Funding Award: Responses to Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage

Dr Leslie Mabon, in the School of Applied Social Studies has been awarded funding from the UK CCS Research Centre to assess stakeholder and citizen responses to carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) in Japan. CCS is a technology that has the potential to help mitigate climate change by capturing carbon dioxide emissions from coal- and gas-burning power stations and industrial sources, and injecting this carbon dioxide into geological structures deep underground.

Whilst there is good scientific consensus that CCS can be undertaken safely, understanding how communities adjacent to projects and those with a legitimate interest in the environment feel about large-scale environmental projects like this is of the utmost importance. This is especially true in Japan, where there is high awareness of the risks seismic activity can pose to energy infrastructure.

During 2016 Leslie will be interviewing stakeholders and community members in and around the Tomakomai project in Hokkaido, north Japan – one of the world’s first large-scale demonstrations of CCS ‘in action’.

Leslie is working with the CO2 Storage Research Group at the Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth (RITE) in Kyoto, Japan. RITE are a government-funded research institution with extensive research experience in assessing technologies with the potential to mitigate climate change, and are one of the leading Japanese research institutions when it comes to CCS. Dr Jun Kita is a co-investigator in the project – and is a senior researcher within the group who has been involved in work of this nature in both Japan and Scotland.

As CCS is at the demonstration and early deployment stage, there are very few opportunities worldwide to study how communities and stakeholders will react to real world large-scale projects – hence this is a very rare and unique chance to generate social data from CCS deployment. Furthermore, Japanese society is well aware of the risks that can arise when seismic activity, energy and the sea come together, so there is potential to learn a lot of lessons about how to deploy a piece of environmental infrastructure potentially perceived as ‘risky’ in a challenging social context. This research will build on similar work undertaken by Leslie in Scotland over the last few years, and the hope is that this will be of interest to policymakers, developers and environmental organisations currently grappling with the question of how – if at all – to deploy CCS in Europe.

Leslie says, ” Virtually all of the CO2 Storage Research Group members are physical scientists, so I’m very much looking forward to teaching them about social science research and also deepening my own understanding of the ‘science’ behind my research.”

While Leslie is in northern Japan he will also be running a three-day workshop that brings together Japan and Scotland-based social scientists working on environmental issues.  The workshop is funded by the GB Sasakawa Foundation and will be run in collaboration with researchers at Hokkaido University led by Prof Taisuke Miyauchi.  This will give Leslie an opportunity to present the first findings from his fieldwork.  Fellow School of Applied Social Sciences researcher Dr Natascha Mueller-Hirth will also travel to Japan to join Leslie for the workshop.  Follow Leslie on twitter @ljmabon and his blog