Discussions, opinions and decisions regarding options for mitigating greenhouse gas emissions are often underpinned by an assumption that people know what carbon dioxide (CO2) is and how it behaves. Nevertheless, there has been little empirical evidence to suggest this is actually the case. Renewable energy technologies as well as technologies such as CO2 capture and storage (CCS) present potential solutions for mitigating the anthropogenic emissions of CO2. In discussions and information provided on climate change and mitigation technologies, CO2 is referred to regularly, particularly in regards to CCS, as CO2 is the fundamental underpinnings of the technology. Yet surprisingly little research has investigated levels of knowledge and understanding of CO2 and how this affects perceptions and understanding of energy technologies, especially CCS. With a sample of 2470 participants from three countries (Australia, the Netherlands and Japan), our research found respondents had a general understanding of CO2 but poor knowledge of its scientific dimensions. These misperceptions were directly related to misperceptions of CCS, yet indirectly related to their opinion on the implementation of the technology. It was found that providing information on the scientific characteristics of CO2 reduced misunderstanding of CCS and mitigated some change in opinion formation on CCS implementation. Overall, our research demonstrated that assumed knowledge of CO2 in the general public is partially flawed and has the potential to impact future dialogue and uptake of mitigation options.
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