Conclusions

Geological storage has the potential to be a very valuable technology to help us face the problems that arise from excess CO2 in the atmosphere. At the moment, however, not only the great majority of the general public but also many relevant stakeholders know very little or nothing about it.

The scientific concepts and data that support this technology are not yet integrated into everyday culture. The way people are going to understand and react when coming in contact with this technology needs to be studied. This is particularly true for people who might be directly involved (because they are living in a potential site area) and for all stakeholders (that is the decision-makers who have the power to implement CO2GS).

The moment is favourable. Since the matter is for most totally new, there is the opportunity to reach the public with correct information without it already being prejudiced. This same fact, though, makes it particularly difficult to find the right communication channel that can prevent negative reactions and enhance learning and understanding.

CO2GS is just one aspect of the efforts that are being made to face climate change and that part of it that depends on human activities. It is a potential technology that people need to learn more about, as part of a wider range of measures that can be adopted (Shackley et al., 2004). An organised image strategy is desirable both to meet the demands of stakeholders and the public, and to help the scientific community in the effort of communicating.

Stakeholders acceptance and understanding is the basis for a social decisional process that correctly evaluates advantages and disadvantages of each possible solution. It is essential to understand that cultural dimensions play a fundamental role in social decisional processes. When the gap between new concepts and the current way of thinking is large, it may be very difficult to recognise the social relevance of new technologies and solutions.

The implementation of CO2GS requires the construction of a context where all different social parties, all stakeholders, can meet and elaborate together a new cultural dimension that takes into account all available information and "reads" it in the light of shared feelings and impressions. This kind of process forms the basis for the understanding of what we, as society, really consider valuable and therefore worth achieving.

The study of psycho-social representations can provide a starting point for such new context, in that it brings to light at least some aspects of the network of thoughts and feelings that are socially shared on a certain subject in a certain social group. In so doing, new symbolic representations and new cognitive networks are stimulated and a new culture can develop where climate change, geological storage and CO2 issues are presented in such a way that everybody is enabled to understand what is being discussed and which solutions are wise to choose.

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