Dr. Kaitlin Raimi is an assistant professor of public policy at the Ford School, and she is also a member of our Global CO2 Initiative Research Team. Learn more about Dr. Raimi’s perspective on this growing industry and how we can better integrate carbon technology and policy going forward.
Q: What does your research or portfolio currently focus on?
A: I’m a social and environmental psychologist who studies climate-related communication, how people compare their beliefs to others, and how one environmental action or policy affects subsequent actions and policy support. My colleagues and I have run a number of studies testing how members of the general public think about carbon removal technologies, including whether learning about these technologies affects support for policies such as carbon taxes. We also study how individuals’ aversion to tampering with the natural world plays a role in their support for carbon removal efforts.
Q: What role do you think carbon technology plays in climate mitigation policies?
A: One worry I have is that carbon technology could make people feel complacent about the need for climate mitigation policies. My own research has found some evidence that members of the public treat these technologies as if they were silver bullets that fixed the problem of climate change on their own, which then dampens their support for climate policies. However, my own research (and that of others) also gives me hope: simply changing the message to explain more accurately how these technologies are useful but insufficient tends to wipe away these negative consequences. Thus, I think it is incredibly important that policymakers, researchers, and companies hoping to use these technologies are clear in their communication about them in that they are an important piece of the bigger puzzle to mitigate climate change.
Q: What real world application or sector(s) do you see your research having the most impact on?
A: I hope that my research is useful to policymakers and technologists who are eager to promote carbon technologies without causing unintended consequences to other climate mitigation. It is also helpful for understanding how different segments of the public might react to these technologies.
Q: How do students react to your work or this climate mitigation approach in general?
A: Most people, including students, have never heard of this approach before. Upon hearing about it, they often get excited at the possibilities it opens up, both in terms of the technological possibilities and the interplay between this technology and climate policies (I teach in a public policy school, after all). Some are eager to believe that these technologies will magically fix climate change, while others are very skeptical of any technological fix to such a big problem.
Q: What advice do you have for technologists or entrepreneurs starting off in this field
A: I would urge people to consider how these technologies will be perceived by the general public, policymakers, and other decision-makers. I also urge them to be careful not to oversell any technology as a silver bullet in order to avoid undermining support for other climate mitigation policies.