An emerging method to store global warming carbon dioxide (CO2) underground faces challenges in gaining public acceptance, especially when the global benefits carry localized costs. A new study on the public acceptance of carbon capture and storage (CCS) in Indiana, a heavily coal-reliant state, shows that capturing carbon emissions and injecting them underground for long-term storage is supported by 80 percent of the population, but about 20 percent of the initial supporters disapprove of the use of the technology if the carbon storage facility would be built close to their homes and communities. Thus, one fifth of the initial supporters exhibit a "NIMBY" or "Not In My Back Yard" response to CCS.
CCS is a technique designed to mitigate climate change by capturing the heat trapping gas carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal plants and storing it deep underground. The technology allows for a more environmentally benign use of fossil fuels, but critics say it may prolong the dependence on coal, divert investment away from renewable energy sources, and burden local communities with costs and health risks. The risks often associated with CCS include CO2 leakage, induced earthquake activity, explosions, and groundwater contamination. Concerns over these risks have led to some NIMBY-like responses and contributed to the cancellation of several planned CCS facilities in Europe.
The study of communities in Indiana, entitled "Not In (or Under) My Backyard: Geographic Proximity and Public Acceptance of Carbon Capture and Storage Facilities," found that world views, perceived economic benefits from CCS, and concerns about safety are the major factors that determine public acceptance of siting facilities nearby. The research, led by Rachel Krause from the School of Public Affairs and Administration at the University of Kansas, in collaboration with Sanya Carley, David Warren and John Graham, all from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, and John Rupp from the Indiana Geological Survey, was recently published online in the Society of Risk Analysis' journal Risk Analysis.
The team surveyed over a thousand Indiana residents using the Indiana University Energy, Climate and Environment Survey. The survey was used to determine whether factors such as demographics, home ownership, perception of risks, perception of economic benefits, and worldviews (or cultural biases) might affect individuals' acceptance or NIMBY reactions toward a proposed local CCS facility.
Previous research suggests that acceptance of climate change and new technologies can be predicted by the "individualist," "hierarchical," or "egalitarian" worldviews conceptualized by the scholars Douglas and Wildavsky. Individualists support new technologies that may drive economic growth. People with a hierarchical worldview tend to follow the opinions of experts and will support technology if it is recommended by credible officials. The egalitarians see inequality as the largest risk to society; because climate change is expected to disproportionately affect the poor, egalitarians are likely to support CCS and the location of CCS facilities will not affect this support.
The study authors found that respondents' worldviews are good predictors of CCS support and NIMBY reactions. As predicted, an egalitarian viewpoint was associated with increased likelihood of support for nearby facilities. Respondents with an individualistic worldview were significantly less likely to display a NIMBY sentiment, perhaps because individualists may view CCS positively as a market-based response to climate change. Demographic variables such as age, race, income and political views did not strongly predict respondents' attitudes toward CCS. The strongest predictor of support of CCS was individuals' expectation that it would generate economic development which overcame potential NIMBY responses for most participants.
Although Indiana is average with respect to income, poverty, and population growth compared to the other 49 states, it is politically conservative and currently has no climate-related initiatives or credit-trading programs. Given the sampling of individuals in Indiana, the authors caution that the results cannot be extrapolated to other states or communities, nationally or globally. The authors suggest that future studies should ask about individuals' acceptance of CCS facilities at a number of specific distances.
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