Public keen on geoengineering research

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Most people believe that it's worth investing in geoengineering research, a new study has found.

Nearly three-quarters of people surveyed in the US, the UK and Canada said they supported research into the feasibility of reflecting sunlight to cool the planet.

The Harvard team says there's a surprisingly broad awareness of geoengineering, with nearly half realizing that the term refers to climate engineering.

Interestingly, while some reports have suggested that environmentalists tend to be against geoengineering, the survey found that this wasn't the case.

"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," says professor David Keith of Harvard.

"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."

The report will make interesting reading for British scientists who have recently suspended plans for a test scheme to create an 'artificial volcano'. The Spice project is designed to evaluate the cooling effects of releasing small particles into the stratosphere.

But the project's now been delayed by six months for more discussion on the social aspects of geoengineering.

"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," says Ashley Mercer, lead author of the study.

"The results suggest that dialogue surrounding this topic needs to be broadened to include ideas of risk, values and trade-off."