What do people think about some of the new technologies that might be used to address climate change? What attributes might influence broad social, scientific and government support?

The focus of new research is 'Solid Carbon' — an ambitious project funded by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, which aims to draw carbon from the atmosphere and inject it into sub-sea floor basalt, where it will 'mineralize' or turn to solid rock over time.

Dr. Terre Satterfeld, Professor of Culture, Risk and the Environment at UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability explains, "We really had no idea what kind of thinking or perceptual landscape existed for these technologies. Is the purpose [reduced atmospheric CO2] really key for people, or is the technology itself the focus in certain ways and what kind of ways? That's the essence of our investigation."


In their analyses of data from a representative survey of residents of B.C. and Washington state, Dr. Satterfeld and her colleague Dr. Sara Nawaz dug into perceptions of carbon removal technologies as influenced by people's sense of climate urgency, beliefs about the marine environment, and ideas about our responsibility for natural systems.


The researchers explored the relationship between these views and people's comfort with various technologies, including Solid Carbon, which proposes offshore direct air carbon capture and storage, as well as coastal restoration and ocean fertilization (adding nutrients like iron to the ocean to increase photosynthetic activity and concomitantly remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere).

Dr. Satterfeld concludes: "Things are shifting quickly as people continue to live with extreme weather events… We're seeing in the [academic] literature in general an increased tolerance for getting on to trying new things that might not have been acceptable 10 years ago or five years ago."

Research will continue on Vancouver Island with First Nations and environmental groups to explore more deeply people's thinking about negative emissions technologies.