Support among the public for scientists deliberately altering the Earth’s climate on a vast scale to counteract global warming is at 72 percent, according to a recent survey that appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
It focused on geoengineering techniques to reflect the Sun’s energy away from the Earth’s surface before it can be absorbed. Such techniques range in scope and complexity, but could involve the injection of tiny particles into the stratosphere, whitening clouds using sea water spray, using pale-coloured roofing and paving materials at ground level, or even blocking the sun’s light with an enormous mirror in space.
The most recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released in 2007, said that geoengineering options remained largely unproven, and reliable cost estimates had not yet been published. Other opponents to the techniques have expressed concern about the ethics of disrupting an immensely complex system that we don’t yet fully understand.
The team behind the survey said in the paper’s abstract: “Measured familiarity was higher than expected, with eight percent and 45 percent of the population correctly defining the terms geoengineering and climate engineering respectively. There was strong support for allowing the study of solar radiation management. Support decreased and uncertainty rose as subjects were asked about their support for using solar radiation management immediately, or to stop a climate emergency.”
Interestingly, the full paper (PDF) reveals a reasonably widespread belief in conspiracy theories: “We found that 2.6 percent of the subjects believe that it is completely true that the government has a secret program that uses airplanes to put harmful chemicals into the air, and 14 percent of the sample believes that this is partly true.”
In the conclusion of the paper, the team say: “When subjects were questioned what they would like to ask or say to a researcher or decision-maker working with solar radiation management, one response in particular summed this position up: ‘Talk straight, make sure, do not screw up and do not forget anything’.”
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