"We find that respondents who were asked whether solar geoengineering would cause society to cut emissions more were more likely to believe that this would be the case than those asked whether solar geoengineering would cause society to cut emissions less."
Solar geoengineering, which seeks to cool the planet by reflecting a small fraction of sunlight back into space, has drawn the attention of scientists and policymakers as climate change continues largely unabated. Unlike mitigation, solar geoengineering could quickly and cheaply lower global temperatures. It is also imperfect. Its environmental impacts remain unpredictable, and its low cost and immediate effects may result in “moral hazard,” moving people away from wanting more costly mitigation efforts. In addition to the need for further research to quantify and compare these tradeoffs, there is also currently little understanding about how the public will respond to them. To address this question, we have conducted a 1,000-subject nationally representative poll focused on solar geoengineering as part of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) of the US electorate in October-November 2016. We find that support for the use and research of solar geoengineering is indeed contingent on the importance that individuals place on solar geoengineering’s speed and cost. Surprisingly, however, there is little to no relationship between concerns about solar geoengineering’s shortcomings and support for its use. Subjects concerned about moral hazard and solar geoengineering’s unpredictability also tend to support its research. We also examine demographic and political correlates of individual views of geoengineering.
Full text: “Fast, cheap, and imperfect? U.S. public opinion about solar geoengineering” (working paper version: 8 November 2017)
Mahajan, Aseem, Dustin Tingley, and Gernot Wagner. “Fast, cheap, and imperfect? U.S. public opinion about solar geoengineering.” Working paper (8 November 2017).