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Carbon removal demonstrations and problems of public perception

Waller, Laurie, Cox, Emily ORCID: and Bellamy, Rob 2024. Carbon removal demonstrations and problems of public perception. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 15 (1) , e857. 10.1002/wcc.857

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Expectations about the future removal of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere have mobilized projects which seek to demonstrate carbon removal methods, at various stages of development. Public perceptions play a critical role in demonstrations and funders widely require demonstration projects to identify and consult affected groups and communities. This review examines the extant research on perceptions of carbon removal, analyzing how studies have conceptualized the public and the role perceptions play in field trials and experiments of carbon removal methods. The paper develops a novel analytical framework distinguishing between “procedural” and “performative” approaches to demonstrations. Attending to performativity, we suggest, makes clear why demonstration projects often surface conflicting expectations about future technology development. We apply the analytical framework to the academic literature on perceptions of carbon removal using a systematic search and interpretive review. We find that much perceptions research on carbon removal adopts elements from linear models of innovation, foregrounding the problem of social acceptance and distancing the public from experimental presentations and displays. We situate these findings in a discussion of the roles that expectations about carbon removal play in demonstrations and the positioning of perceptions research as a tool for managing “opposition” from external audiences. Moving beyond instrumental approaches to public perception, the review makes the case for closer engagement in perceptions research with conflicting expectations that emerge around projects demonstrating the “promise” of carbon removal.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 1757-7780
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 24 November 2023
Date of Acceptance: 16 August 2023
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2024 15:26

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