Monday, September 28, 2009

Global citizens deliberate and vote on Global Warming policies

(from the organization's web page)

"On September 26, 2009, World Wide Views on Global Warming (WWViews) organized the first-ever, globe-encompassing democratic deliberation in world history. WWViews enabled roughly 4,400 citizens citizens from 38 countries all over the world to define and communicate their positions on issues central to the UN Climate Change negotiations (COP15), which take place in Copenhagen from December 7 – 18, 2009.

The main objective of WWViews is to give a broad sample of citizens from across the Earth the opportunity to influence global climate policy. An overarching purpose is to set a groundbreaking precedent by demonstrating that political decision-making processes on a global scale benefit when everyday people participate."

I observed the process at the meeting in Boston on Saturday. It was very well organized and exhilarating to behold. The results of all sessions can be found here, presented in ways that make comparisons across countries and regions very easy.

My initial impression of some of the results will, I hope, go up on the "experts blog. Meanwhile, here they are:

The meeting I observed in Boston was a far better example of citizen engagement than the Congressional town hall meeting on health care that I attended this summer. The World Wide Views model of public deliberation is a good one and should be used in a wide variety of issues that concern the global community of nations. While people’s views are fully expressed and respected, the meeting format does not allow obnoxious venting and grandstanding. [Sorry, Fox News.]

The results showed a very strong expression of concern about global warming. There was an overwhelming sense of urgency for achieving a strong climate agreement. In addition there was a pungent message that politicians in all nations must heed the deal made in Copenhagen this December and see that its provisions are put to work in practice.

Perhaps the strongest result was that 89% participants affirmed that short term reductions of carbon emissions in developing countries be reduced by 25-40%. This will come as a shock to world leaders who are aiming at targets much lower than that in the immediate future.

At the same time within the aggregate results, there were some themes that I found moderately worrisome.

A total of 43% of participants world wide seemed to say that a rise of 2 degrees Centigrade or higher is actually permissible. Reading the same figures, however, it’s also true that 89% of participants overall said that no more than 2 degrees increase would be acceptable. [Is the glass half empty or half full?]

2. Another unsettling feature was that among some national groups, raising the price of fossil fuels was not uniformly popular. Some 32% of U.S. participants said no price rise was desirable. Evidently, many Americans want the Age of Happy Motoring to continue. A substantial number people in the groups from Austria, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and UK were also opposed to price hikes on fossil fuels.

3. Finally, I was interested in the data from question 2.4 about whether punitive sanctions should be applied. In the combined groups from the U.S.A., 29% said there should be no sanctions or only symbolic ones. This may be a residual expression of the feeling that rules and penalties made in international treaties don’t really apply to the United States. In contrast, some groups from countries in which democratic institutions are relatively feeble voted very strongly in favor of strategies of punishment.

That’s my first pass through this very interesting collection of data. I invite your thoughts on the matter. Send them to me by email: