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Community Deliberation to Build Local Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation: The Rural Climate Dialogues Program

Part of the Climate Change Management book series (CCM)

Abstract

Apathy and skepticism about climate change make mobilizing collective action for adaptation difficult in rural areas of the US. This paper evaluates the potential for deliberative public engagement to overcome these obstacles through a case study of the Rural Climate Dialogues (RCD) program. A Rural Climate Dialogue (RCD) convenes a demographically and politically representative group of residents for three days of deliberation about the local impacts of climate change and about how their community can adapt. Following the Citizens Jury model, participants spend three days hearing expert testimony, deliberating together to identify elements of their community that are threatened by climate change, and devising recommendations for individual and community actions that can enhance their community’s climate resilience. Drawing on case studies of RCDs in three Minnesota communities, this evaluation finds that participating in an RCD reduces skepticism about climate change and increases beliefs that the local community can and should take action. Further, these dialogues spur collective action by setting clear, public goals and building support for direct involvement from community leaders and public officials. This success suggests that deliberative public engagement can be a useful tool for adaptation planning in rural communities and other areas where apathy and skepticism are significant barriers.

Keywords

  • Climate change adaptation
  • Deliberation
  • Public engagement
  • Citizens Jury
  • Rural climate adaptation

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Fig. 2.1

Notes

  1. 1.

    See, for example, Fishkin (2009) and Myers and Mendelberg (2013) in political science, Gastil and Black (2007) in communications, Forester (1999) in planning, and De Vries et al. (2011) in health policy.

  2. 2.

    For a related argument see Brulle (2010).

  3. 3.

    Though the community jury is the main public deliberative activity of the Rural Climate Dialogues process, high school students are also engaged in deliberation to advance the perspectives of young people in the community. In an abbreviated deliberative process over the course of many class periods, students hear from experts and develop their own priorities for addressing climate change. Depending on the timing of student deliberation, their priorities are either presented to the community jury or incorporated into the community report.

  4. 4.

    For the full list of findings and recommendations from each jury, see http://www.ruralclimatenetwork.org/content/rural-climate-dialogues.

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Acknowledgements

The authors acknowledge the funding of the McKnight Foundation and the Carolyn Foundation in support of this project.

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Correspondence to C. Daniel Myers .

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Appendix 1: Survey Items

Appendix 1: Survey Items

Items measuring deliberative quality (all responses on 1–5 scale “Strongly Disagree”—“Disagree”—“Neither Agree Nor Disagree”—“Agree”—“Strongly Agree”)

To what extend do you agree or disagree with each statement below:

  1. 1.

    I am more informed about the challenges and options for addressing this issue.

  2. 2.

    People at this meeting listened to one another respectfully and courteously.

  3. 3.

    Other participants seemed to hear and understand my views.

  4. 4.

    The meeting today was fair and unbiased. No particular view was favored.

  5. 5.

    Even when I disagreed with them, most people made reasonable points and tried to make serious arguments.

Items measuring agreement with recommendations (all responses on 1–5 scale “Strongly Disagree”—“Disagree”—“Neither Agree Nor Disagree”—“Agree”—“Strongly Agree”)

  1. 1.

    I personally agree with the recommendations produced at this meeting.

  2. 2.

    I can live with the recommendations produced at this meeting, including any that I disagree with.

Item measuring satisfaction with information (1–5 scale “Very Dissatisfied”—“Dissatisfied”—“Neutral”—“Satisfied”—“Very Satisfied”

To what extent are you satisfied with the information presented overall?

Items measuring effectiveness of facilitation (all responses on 1–5 scale “Very ineffective”—“Somewhat ineffective”—“Neither”—“Somewhat effective”—“Very effective”)

How effective were the facilitators for the Climate Dialogue at:

  1. 1.

    Keeping the group on task.

  2. 2.

    Making sure that everyone was heard.

  3. 3.

    Remaining neutral (not expressing their opinions).

Items measuring views on likelihood of climate change (all responses on 1–5 scale “Extremely Unlikely”—“Unlikely”—“Neither Likely nor Unlikely”—“Likely”—“Extremely Likely”)

How likely do you think it is that the following things will happen?

  1. 4.

    The number of extreme weather events in <location> will increase in the coming years.

  2. 5.

    Climate patterns in <location> will experience major shifts in the coming years.

Items measuring whether entities can and should take action (all responses on 1–5 scale “Strongly Disagree”—“Disagree”—“Neither Agree Nor Disagree”—“Agree”—“Strongly Agree”)

Please indicate the extent to which you agree with each statement.

  1. 1.

    There are actions that <entity> can take that will address these risks.

  2. 2.

    <Entity> should take action to address these risks.

Repeated for “I,” “the <location> community,” “local government in <location>,” and “Minnesota state government.”

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Myers, C.D., Ritter, T., Rockway, A. (2017). Community Deliberation to Build Local Capacity for Climate Change Adaptation: The Rural Climate Dialogues Program. In: Leal Filho, W., Keenan, J. (eds) Climate Change Adaptation in North America. Climate Change Management. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53742-9_2

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