Using market research methodologies to advance public engagement with emerging climate technologies : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy via publication in Marketing at Massey University, Manawatū, New Zealand

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Carlisle, Daniel
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Massey University
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The world is facing an unprecedented climate emergency that threatens humanity and global ecosystems. To help avoid some of the worst impacts, scientists are developing innovative technologies for addressing rising greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. However, in the early stages of research and development, the effectiveness, consequences, and desirability of implementing these technologies remains highly uncertain. Early public engagement is therefore critical for ensuring research and development pathways are acceptable to society. Currently, it remains unclear how best to engage the public on a global scale; an issue addressed in this thesis by drawing on theories and methodologies applied in the marketing discipline to advance the field of public engagement. The core methodology draws on marketing theories and measurement metrics by drawing on associative network theories of memory (ANTM) to model cognitive associations (i.e., public perceptions) with unfamiliar concepts. Study One is a replication and extension of work by (Wright, Teagle, & Feetham, 2014) and uses qualitative and quantitative methods to measure public perceptions of six climate engineering technologies across countries and over time. The results show strong perceptual differences between technologies, but remarkable consistency between countries and over time. This consistency validates the cognitive association method as a robust tool for rapid public engagement and tracking perceptions as they evolve. Study Two builds on Study One by drawing on additional dual processing theories and using an experimental design to test how citizens form opinions about emerging climate technologies. Contrary to concerns that survey methods elicit insufficiently considered responses, the study finds that citizens rely on rapid, snap judgements to form opinions, and that encouraging more thorough consideration does not affect their responses. Thus, the research further validates the use of survey methodologies for public engagement. Study Three shifts focus, measuring perceptions of alternative fuels for decarbonising the shipping industry – a previously unresearched topic. The study is also the first to use a mixed-method approach to modelling cognitive associations in academic literature. Again, the quantitative findings showed strong, previously-unknown differences in perceptions between alternative fuels. Furthermore, the qualitative analysis supplemented these findings with rich insights into the drivers behind differing public perceptions. This thesis makes several notable contributions: Practically, the results demonstrate the public’s consistent preference for Carbon Dioxide Removal over Solar Radiation Management, their cautious support for carbon capture technologies, a strong distaste for stratospheric aerosol injection and ammonia as a shipping fuel, a striking preference for nuclear propulsion over heavy fuel oil, support for hydrogen and biofuel powered shipping, support for local implementation of alternative shipping fuels, and conditional support for small-scale research into acceptable emerging technologies. Theoretically, the research advances ANTM and dual processing theories in the context of emerging technologies, yielding results that are broadly applicable to not only public engagement with science, but also market research, brand tracking, and consumer judgement. Methodologically, the research validates cognitive association methods for cross-country public engagement, demonstrates the ability to track perceptions over time, and demonstrates a mixed-method approach to modelling cognitive associations. Finally, the research demonstrates the importance of conducting early and ongoing public engagement to identify acceptable decarbonisation pathways, guide research trajectories, and inform climate policy.
Listed in 2022 Dean's List of Exceptional Theses
Climate change mitigation, Technological innovations, Public opinion, Marketing research, Methodology, Dean's List of Exceptional Theses