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Public More Concerned About CO2 Removal Techniques that Tamper with Nature

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Public support for different methods of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere depends in part on the extent to which they’re seen to tamper with nature, a group of four researchers concludes in a new paper.

The team led by environmental psychologist Kim Wolske surveyed 980 U.S. adults to look at three factors that might affect their response to carbon removal: different activities’ perceived impact on nature, the extent to which individuals were uncomfortable with those activities, and information about the risks and benefits associated with each CO2 removal strategy.

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Support for bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and direct air capture (DAC) was lower than support for afforestation and reforestation (AR), as BECCS and DAC were perceived to tamper with nature more,” they write in the journal Climatic Change. “These effects were particularly strong among individuals generally opposed to the idea of humans interfering with natural processes.”

The survey showed that efforts to explain the risks and benefits of carbon dioxide removal actually “dampen” support, Wolske and colleagues add. “For AR and BECCS, this effect was again mediated through perceptions of tampering,” they write. “For DAC, the effect of describing these trade-offs appeared to operate independently of perceived tampering.”

The researchers conclude with a call for policy-makers and science communicators to be careful about how they describe carbon removal strategies to the public.