Parallel Session: Communicating Climate Engineering

11:00 - 12:30

Come learn about the challenges of communicating climate engineering — and ways of dealing with them.  We’ll discuss lessons learned from communicating about climate change and emerging technologies, and how those apply to communicating about climate engineering with different audiences.



  • Christine Merk - The influence of information on CE technologies on individual mitigation efforts
    • We empirically explore the interaction between individuals’ perceptions of climate engineering (CE) methods and their mitigation efforts. We test whether individuals mitigate less (moral hazard), more (reverse moral hazard), or do not behave differently when informed about the availability of new technologies to counteract climate change. In a large-scale survey experiment, we inform groups of subjects about (1) BECCS, (2) a scenario where stratospheric aerosol injection (SAI) complements mitigation (peak shaving), or (3) a scenario where SAI largely substitutes mitigation. In the analysis we compare the level of mitigation in the three groups to a baseline group which does not receive any information on CE technologies. We observe mitigation behavior via the purchase of voluntary carbon offsets to learn more about the effect of CE perception on mitigation. We extend prior work (Merk et al., 2015) by analyzing the determinants of the trade-off decisions between the technologies and mitigation looking especially at climate change perception and the emotional responses to the technology descriptions and framings.
  • Geraldine Klaus - How psychological variables shape perceived relevance and acceptance of CE-technologies
    • Authors: Geraldine Klaus, Andreas Ernst, Lisa Oswald
    • Acceptance of a technology like CE is more than a matter of do or don’t. An internal structure made up from knowledge, emotions, attitudes, but also of trust in those promoting or running a technology or fairness aspects, among others, eventually lead to an observable acceptance or rejection behaviour. Even this behaviour can take many forms, including simply tolerating the deployment of a technology or overtly fighting for or against it.
      Subjects each received a short information text about one of SAI, BECCS, Mitigation, and BaU scenarios. Temporal and social/spatial psychological distance was varied within each of these. The information given framed the measure so that subjects felt they either personally would suffer from the negative consequences or that someone else (e.g. in a far-away country) would, and that the consequences either would happen very soon or in a distant future. Acceptance itself was measured by integrating a multitude of psychological variables (in a so-called 360° indicator).
      We will present results about the fine-grained acceptance profiles for each scenario that will be indicative of the impact of the different psychological variables. Results will be of importance for the understanding of acceptance processes and their role in risk communication.
  • Shinichiro Asayma - “Fear would do it”: Imagining future catastrophe can bring climate engineering down to earth
    • Communication and psychology scholars often claim that fear appeal is ineffective for public engagement with climate change. Framing climate change as distant and global threat makes people helpless and appealing to fear is seen as counter-productive for motivating behavioral change toward low-carbon lifestyle and creating a transformative power for social change. However, in the context of climate engineering, fear discourse seems to be appealing as the research into climate engineering has often been justified in the name of ‘climate emergency’. Fear of (imagined) climate catastrophe could create the post-political condition, holding up democracy by replacing it with techno-managerial planning. This is perhaps a precarious condition when we talk about climate engineering. That is, fear appeal may bring us into being in the ‘lose-lose’ situation that causes public alienation and inaction on climate mitigation, but at the same time paves the way for techno-fixing the climate as a ‘real’ policy option. To escape from such post-politicization, we have to find the way of communicating climate engineering not in the context of fear and catastrophe but in the context of social transformation and sustainable development.
  • Matthew Kearnes
    • One of the principle effects of what the journalist David Greising (2008) offhandedly terms the ‘carbon frontier’ has been the re-imagination of soil and the geological substrate as a site of promissory and speculative investment. The long-term sequestration of soil carbon is marshalled as a response to a nest of contemporary socio-political and environmental problems. At the same time the management of soil carbon concentrations is increasingly being presented as one of a number of strategies for directly manipulating environmental and climatic systems in responses to global warming; a suite of approaches collectively referred to as climate modification, geoengineering, and negative emission technologies; strategies that are designed to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions and the direct removal of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
      The re-imagination of soil a site of promissory and speculative investment challenge us to reappraise the ways in which we work with soil, both materially and theoretically. While soil rarely figures as an active agent in its own cultivation, or as a home for a multitude of non-human others, viewed – following Pratt (2007) – as an ‘entangled contact zone’ where “disparate cultures meet, clash, and grapple with each other” (p. 4) the carbon frontier appears not simply as a site of market expansion, but as a chaotic and improvised space; an interface between earth and air where a web of aesthetic and ethical sensibilities are at play. Drawing on an ethnographic engagement with 'carbon farming' techniques in this light, I argue that the ‘moral contestation’ of carbon sequestration projects is central to the making of ‘virtuous carbon’ and that by ‘going to ground’ land-based carbon retention practices raise the prospect of, while lacking a means of resolving, questions of ‘good land’ and ‘good soil’. In place of a universalising notion of virtue soil improvement practices are characterised by an improvised land aesthetic, cobbled together in multispecies contact zones and storied landscapes.
Convened by: 

Holly Jean Buck

University of California, Los Angeles
United States of America

Holly Jean Buck is a NatureNet Science Fellow at UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability.  Her research interests include agroecology and climate-smart agriculture, energy landscapes, land use change, new media, and science and technology studies.  At present, she is studying the socio-political feasibility of using solar geoengineering to scale up carbon removal. She has written on several aspects of climate engineering, including humanitarian and development approaches to geoengineering, gender considerations, and the social implications of scaling up negative emissions. She holds a doctorate in Development Sociology from Cornell University and a MSc in Human Ecology from Lund University, Sweden. She lives in Los Angeles, California.


Christine Merk

Kiel Institute for the World Economy

Christine Merk works as a postdoctoral researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. With respect to climate engineering (CE), she researches the trade-offs individuals make between mitigation and CE technologies. Within TOMACE – an interdisciplinary project within the German Priority Programme 1689, Climate Engineering – she conducts economic experiments integrating concepts from the psychology of risk perception to learn more about individuals’ perceptions and reactions to climate engineering. She has a background in political and administration science, and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Kiel University.

Geraldine Klaus

University of Kassel

Geraldine Klaus is a PhD student at the Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), an interdisciplinary research institute of the University of Kassel. She holds a master’s degree in psychology with a special focus on environmental psychology. Her research focuses on lay persons’ perceptions and evaluations of climate engineering technologies and mitigation strategies. Within her current project, she conducts psychological experiments to assess information processing and attitude formation.

Shinichiro Asayma

Waseda University

Shinichiro Asayama is a JSPS research fellow at Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University, Japan. Thorough interpretative social science analysis, his research focuses on studying the role of discourses, framings, narratives, imaginaries and worldviews in shaping public debates around the science-politics interface of climate change, such as the IPCC, CCS and geoengineering.

Aphiya Hathayatham

National Science Museum Thailand

Aphiya Hathayatham is Vice-President of the National Science Museum, Thailand. Since 1996 she has been working as the Director of various divisions of the National Science Museum, Thailand. Before, she held the position of Secretary to the Foreign Affairs Standing Committee, House of Representatives, Thailand. She is a co-opted Council Member in the Executivel Council of Asia-Pacific Network of Science and Technology Centres (ASPAC), member in the Global Network of Science Academies on Science Education Program (IAP SEP Global Council), and Vice Chair of the Association of Academies and Societies of Sciences in Asia (AASSA) Special Committee on SHER Communication (Science, Health, Environment, and Risk).
Aphiya Hathayatham received a Ph.D. in Science Communication from The Australian National University (ANU), Australia. She holds a M.Sc. in Seed Technology from Mississippi State University, USA, and a B.Sc. in Agriculture (Horticulture) from Kasetsart University, Thailand. Hathayatham received the Deepak Rathore International Award for Science Popularization 2015.


Matthew Kearnes

University of New South Wales

Matthew Kearnes is an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and member of the of Environmental Humanities Group at the School of Humanities and Languages, University of New South Wales. Before arriving at UNSW he held post-doctoral positions at the Department of Geography at the Open University and the Centre for the Study of Environmental Change/Department of Sociology at Lancaster University. Most recently he held a Research Councils UK Fellowship at the Institute of Hazard, Risk and Resilience/Department of Geography, Durham University.
Matthew's research is situated between the fields of Science and Technology Studies (STS), human geography and contemporary social theory. His current work is focused on the social and political dimensions of technological and environmental change, including ongoing work on the development of negative emission strategies and soil carbon sequestration. He has published widely on the ways in which the development of novel and emerging technologies is entangled with profound social, ethical and normative questions. Matthew serves on the management committee of the international open-access journal, Environmental Humanities (Duke, and on the advisory panel for Science as Culture (Taylor & Francis) and is an editor of Science, Technology and Society (Sage).