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Communities conditionally support deployment of direct air capture for carbon dioxide removal in the United States

The cover of the academic journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment
April 2024
Celina Scott-Buechler
Khalid Osman
Nicole M. Ardoin
Catherine Fraser
Grace Adcox
Emily Polk
Robert B. Jackson
Publication Documents


Direct air capture has gained traction as a method for carbon dioxide removal. How and whether direct air capture can be deployed requires securing social license to operate, and increasingly demands environmental justice and just transition principles. Here we use a nationally representative survey to evaluate public perceptions of direct air capture, paired with focus groups to assess community perceptions across four communities in the United States: Houston, Texas; Monaca, Pennsylvania; Bakersfield, California; and Rock Springs, Wyoming. We find conditional support for direct air capture deployment among focus group participants, and majority support for direct air capture deployment among national survey respondents. The most important determinants of project support were procedural justice elements—in particular community involvement in planning and implementation—and anticipated community benefits in the forms of local infrastructure and workforce development, supporting the need to center environmental justice and just transition principles into project planning and implementation. Where concerns over environmental and health implications are strong, direct air capture may not gain local social license to operate, especially in communities with previous negative experiences with industry.