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Project: Public Awareness of Carbon Capture and Storage: A Survey of Attitudes toward Climate Change Mitigation

Research Team: Tom Curry, Steven Ansolabehere and Howard Herzog

Sponsors: Carbon Sequestration Initiative and The Alliance for Global Sustainability

Year: 2004

The Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies Program in the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment at MIT conducted a survey of public attitudes on energy use and environmental concerns. Over 1,200 people, representing a general population sample of the United States, responded. The survey asked a representative sample of the American public seventeen questions about the environment, global warming, and climate change-mitigation technologies. 

The analysis in this thesis uses the survey responses to draw conclusions about the level of public understanding and awareness of global climate change and carbon dioxide capture and storage and to suggest implications for public outreach.

The survey results show that carbon dioxide capture and storage and carbon sequestration are largely unknown to the general public, and there is significant confusion over which environmental issue the technology is intended to address. The environment is not a top priority for the U.S. public, and global warming is not the top environmental concern, even for those concerned about the environment.

The public’s willingness to pay to solve global warming increases when an individual is concerned about the environment or believes that immediate action is necessary to address global warming.  An experiment within the survey shows that a large portion of the public supports investment in renewable energy technologies but that support decreases when cost information for all climate mitigation technologies is provided.

Curry, T.E., D.M. Reiner, S. Ansolabehere and H.J. Herzog, "How Aware is the Public of Carbon Capture and Storage?" presented at the Seventh International Conference on Greenhouse Gas Control Technologies, Vancouver, Canada, September (2004). <PDF>

Curry, T.E., "Public Awareness of Carbon Capture and Storage: A Survey of Attitudes toward Climate Change Mitigation," M.I.T. Masters Thesis, June (2004). <PDF>