PERCCSEPTIONS addresses one of the most pressing issues regarding climate mitigation: What affects the public acceptability of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in society?
The issue is pressing because all scenarios predicting less than 2°C increase in global mean surface temperature presume large-scale implementation of negative emissions technologies. CCS is the only technology ready for large-scale implementation globally. In Europe, ongoing and recent CCS projects are facing major barriers due to public opposition. The opposition is particularly strong against projects seeking to store carbon below populated areas, which is arguably an important reason for increased attention to offshore storage among policymakers and industries. Yet, for the moment, there is – to our knowledge – no scientific evidence of a causal relationship between offshore storage and CCS acceptance. Large-scale CCS projects will not only handle domestic carbon dioxide (CO2), but CO2 will be imported from foreign emitters to fill storage sites. Offshore storage on the continental shelves of the UK and Norway have been identified as areas with high potential, in part because empty oil wells in the North Sea can be used. CO2 will have to be transported by ship or pipelines under pressure from major emitters in other European countries. Transportation is thus an important factor in our analyses. We argue that it is reasonable to expect that the “nationality of emissions” will affect the acceptance of CCS, and that the potential effects of foreign versus domestic emissions have not yet been examined in the CCS perceptions literature.
We build on construal level theory and hypothesizes CCS acceptance under varying conditions regarding onshore/offshore storage of foreign/domestic carbon on foreign/domestic territory. The theoretical framework of construal-levels is suitable for our analysis because it predicts risk prone behavior based on social and spatial distances, which we operationalize as the conditions mentioned above.
Moreover, we test these hypotheses using country-comparative survey experiments in Norway and Germany. To analyze CCS acceptance properly, we must also examine if CCS tends to crowd out other mitigation alternatives. It is for example possible that the public sees less value in developing renewable energy if CCS is feasible, which is an example of the “moral hazard argument”. Yet, another strand of research suggests that worries about climate change can lead to apathy and reluctance toward conventional mitigation efforts. By implication, “perceived efficacy” – belief that one can solve a problem – may increase if CCS is accepted as a feasible and effective mitigation effort. Although the three perspectives, construal-levels, moral hazards and perceived efficacy, partially contradict each other, existing experimental research does not account for each perspective simultaneously. Analyzing European CCS acceptance will therefore not only provide knowledge that is critical for realizing a specific innovation; it taps into cruxes of human behavior in the context of large-scale collective action dilemmas, of which solutions would contribute to accelerated sustainable development.
1. Does acceptance of large-scale CCS storage depend on where the emissions come from (i.e., whether they are domestic or imported)?
2. Does CCS acceptance depend on whether CO2 is stored onshore or offshore?
3. Does the prospect of exporting CO2 to other jurisdictions (specifically: from Germany to Norway) affect acceptance of CCS (for example, because distance reduces perceived risk, or inversely, due to fairness concerns)?
4. Does the presentation of CCS as a mitigation option crowd out acceptance of other mitigation efforts?
5. Alternatively, does the prospect of CCS enhance efficacy and reduce worry about climate change?