, 61 participants withdrew from the survey prior to being assigned to an experimental condition. The remaining 30 participants did not advance to the survey items relating to the dependent variable (mitigation policy support) or withdrew before completing the final survey items. Based on the demographic data available to us, there were no significant differences between those who completed the survey and those who withdrew.

  4. 4.

    As Model 15 cannot be run when more than two groups are being compared, this model was run separately for each CDR condition (compared to the control). PROCESS Models 59 and 1, as well as an ANCOVA testing non-mediated effects of condition on mitigation support, are available in the Electronic Supplementary Material.

References

  1. Anderson K, Peters G (2016) The trouble with negative emissions. Science 354:182–183. doi:10.1126/science.aah4567

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Baca-Motes K, Brown A, Gneezy A et al (2012) Commitment and behavior change: evidence from the field. J Consum Res 39:000–000

    Google Scholar 

  3. Baker T (1996) On the genealogy of moral hazard. Tex Law Rev 75:237–292

    Google Scholar 

  4. Campbell TH, Kay AC (2014) Solution aversion: on the relation between ideology and motivated disbelief. J Pers Soc Psychol 107:809–824. doi:10.1037/a0037963

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Carrico AR, Truelove HB, Vandenbergh MP, Dana D (2015) Does learning about climate change adaptation change support for mitigation? J Environ Psychol 41:19–29. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.10.009

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Cohen GL, Sherman DK, Bastardi A et al (2007) Bridging the partisan divide: self-affirmation reduces ideological closed-mindedness and inflexibility in negotiation. J Pers Soc Psychol 93:415–430. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.93.3.415

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Corner A, Pidgeon N (2010) Geoengineering the climate: the social and ethical implications. Environ Sci Policy Sustain Dev 52:24–37. doi:10.1080/00139150903479563

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Corner A, Pidgeon N (2014) Geoengineering, climate change scepticism and the “moral hazard” argument: an experimental study of UK public perceptions. Philos Trans R Soc A Math Phys Eng Sci 372:20140063–20140063. doi:10.1098/rsta.2014.0063

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Evans L, Milfont TL, Lawrence J (2014) Considering local adaptation increases willingness to mitigate. Glob Environ Chang 25:69–75. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.12.013

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Fairbrother M (2016) Geoengineering, moral hazard, and trust in climate science: evidence from a survey experiment in Britain. Clim Chang. doi:10.1007/s10584-016-1818-7

  11. Feygina I, Jost JT, Goldsmith RE (2010) System justification, the denial of global warming, and the possibility of “system-sanctioned change”. Personal Soc Psychol Bull 36:326–338. doi:10.1177/0146167209351435

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hart PS, Nisbet EC (2012) Boomerang effects in science communication: how motivated reasoning and identity cues amplify opinion polarization about climate mitigation policies. Communic Res 39:701–723. doi:10.1177/0093650211416646

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hart PS, Nisbet EC, Myers TA (2015) Public attention to science and political news and support for climate change mitigation. Nat Clim Chang 5:541–545. doi:10.1038/nclimate2577

    Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Hayes AF (2013) Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: a regression-based approach. The Guilford Press, New York

  15. Hornsey MJ, Fielding KS (2016) A cautionary note about messages of hope: focusing on progress in reducing carbon emissions weakens mitigation motivation. Glob Environ Chang 39:26–34. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2016.04.003

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Howell RA, Capstick S, Whitmarsh L (2016) Impacts of adaptation and responsibility framings on attitudes towards climate change mitigation. Clim Chang 136:445–461. doi:10.1007/s10584-016-1627-z

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Kahan DM, Jenkins-Smith H, Tarantola T et al (2015) Geoengineering and climate change polarization: testing a two-channel model of science communication. Ann Am Acad Pol Soc Sci 658:192–222. doi:10.1177/0002716214559002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Keith DW (2013) A case for climate engineering. MIT, Cambridge

  19. Lanzini P, Thøgersen J (2014) Behavioural spillover in the environmental domain: an intervention study. J Environ Psychol 40:381–390. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2014.09.006

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Leiserowitz AA, Maibach EW, Roser-Renouf C et al (2012) Public support for climate and energy policies in September, 2012. Yale University and George Mason University. Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, New Haven. http://environment.yale.edu/climate/publications/Policy-Support-September-2012/

  21. Lenton TM (2010) The potential for land-based biological CO2 removal to lower future atmospheric CO2 concentration. Carbon Manag 1:145–160. doi:10.4155/cmt.10.12

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Lin A (2013) Does geoengineering present a moral hazard? Ecol Law Q 40:673–712. doi:10.15779/Z38JP1J

    Google Scholar 

  23. McCright AM, Dunlap RE (2011) The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public’s views of global warming, 2001-2010. Sociol Q 52:155–194. doi:10.1111/j.1533-8525.2011.01198.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Meadowcroft J (2013) Exploring negative territory: carbon dioxide removal and climate policy initiatives. Clim Chang 118:137–149. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0684-1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Merk C, Pönitzsch G, Rehdanz K (2016) Knowledge about aerosol injection does not reduce individual mitigation efforts. Environ Res Lett 11:54009. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/11/5/054009

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. National Research Council (2015) Climate intervention: carbon dioxide removal and reliable sequestration. National Academies, Washington, D.C.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Pidgeon N, Demski CC (2012) From nuclear to renewable: energy system transformation and public attitudes. Bull At Sci 68:41–51. doi:10.1177/0096340212451592

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Pidgeon N, Corner AJ, Parkhill K et al (2012) Exploring early public responses to geoengineering. Philos Trans R Soc A 370:4176–4196. doi:10.1098/rsta.2012.0099

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Preston CJ (2013) Ethics and geoengineering: reviewing the moral issues raised by solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Clim Chang 4:23–37. doi:10.1002/wcc.198

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Raimi KT, Maki A, Dana D, Vandenbergh MP (under review) Framing of geoengineering affects support for climate change mitigation

  31. Smith LJ, Torn MS (2013) Ecological limits to terrestrial biological carbon dioxide removal. Clim Chang 118:89–103. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0682-3

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Smith P, Davis SJ, Creutzig F et al (2015) Biophysical and economic limits to negative CO2 emissions. Nat Clim Chang. doi:10.1038/nclimate2870

  33. Truelove HB, Carrico AR, Weber EU et al (2014) Positive and negative spillover of pro-environmental behavior: an integrative review and theoretical framework. Glob Environ Chang 29:127–138. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2014.09.004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Truelove HB, Yeung KL, Carrico AR et al (2016) From plastic bottle recycling to policy support: an experimental test of pro-environmental spillover. J Environ Psychol 46:55–66. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2016.03.004

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. van Vuuren DP, Deetman S, van Vliet J et al (2013) The role of negative CO2 emissions for reaching 2°C-insights from integrated assessment modelling. Clim Chang 118:15–27. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0680-5

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Wibeck V, Hansson A, Anshelm J (2015) Questioning the technological fix to climate change—lay sense-making of geoengineering in Sweden. Energy Res Soc Sci 7:23–30. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2015.03.001

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Wolsko C, Ariceaga H, Seiden J (2016) Red, white, and blue enough to be green: effects of moral framing on climate change attitudes and conservation behaviors. J Exp Soc Psychol 65:7–19. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2016.02.005

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This research was funded by a Beyond Carbon Neutral grant from the University of Michigan Energy Institute. We are grateful to Daniel Raimi, Paige Fischer, and Brian Ellis for their feedback on the carbon dioxide removal technology vignettes. The authors wish to thank the two anonymous reviewers who provided comments on the earlier versions of the manuscript.

Author attribution

All authors contributed equally to the design, data collection, analysis, and write-up of this study.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Victoria Campbell-Arvai.

Ethics declarations

This research was reviewed and approved by the University of Michigan’s Health Sciences and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board; standards for obtaining informed consent from study participants were followed.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Electronic supplementary material

ESM 1

(DOCX 1214 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Campbell-Arvai, V., Hart, P.S., Raimi, K.T. et al. The influence of learning about carbon dioxide removal (CDR) on support for mitigation policies. Climatic Change 143, 321–336 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-017-2005-1

Download citation