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The public remain uninformed and wary of climate engineering


International CO2 emissions reduction commitments are insufficient to avert damaging global warming and imperil a sustainable future. Climate engineering approaches are increasingly proposed as near-term intervention strategies, but deployment of these controversial techniques will require careful engagement with and the support of the public. New quantitative measurements of public perceptions for six climate engineering approaches show that the public of the United Kingdom (UK), United States (US), Australia (AU) and New Zealand (NZ) continue to have little knowledge of climate engineering. All approaches are regarded unfavourably, albeit less so for carbon dioxide removal (CDR) than solar radiation management (SRM). Knowledge and perceptions are remarkably similar between countries although UK and US respondents are more favourable towards SRM and UK respondents are more favourable towards CDR. Stratospheric aerosol injection is the most negatively perceived approach. Support for small-scale trials is also higher for CDR approaches than SRM. Statistical analyses yield mixed relationships between perceptions of climate engineering and age, political affiliation and pro-ecological views. Thus far, attempts to engage the public with climate engineering have seen little change over time and consequently, there is growing urgency to facilitate careful citizen deliberation using objective and instructive information about climate engineering.

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  1. Internet access across the four samples is as follows: 90% in the UK (Office for National Statistics 2018), 84% in the US (Ryan and Lewis 2017), 86% in Australia (Australia Bureau of Statistics 2017) and 94% in New Zealand (Díaz Andrade et al. 2018).


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Thanks to Professor Stephen Salter for helpful comments on marine cloud brightening.

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Correspondence and requests for materials should be addressed to DC at


The work was supported by The Massey University Research Fund (PF, MW).

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DT conceived the original project, advised on climate engineering approaches and contributed to writing. MW raised research funds, developed the research design, advised on and checked analysis and contributed to writing. PF raised research funds, helped with research design, fieldwork, analysis, and co-wrote the main body. DC developed materials, carried out the analysis, co-wrote the main body and provided the supplementary materials.

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Correspondence to Daniel P. Carlisle.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Carlisle, D.P., Feetham, P.M., Wright, M.J. et al. The public remain uninformed and wary of climate engineering. Climatic Change 160, 303–322 (2020).

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  • Public engagement
  • Climate engineering
  • Geoengineering
  • Cross-country
  • Framing effects