Scholarly article on topic 'Relating Individual Perceptions of Carbon Dioxide to Perceptions of CCS: An International Comparative Study'

Relating Individual Perceptions of Carbon Dioxide to Perceptions of CCS: An International Comparative Study Academic research paper on "Earth and related environmental sciences"

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Abstract of research paper on Earth and related environmental sciences, author of scientific article — Kenshi Itaoka, Anne-Maree Dowd, Aya Saito, Mia Paukovic, Marjolein de Best-Waldhober, et al.

Abstract This international study investigated how individual perceptions of CO2 relate to perceptions of CCS and how information influenced attitudes towards low carbon energy options, particularly CCS. Respondents were found to have a general understanding of CO2 but poor knowledge of its scientific dimensions. These misperceptions were directly related to misperceptions of CCS, yet indirectly related to their opinion on CCS implementation. Information on CO2 natural phenomena and behaviour in CCS had a negative effect on CCS perceptions. CO2 characteristics information (specifically properties and chemistry) had a favourable effect and often mitigated the negative effects of the other information.

Academic research paper on topic "Relating Individual Perceptions of Carbon Dioxide to Perceptions of CCS: An International Comparative Study"

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Energy Procedia 37 (2013) 7436 - 7443

GHGT-11

Relating individual perceptions of carbon dioxide to perceptions of CCS: An international comparative study

Kenshi Itaokaa*, Anne-Maree Dowdb, Aya Saitoa, Mia Paukovicc, Marjolein de Best-Waldhoberc, and Peta Ashworthb

aMizuho Information and Research Institute, 2-3 Kanda-Nishikicho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan bCommonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), PO Box 883, Kenmore, 4069, QLD, Australia _cEnergy Research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN), PO Box 56890, 1040 AW Amsterdam, the Netherlands_

Abstract

This international study investigated how individual perceptions of CO2 relate to perceptions of CCS and how information influenced attitudes towards low carbon energy options, particularly CCS. Respondents were found to have a general understanding of CO2 but poor knowledge of its scientific dimensions. These misperceptions were directly related to misperceptions of CCS, yet indirectly related to their opinion on CCS implementation. Information on CO2 natural phenomena and behaviour in CCS had a negative effect on CCS perceptions. CO2 characteristics information (specifically properties and chemistry) had a favourable effect and often mitigated the negative effects of the other information.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of GHGT

"Keywords: carbon dioxide; CCS; perceptions"

1. Introduction

Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) presents one potential technological solution for mitigating the atmospheric emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) sources [1][2]. However, CCS is a relatively new technology with associated uncertainties and perceived risks. For this reason, a growing body of research now focuses on public perceptions and the potential for society to accept or tolerate CCS technology as part of a mitigation solution.

Almost all explanations of climate change and CCS technology make reference to CO2, with an assumption that the general public is familiar with CO2 and understands its properties. However, a recent qualitative research study found that few individuals had a thorough knowledge and understanding of

* * Corresponding author. Tel.: +81-3-5281-5295; fax: +81-3-5281-5466. E-mail address: kenshi.itaoka@mizuho-ir.co.jp.

1876-6102 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of GHGT doi:10.1016/j.egypro.2013.06.686

CO2, with many misperceiving its overall effects. Although CO2 is regularly referred to in discussions of climate change, surprisingly little research has investigated public perceptions, knowledge, and understanding of CO2, or how this affects understanding of CCS. Our research aimed to fill that gap. Finding out what information is important for people to form their opinion of CCS is essential for the development of effective communication and participation efforts.

The research was conducted across three countries - Australia, Japan and the Netherlands. One of the main aims was to investigate the effect of various forms of information about CO2 on individual knowledge and understanding of CO2 and CCS.

2. Literature review

2.1. Perceptions of CO2

Very little existing research literature describes the general public's perceptions of C02. Research into public understanding and perceptions of climate change and energy technologies have only examined individual knowledge and perceptions of CO2 as a secondary focus, if at all. However, these studies have demonstrated that substantial gaps exist in the general public's knowledge and understanding of C02. For example, interviews conducted by Wallquist, Visschers and Siegrist [3] demonstrated a lack of knowledge on the physical-chemical properties of CO2 among the 'lay' (i.e. non-scientific) population. Misconceptions were found to be particularly evident with regard to dispersion rates of CO2 in the atmosphere and its format in a super-critical state and in solution [3].

In addition to CO2's chemical properties, its sources and the environmental problems it causes also remain a source of confusion for members of the general public [4][5]. An early cross-national public opinion study using surveys delivered in the USA, UK, Sweden and Japan found that respondents had difficulty associating CO2 with global warming as opposed to other environmental problems, such as ozone depletion [6]. However, when asked to identify the sources and sinks of CO2, the majority of respondents in all countries correctly identified cars, coal-fired power plants, and home heating as causes for increasing levels of CO2. Likewise, almost all of the respondents understood the underpinnings of photosynthesis in plants, correctly responding that trees could be a sink to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. In a replication of that survey in Australia and the UK in 2006, the results were almost identical [7].

Many laypeople are unfamiliar with the mechanisms by which climate change takes place. In their online survey of the Australian public, Ashworth, Jeanneret, Gardner and Shaw [8] found that half of respondents incorrectly identified ozone depletion as a cause of climate change; and only just over half understood the mechanism of the greenhouse effect. Similarly, de Best-Waldhober, Daamen and Faaij [9] found that the majority of respondents in the Netherlands were unable to identify the relationship between fossil fuel use, CO2, and global warming. Even today, laypeople commonly misperceive and misunderstand CO2. A recent study of the Dutch general public [17], which measured CO2 knowledge, suggests that incorrect beliefs and uncertainty about the properties of CO2 are still prevalent.

Likewise, recent survey research conducted in the UK by Whitmarsh, Seyfang and O'Neill [11] suggests that knowledge about "carbon" is still limited, even while the causes of climate change are increasingly recognized. The UK survey found that carbon was most commonly conceptualized as meaning 'C02'; consequently, it was perceived negatively as harmful, toxic, and an anthropogenic source of climate change, rather than a naturally occurring and abundant building block of life [11].

These varying misperceptions about CO2 and associated concepts such as carbon have follow-on effects for people's understanding and perceptions of the mitigation techniques (such as CCS) required to address the problems associated with mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

2.2. Perceptions of CCS and links between knowledge of CO2 and perceptions of CCS

CCS has the potential to reduce GHG emissions and stem anthropogenic climate change through the mitigation of large amounts of CO2 [12][13]. While media coverage of CCS has generally increased and become more positive [14], studies from Australia [12], Canada [5][15][16], France [17], Germany [18], Japan [19][20], the Netherlands [9][21][22], the UK [23], the US [4][6][24], and Sweden [23] all indicate that the general public in these countries have low levels of knowledge about both CCS as a technology (particularly compared with other emission reducing technologies such as wind and solar power; see [25][26]) and the environmental concerns it addresses.

Some existing research does make a limited exploration of the relationship between CO2 knowledge and perceptions of CCS. In a recent study by Paukovic, Brunsting and de Best-Waldhober [10], higher survey scores relating to overall knowledge of CO2 were positively related to attitudes towards CCS.

Wallquist, Visschers and Siegrist [27] also touched on this topic in their investigation of the influence of knowledge (including knowledge of CO2) and misconceptions of risk and benefit perceptions of CCS. They found that "knowledge of C02 and storage mechanisms decreased risk perception" of CCS technology. However, they concluded that since their respondents had a limited understanding of CO2 and subsurface conditions, "more knowledge about C02 might ease people's concerns about the risks of CCS but at the same time lead to less confidence in its benefits" [27].

While such work provides insight into the link between knowledge of CO2, and perceptions of CO2 and of CCS, no specific research has been conducted solely to explore this relationship. The research described in this paper addresses this apparent gap in understanding.

3. Methodology

The research was conducted across three countries - Australia, Japan and the Netherlands. One of the main aims was to investigate the effect of various forms of information about CO2 on individual knowledge and understanding of CO2 and CCS. A mixed methodology was employed. The qualitative component was conducted early in the project to explore current knowledge and understanding of CO2 and CCS as well as the effects of various information packages on that knowledge and understanding. The exploratory results were analyzed for common themes, and the information was collated to inform the online survey.

The survey measured people's knowledge of C02, attitudes of CO2 and CCS, perceptions of CO2 behavior in CO2 storage and of possible consequences of CCS, and the likely opinions of CCS. Through an experimental design respondents were provided with three different types of information packages: information about the characteristics of CO2; about CO2 natural phenomena; and about CO2 behavior in CCS. To test the effects of information provision, several measures were repeated before and after information was provided.

The internet survey was completed by 2,470 respondents in total, with over 800 respondents from Australia (n=809), the Netherlands (n=848) and Japan (n=813). Respondents completed the survey online and were randomly presented with one of three information packages which created nine survey conditions. As a result, each survey condition was provided to between 266 - 287 people.

Lighter than air (F)

Occurs naturally (T)

Flammable (F)

Soluble in water (T)

Contained in air (T)

Easy to break down (F)

4. Results

4.1. Knowledge of CO2

The survey measured respondents' knowledge of CO2's properties, sources, uses, and effects before they were presented with any information on CO2. Respondents rated how sure they were of the accuracy of the statements on a 1 to 5 scale (1=I'm sure it is not to 5=I'm sure it is). Respondents were found to have reasonable general knowledge of CO2 but poor knowledge of some of its scientific dimensions. Most respondents were aware that CO2 occurs naturally and is contained in air, however, over one fifth of the respondents were not sure. Respondents were highly uncertain about CO2's other

properties, for example, over one third of respondents stated that CO2 is not flammable, but over half either believed it was flammable or were unsure (see Fig. 1). These findings provided foundational evidence for general misperceptions of CO2, the next phase investigated if there was a related effect in understanding CCS technology.

4.2. Relationship between current knowledge on CO2 and understanding / misunderstanding CCS

(N=2470) 0%

1 I'm sure it is not 2 3 I'm not sure / I don't know T: True statement F: False statement

Fig 1. Awareness of CO2 properties

I 5 I'm sure it is

A regression analysis was conducted (see Table 1) to determine if there was a relationship between current knowledge of CO2 and understanding/misunderstanding of CCS. The results found almost all misperceptions about CO2 correlated with misperceptions about CCS. For example, the misperception that CO2 affects human health in the same way as air pollution substances such as soot significantly negatively correlated with the level of understanding of CCS (p=-0.11) as do the misperceptions "CO2 is flammable' (p=-0.11), "It is easy to break down CO2" (p=-0.04), "C02 harms the ozone layer", "CO2 harms the ozone layer" (p=-0.09), "CO2 has the same effect on humans as CO2" (p=-0.10), "Naturally occurring CO2 has a different chemical structure to industrially occurring CO2" (p=-0.09) and "CO2 is used to make tyres' (p=-0.05).

Meanwhile, the correct understanding that CO2 is released during electricity production from power plants (using natural gas or coal) significantly positively correlated with the level of understanding of CCS as do the correct perceptions that "CO2 influences the climate' (p=0.05), "CO2 in high concentrations is toxic for the human body (p=0.05), "CO2 is absorbed by plants and trees" (p=0.05) and "CO2 is used in some fire extinguishers" (p=0.05).

Table 1. Effect of misunderstandings of CO2 on understanding of CCS (dependent variable is CCS knowledge score)

Category Independent Variables std. coef Question statement

Value and beliefs MoreTax -0.052 ** I refuse to pay more tax to address climate change (global warming).

CO2 property Flammable EasyBD -0.109 ** -0.035 * CO2 is flammable. It is easy to break down CO2.

CO2 understanding Climate 0.049 * CO2 influences the climate.

Ozone CO -0.085 ** -0.100 ** CO2 harms the ozone layer. CO2 has the same effect on humans as CO (carbon monoxide).

Toxic 0.047 * CO2 in high concentrations is toxic for the human body.

Soot -0.113 ** CO2 affects human health in the same way as air pollution substances such as soot.

CO2 source PowerPlant PlantAbsorb 0.118 ** 0.050 ** CO2 is released during electricity production from power plants using natural gas or coal. CO2 is absorbed by plants and trees.

DifferentSubstance -0.093 ** Naturally occurring CO2 has a different chemical structure to industrially occurring CO2.

CO2 uses FireExtinguisher 0.052 ** CO2 is used in some fire extinguishers.

Tyre -0.048 ** CO2 is used to make tyres.

Provided InfoA InfoProperty 0.079 ** Properties: Colourless; Odourless; Heavier than air, therefore accumulates in low-lying areas; Non-flammable; Non-explosive at normal pressure; and Water-soluble.

Provided InfoC InfoCapture InfoLeakCracks 0.194 ** -0.114 * In industry the capture and compression of CO2 is common practice. The risks associated with capturing CO2 from the production process are well known and managed. If liquid-like CO2 is stored appropriately, there is a very small chance that small quantities of it would leak through poorly sealed wells, tears and cracks in the caprock layer of the underground storage.

Provided InfoD InfoWhatCCS 0.073 ** The same information CCS information provided to all respondents before 1st assessment of opinion on CCS implementation.

Trustworthy source LocalGov 0.064 ** Local/regional government agencies/organisations

NationalPaper Scientist NationalNGO LocalNGO Friend Website UNagency 0.054 * 0.073 ** -0.075 ** -0.054 * -0.059 ** -0.065 ** 0.049 * National newspapers that I read Scientists/researchers National and/or international non-government organisations (NGOs) such as Greenpeace or WWF Local NGOs and/or community groups, residents' associations etc. Friends, neighbours, family Interactive websites (e.g. blogs, wikis etc.) United Nations organisations such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

Information gathering topics Physics News Science 0.043 * 0.036 * 0.061 ** Physics News Science

Demographics Female_dmy -0.045 *

Adjusted R-squared 0.321

Notes: *: significant level below 5% **: significant level below 1%

Variable representing a correct understanding of CO2 (extent of support to correct statement on CO2) Variable representing a misunderstanding of CO2 (extent of support to wrong statement on CO2)

4.3 Effects of provision of CO2 related information on attitudes toward CCS implementation

As for the effects of provision of CO2 related information by experimental condition, the survey results showed that the effects of the information packages were generally weak but constantly significant. Through ANOVA (see Table 2), we found a clear positive effect of the information package of CO2 characteristics (p<0.01), and a clear negative effect of the information package of CO2 natural phenomena (p<0.01) on the change of opinions of CCS implementation. Also, the information package of CO2 behavior in CCS influenced the opinions of CCS implementation in a negative way (p<0.05). No interaction effects were detected in the analyses implying that the effects of information packages appeared in an accumulative way.

Through regression analyses using CCS opinions as dependent variables (see Table 2), we found significant effects of pieces of information in each information package. For example, we found that in the information package of CO2 characteristics, information about CO2 properties was an important piece of information which had a positive effect on respondents' opinion changes on CCS implementation (p<0.01). In the information package of CO2 natural phenomena, information about natural CO2 seepage at Mt Mammoth in the U.S. had a negative effect on opinion change regarding CCS (p<0.01). In the information package about CO2 behavior in CCS, we found that considering information about the possibility of CCS causing earthquakes was important and had a negative effect on opinions about CCS implementation (p<0.01).

Table 2. Effect of information provision on opinions of CCS implementation

Provided info Dependent Change of opinion on Change of opinion on Change of opinion on

package implement (country) implement (onshore) implement (offshore)

Info A ANOVA F 13.537* 7.168* 7.485*

CO2 P-value 0.000 0.007 0.006

characteristics Regression Sign. Var. Property 0.072* Property 0.060* Place 0.071*

Info B ANOVA F 6.623** 7.584** 7.826**

CO2 natural P-value 0.010 0.006 0.005

phenomena Regression Sign. Var. Hot Spring 0.142* Hot Spring 0.132* Hot Spring 0.224*

Mt Mammoth -0.212** Mt Mammoth -0.192** Paint Factory -0.274**

Info C ANOVA F 4.261** 4.664** 2.360

CO2 behavior in P-value 0.039 0.031 0.125

CCS Regression Sign. Var. Cause Earthquakes Transport 0.147*

-.0.056**

Leak Cracks -0.196**

Info D ANOVA F 0.101 2.540 1.142

CCS P-value 0.751 0.111 0.285

information1 Regression Sign. Var. CO2 and CC 0.064*

CCS ANOVA F 2.709 1.775 8.544**

Consequence P-value 0.100 0.183 0.003

(order effect) Regression Sign. Var. CCS Consequence CCS Consequence

-0.056** -0.089**

Adjusted R-squared 0.017 0.015 0.019

1 Whether positive or negative is judged by sign of mean change in each variable * Information is positive and significant (p<0.05 or p<0.01) in regression or in ANOVA. ** Information is negative and significant (p<0.05 or p<0.01) in regression or in ANOVA

5. Discussion and conclusion

In summary, respondents were found to have reasonable general knowledge of CO2 but poor knowledge of some of its scientific dimensions such as flammability and health effects, giving them the opportunity to misunderstand and perceive it incorrectly. Their misperceptions of CO2 were directly related to their misperceptions of CCS, yet only indirectly related to their opinion on CCS implementation. Influences of information provision were statistically significant but weak. Due to the survey's large sample size, these influences could be distinguished. They break down among the general information categories as follows: information on CO2 natural phenomena and CO2 behaviour in CCS had a negative effect, while information on CO2 characteristics (specifically properties and chemistry) had a favourable effect on CCS perceptions and often mitigated the negative effects of the other information.

Based on the research findings, three key recommendations are made. Firstly, efforts to promote dialogue and understanding about CCS should incorporate information on CO2's properties and chemistry. In the absence of knowledge, members of the public may be unclear on how to perceive CO2, and may subscribe to a variety of mistaken beliefs. Secondly, balanced and complete information on CO2's properties should also be made available. When communicating this information, it is important to include CO2's effects on humans and toe environment (e.g. potential for soot-like effects and toxicity). Information regarding CO2's scientific and chemical properties was shown to have a weak but significant positive effect on CCS perceptions. As this research demonstrated, awareness of these topics does not directly imply knowledge, for example, more participants had heard of CCS than had an understanding of CCS. Finally, many members of the public still require basic information on climate change, CCS, and their relationship to CO2 emissions.

Acknowledgements

The researchers would like to thank the support provided to this project from the Global CCS Institute. References

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