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Survey finds public support for geoengineering research; strongest opposition from conservatives

A new, internationally-representative survey by researchers from the University of Calgary, Harvard University and Simon Fraser University found that 72% of respondents approved research into geoengineering. The study, published as an open access paper in IOP Publishing’s journal Environmental Research Letters, is the first international survey on public perception of geoengineering and solar radiation management (SRM) and shows that these terms are becoming increasingly embedded into public discourse.

Geoengineering is the process of deliberately manipulating the Earth’s climate to counteract the effects of global warming, while SRM is a type of geoengineering that seeks to reflect sunlight by various means to reduce warming.

The study found that public awareness of geoengineering is broad. Eight percent of the sample were able to provide a correct definition of geoengineering, an increase on previous estimates; however, 45% of the sample correctly defined the alternative term “climate engineering”, adding weight to the argument that “geoengineering” may be misleading and difficult to understand.

The 18-question, Internet-based survey was completed by 3,105 participants from Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States at the end of 2010, and was designed to ascertain how widespread public knowledge of geoengineering was and how the public actually perceived it.

Some reports have suggested that opposition to geoengineering is associated with environmentalists, but our results do not support this view. We found that geoengineering divides people along unusual lines. Support for geoengineering is spread across the political spectrum and is linked to support for science concern about climate change.

The strongest opposition comes from people who self-identify as politically conservative, who are distrustful of government and other elite institutions, and who doubt the very idea that there is a climate problem.

—Professor David Keith of Harvard University

The Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) project (earlier post) is an example of SRM that intends to release sulphate-based particles into the troposphere in attempt to reflect the light rays from the sun and reduce warming.

A SPICE test project scheduled to take place in the UK was recently delayed by six months in order to explore and discuss the social aspects associated with geoengineering.

The study found that global warming was not a key factor in determining an individual’s support or opposition of SRM. The researchers hypothesized that seeing climate change as an important issue, and its causes anthropogenic, would be an obvious predictor of support.

I think this is the first in line of many studies that will show that SRM intersects with people's political and environmental attitudes in surprising ways. The results suggest that dialogue surrounding this topic needs to be broadened to include ideas of risk, values and trade-off.

—Ashley Mercer, lead author of the study




Ideas requiring astonishing levels of others' hubris; and an astonishing inconsequential report thereon.


The progressive world will have to find ways around the naysayers and conservative gangs to better solve current a future global problems.


SRM is cheap and easy enough that the naysayers won't be able to do much about it. Their rejection of the Kyoto treaty also makes it impossible for them to use international treaties to stop such an effort if someone in e.g. Estonia puts a few thousand tons of SO2 into the stratosphere.


Strange that the conservatives oppose geoengineering, because burning fossil fuels if the most massive geoengineering form!


typo above, read :because burning fossil fuels is the most massive geoengineering form!


Gee EP, just one volcano puts out ten times that annually. Why not engineer a big cork to plug up the thousands of nasty volcanoes nature has burdened us with?


Guys guys, they're not saying we should put more SO2 into the air. SO2 is a gas. They want "to release sulphate-based particles into the troposphere." Sulphates have different molecular chemistries and bulk properties.


BTW, I'm not saying we should do such a thing - I just want us to keep the science straight.


The average volcano cannot and does not put sulfate particles up at altitudes upwards of 3 km.


Excuse me, I meant 20 km (60,000+ feet).


The average volcano emits gas and particulates that rise into the top of the trop at 14km. Kilauea vog alone has emitted up to 32,000 tons/DAY SO2 and sulphate particles - causing acid rain, crop & home damage, and far exceeding EPA standards for human health.

Seriously. "Geoengineering?" Hubris.


Residence times for SO2 and sulfates in the trop are really short. "According to Katz (1977), the residence
time of SO2 in the atmosphere ranges from about 2 to 8 days. Hidy (1994) gives residence times of SO2 in the lower atmospheres of 1 to 3 days. HSDB (2002) gives residence times ranging from 1 to 5 days."

Volcanos, while they seem impressive, are also sporadic. On average you'll get 50-70 eruptions a year. Most of those will only last days or weeks. Man OTOH is a constant source: "Emissions of SO2 in [just] Canada were estimated at 2633 kilotonnes in 1995 and 2499 kilotonnes in 1999.


I'd say it, but ai_vin already said it.


sorry gentlemen, YOU are enamored of "geo-engineering" the brilliance of which is to fill the troposphere with MORE sulfate particulates! To increase albedo???

DOH! Again... DOH! Hubris.


Did you not read the post where I said BTW, I'm not saying we should do such a thing - I just want us to keep the science straight. ???

Or are you just trying a diversion?

Aaron Turpen

Let's see. These "scientists" haven't even been able to build a computer model that can accurately predict tomorrow's weather (let alone predict anything to do with how much temp is going to rise thanks to GHGs) and they want us to fund them tinkering with our entire planet?

Ya, sure.. whatever you say. Back in the rubber room.


Put your strawman back in the rubber room, weather =/= climate.

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