Geoengineering, an emerging technology aimed at counteracting the effects of human-caused climate change, also has the potential to counteract political polarization over global warming, according to a new study.
Published Feb. 9 in the journal Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the study found that participants -- members of large, nationally representative samples in both the United States and England -- displayed more open-mindedness toward evidence of climate change, and more agreement on the significance of such evidence, after learning of geoengineering.
"The result casts doubt on the claim that the advent of geoengineering could lull the public into complacency," said Dan Kahan, professor of law and psychology at Yale Law School and a member of the research team that conducted the study.
"We found exactly the opposite: Members of the public who learned about geoengineering were more concerned and less polarized about global warming than those who were told of the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a way to reduce climate change," he said.
As defined by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS), "geoengineering" refers to deliberate, large-scale manipulations of Earth's environment in order to offset some of the harmful consequences of human-caused climate change. Potential examples include solar reflectors that would cool global temperatures by reflecting more sunlight away from the Earth and so-called "carbon scrubbers," which would remove CO2 from the atmosphere.
Both the NAS and the Royal Society, the preeminent association of expert scientists in the United Kingdom, have issued reports calling for stepped-up research on geoengineering, which also was identified as a necessary measure for counteracting the impact of global warming in the latest assessment report of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
In the study, researchers divided the 3,000 participants into groups, providing some with information on geoengineering and others with information on proposals to limit greenhouse gas emissions. They instructed the participants to read and evaluate actual study findings offering evidence human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, was heating the Earth's temperature and creating serious environmental risks including coastal flooding and drought.
"The participants who learned about geoengineering were less polarized about the validity of the evidence than were the ones who got information on carbon-emission limits," said Kahan.
"In fact, the participants who read about carbon-emission limits were even more polarized than subjects in a control group, who read the information on the evidence of global warming without first learning about any potential policy responses," he said.
This result was consistent with previous research on a dynamic known as "cultural cognition," which describes the tendency of individuals to react dismissively to evidence of environmental risks when that evidence threatens their values or group identities.
"The information on geoengineering," said Kahan, "helped to offset bias by revealing to those study participants with a pro-technology outlook that acknowledging evidence of global warming does not necessarily imply the 'end of free markets' or the 'death of capitalism,' a theme that some climate-change policy advocates emphasize."
Kahan added that the significance of the research extended beyond the issue of whether the advent of geoengineering would stifle or promote public engagement with climate science.
"What's important is that people assess information about science based not only on its content but on its cultural meaning or significance," explained Kahan. "The study supports the conclusion that science communicators need to broadcast engaging signals along both the 'content' and 'meaning' channels if they want their message to get through."
The study was conducted by a team of researchers associated with the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School and the Center for Applied Social Research at the University of Oklahoma.
Citation: Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science DOI: 10.1177/0002716214559002
Debra Kroszner | EurekAlert!
Volcanoes and glaciers combine as powerful methane producers
20.11.2018 | Lancaster University
Massive impact crater from a kilometer-wide iron meteorite discovered in Greenland
15.11.2018 | Faculty of Science - University of Copenhagen
Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.
Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.
Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
19.11.2018 | Event News
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Life Sciences
20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy