Climate experts’ views on geoengineering depend on their beliefs about climate change impacts

Abstract

Damages due to climate change are expected to increase with global warming, which could be limited directly by solar geoengineering. Here we analyse the views of 723 negotiators and scientists who are involved in international climate policy-making and who will have a considerable influence on whether solar geoengineering will be used to counter climate change. We find that respondents who expect severe global climate change damages and who have little confidence in current mitigation efforts are more opposed to geoengineering than respondents who are less pessimistic about global damages and mitigation efforts. However, we also find that respondents are more supportive of geoengineering when they expect severe climate change damages in their home country than when they have more optimistic expectations for the home country. Thus, when respondents are more personally affected, their views are closer to what rational cost–benefit analyses predict.

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Fig. 1: Scientific estimates and expectations of the respondents of climate change impacts in their home country.
Fig. 2: Comparison of geoengineering with conventional mitigation and adaptation.
Fig. 3: Predicted probability of supporting geoengineering depending on the beliefs of respondents about climate change impacts.

Data availability

The dataset necessary to reproduce the findings of this study is publicly available at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3341559. The data used from BHM can be accessed at https://web.stanford.edu/~mburke/climate/data.html. The data for the ND-GAIN index can be accessed at https://gain.nd.edu/our-work/country-index/. Data for GDP per capita in 2015 are from the World Bank’s Development Indicators and are available at https://databank.worldbank.org/data/source/world-development-indicators. Data for CO2 per capita in 2015 are from the European Commission and are available at http://edgar.jrc.ec.europa.eu/overview.php?v=CO2andGHG1970-2016.

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Acknowledgements

The work was financially supported by the European Union Horizon 2020 Program, Action ERC-2014-STG, Project HUCO, grant number 636746.

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A.D. and S.Z. contributed equally to this work.

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Correspondence to Astrid Dannenberg.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information: Nature Climate Change thanks Karen Parkhill, Michael Siegrist and Gernot Wagner for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Note 1, Tables 1–10, Fig. 1, methods and references.

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Dannenberg, A., Zitzelsberger, S. Climate experts’ views on geoengineering depend on their beliefs about climate change impacts. Nat. Clim. Chang. 9, 769–775 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-019-0564-z

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