10.3 Improving understanding of CCS

Although the CCS industry is demonstrating a growing recognition of the importance of engaging with communities and other interested and influential stakeholders, multiple public opinion surveys and workshop results have shown that CCS remains a relatively unknown quantity with the wider public (Itaoka et al. 2012, Reiner et al. 2006 and de Best-Waldhober et al. 2008).

Despite its potential to make a substantial impact on future CO2 emissions (IEA 2012b), CCS suffers from something of an image problem: it is not a renewable energy technology and therefore is not as palatable for political sound bites; it is not a single piece of technology that can be easily packaged and encapsulated in nice imagery; its relationship with fossil fuels creates an uneasy tension with environmental activists; it is easily confused with extraction technologies such as CSG; and an understanding of the relative cost and risks associated with CCS in comparison to other low-carbon technologies requires a level of scientific literacy and familiarity with complex energy markets.

Research emerging from a CSIRO-led international study into people’s perceptions of CO2, and the implications for their acceptance of CCS, highlights a fundamental lack of knowledge about the basic properties and behaviour of CO2 among the general public (including its role in anthropogenic climate change) (Itaoka et al. 2012). The results of interviews and focus groups held in Japan, the Netherlands, and Australia revealed a tendency to perceive CO2 negatively as toxic and harmful. Common misperceptions shared by survey respondents included the belief that CO2 had qualities similar to air pollution or soot and that it could be flammable or explosive.

Among the key recommendations in the report is a reminder to those communicating about CCS not to assume prior knowledge.

”Many members of the public still require basic information on climate change, CCS, and their relationship to CO2 emissions. Awareness of these topics does not directly imply knowledge, as for example, more participants indicated having heard of CCS than did actually understand what it is.“

Itaoka et al. (2010, p10).

There is also a recommendation to consider the sources and style of information being presented on CCS, recommending a softer, education-based approach for harder-to-reach stakeholders.

”Additional CCS education and outreach campaigns should be planned through less formal mechanisms. Given a correlation between trust in informal sources and poorer understanding of CCS, sole reliance on formal information and communication sources (i.e. public sector organisations, local government, national newspapers, and scientists) may not reach the people with the poorest understanding of CCS, who instead place their trust in NGOs, friends, and the internet.“

Itaoka et al. (2012, p10).

Cambridge University’s recent survey of current global CCS communication highlighted that there had been improvements since the last survey in 2008, but that there is still a technical bias in most communication, with little attention to the socio-economic issues around CCS deployment (Corry and Reiner 2011).

The Cambridge survey findings also supported a CSIRO study into CCS education materials available worldwide, acknowledging that while there were a growing variety of online education resources and a few bespoke examples of CCS education materials, very few attempted to create resources that could be meaningfully integrated into a teaching curriculum. Both studies highlighted the need for educational resources created by independent bodies, which included teaching strategies and learning support for teachers, and consider the social, political, environmental, and economic aspects of CCS as well as the technical components.

CARBONKIDS

In August 2012 the Global CCS Institute launched its first set of CCS education materials. Both the primary and secondary school curriculum resources and supporting teacher notes are available to download from the Institute’s website.

The materials were created by CSIRO in response to a global review of publicly available CCS education resources, which exposed a gap in knowledge, with teachers reporting a particular lack of confidence in teaching students about CCS and low-carbon technologies (Colliver et al. 2011).

CSIRO program developer, Angela Colliver, explained:

”For teachers to have trust in these resources, it was essential to prove that they were scientifically sound and easily adapted to fit within a school’s existing curriculum activities. These resources use the latest science and inquiry-based learning methodologies to inspire students to do their own research and learn more about climate change and the potential role of low-emissions technologies in a low-carbon future.“

The Global CCS Institute resources underwent extensive reviews by scientific and educational experts, as well as classroom trials in both Australian and international schools and use a teaching methodology known as ‘enquiry-based learning’ to encourage students to self-research to form and justify their own opinions. In Australia, the resources were fully integrated into CSIRO’s sustainability program for schools, ‘Carbon. Kids’.

Although the resources were specifically mapped to fit the Australian national curriculum, they are easily transferable to most modern curricula. The Global CCS Institute is currently developing plans to trial an international support system for educators looking to incorporate CCS resources into their national or regional curricula.

FIGURE 73 Year 6 students from St Anne’s School, Western Australia, demonstrating CCS using household items.

A number of challenges remain for public engagement around CCS, and most are inextricably linked to the challenges facing CCS development more generally. These are improving understanding of CCS and the need to consider low-carbon technologies in a future energy mix, making the business case for CCS at both a local and national level, and providing tangible demonstration experience to improve industry, government, and public confidence in both the commercial and technical viability of the technology.

However, it is encouraging that best practice guidance, rooted in actual demonstration experience, is beginning to emerge. It is even more encouraging that projects appear to be using at least elements of this guidance to improve the sophistication and quality of their public engagement and communication strategies.

Just as public engagement strategies have to be flexible and evolve as situations change, it is essential that effort is undertaken to monitor and capture learning from demonstration projects currently using best practice guidance to engage with stakeholders. Only by maintaining this continual loop of knowledge-sharing can we improve and adapt public engagement activities and ultimately improve public understanding of CCS and its crucial role in a low-carbon energy future.