On September 26, 2009, residents in 38 countries participated in the first-ever global citizen consultation on climate change, World Wide Views on Global Warming (WWViews). The Phoenix metropolitan area was one of five US sites. Designed to provide a voice to a broad range of citizens from across the world at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15), each WWViews site used identical sets of questions and followed the same method to create comparable feedback and recommendations. Participants were chosen to achieve a demographic approximation of the area in order to achieve a representative voice for the event. Survey instruments determined participants' knowledge before and after the event, including questions about personal involvement about climate change and the impact of the event, as well as nine overlapping questions for comparison. Participants deliberated and voted on 12 questions within four thematic areas: climate change and its consequences; long-term goals and urgency; handling CO2 emissions; and the economy of technology transfer and adaptation (results can be viewed online at www.WWViews.org). They then proposed and prioritized action recommendations for COP15 delegates.
This project uses data from the WWViews Arizona site to analyze the benefits of citizen deliberation to improve public understanding of complex issues, such as climate change and society. Creative methods of participant recruitment were developed to achieve balance of representation across education, race, socioeconomic, age, and geographic factors and the event was run bilingually English-Spanish to facilitate citizen participation. Analysis shows that the citizen forum contributed positively towards educating the participants to become more involved with climate change in their own lives and the community. Results show that before the event, 63% of people believed climate change has had a negative effect on their everyday life, and after the event, that number increased to 72%. Likewise, 94% of participants agreed that citizen action is necessary for change after being part of the deliberation process, and 91% also reported that participation with WWViews “motivated [them] to search for more information on climate change issues in the future.” All 87 participants agreed that the model of WWViews was effective and the application of this model of workshop for other topics would help to inform more citizens about issues related to science and improve citizen engagement to bridge communication gaps.