InSIS research on the public acceptability of geoengineering experimentation

Research by Drs Rob Bellamy, Javier Lezaun and James Palmer exploring public perceptions of geoengineering has been included as a Research Highlight in the September issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. The research, originally published in the journal Global Environmental Change, analyses public views on the acceptability of geoengineering experiments, and of alternative mechanisms for their governance.

Part of the Climate Geoengineering Governance (CGG) project, funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the research found that the perceived controllability of geoengineering experiments is central to public views of their acceptability. In the three deliberative workshops controllability emerged as a composite category, comprising at least four criteria: the level of physical containment of the experiment, the degree of uncertainty surrounding its outcomes, the reversibility of impacts, and the scientific purity of the enterprise. The findings suggest that the legitimacy of geoengineering experiments will depend on variable, context-specific combinations of these criteria, and that purely technical determinations of ‘scale’ or ‘location’ will be poor predictors of the sorts of concerns that will be triggered by further experimentation in this area. Methodologically, the research sought to develop new formats of invited public deliberation, beyond the traditional egalitarian-consensual model of public discourse.     

The research forms a part of ongoing efforts in InSIS to explore new experimental approaches to public engagement with scientific and technical controversies. Drs Bellamy, Lezaun and Palmer are currently conducting new research on public perceptions of negative emissions technologies as part of the Greenhouse Gas Removal Instruments and Policies (GRIP) project, funded by the V. Kann Rasmussen and ClimateWorks Foundations.

The July 2017 article from Global Environmental Change can be found (open access) here.

Further InSIS publications on these issues can be found below:

Bellamy, R., & Lezaun, J. (2017). Crafting a Public for Geoengineering. Public Understanding of Science, 26(4), 402-417.

Bellamy, R. (2016). A sociotechnical framework for governing climate engineering. Science, Technology & Human Values, 41(2), 135-162.

Bellamy, R., Chilvers, J., & Vaughan, N. E. (2016). Deliberative Mapping of options for tackling climate change: Citizens and specialists ‘open up’ appraisal of geoengineering. Public Understanding of Science, 25(3), 269-286.

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