Climate risk governance trust and public engagement
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Climate Risk Governance, Trust and Public Engagement. Successes, Failures and Imperatives at the Intersection of Climate Change, Technology and Society. June 7, 2011. Susanne C. Moser, Ph.D. Stanford University • Susanne Moser Research & Consulting • UC-Santa Cruz

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Climate risk governance trust and public engagement

Climate Risk Governance, Trust and Public Engagement

Successes, Failures and

Imperatives at the Intersection of

Climate Change, Technology and Society

June 7, 2011

Susanne C. Moser, Ph.D.

Stanford University • Susanne Moser Research & Consulting • UC-Santa Cruz

NAE Workshop on Climate Change, Engineered Systems and Society • Irvine, CA

Governance at the climate technology society interface

Governance at the Climate-Technology-Society Interface

Savior, Trojan Horse or Lead Ball

on a Sinking Ship?

A quick lesson in physics

A Quick Lesson in Physics

Give me a lever long enough,

and a fulcrum on which to place it,

and I shall move the world.


(287 BC – c. 212 BC)


- A lever helps to move a big object (placed near a pivot point) by exerting

only a small force (applied from a longer distance from the pivot point).

- The longer the lever, the smaller the force needed to move an object of a

given weight.

- The fulcrum is what focuses and multiplies the force applied to the object

that is to be moved.

Source: Moser (2009) in Adger et al, Adapting to Climate Change: Thresholds, Values, Governance.

The levers determinants of mitigative and adaptive capacity

The Levers: Determinants of Mitigative and Adaptive Capacity

  • Economic resources

  • Technology

  • Information, knowledge and skills

  • Infrastructure

  • Institutions

  • Equitable access to the above

  • Social capital

    (Commonly, variable across space, time, sectors, and social groupings)

(e.g., Smit, Pilifosova, et al. 2001; Yohe and Tol 2002; Adger et al. 2007)

The fulcrum governance

The Fulcrum: Governance

= The set of decisions, actors, processes, institutional structures and mechanisms (incl. decision authority and underlying norms) involved in determining a course of action.

  • More than institutional analysis

  • More than “government” – i.e., not restricted to public-sector actors, but all actors involved

  • Dialectic tension between structure and agency

  • Decisions and decision-makers are central

Need for a critical examination of our true ability to govern climate risks

Need for a Critical Examination of Our True Ability to Govern Climate Risks

  • Concern with the fast pace of climate change, abrupt climatic shifts – failure to respond so far and specter of needed response

  • Persistent and growing gap between rich and poor, in any country

  • High societal vulnerability to climate extremes even in developed countries

  • Enormous system lags in social systems

  • Impatience with the rather slow response of national and local governments to climate change impacts to date

  • Critique of the almost exclusive emphasis on response capacity while neglecting the question of use and realization of that capacity in actual response actions

Source: Moser (2009) in Adger et al, Adapting to Climate Change: Thresholds, Values, Governance.

Our oh so capable governance systems

Our oh-so-capable governance systems

Governance barriers at the federal state and local levels

Governance Barriers at the Federal, State, and Local Levels

  • Legal obstacles

  • Lack of mitigation/ adaptation mandates or policy guidance

  • Lack of state-, regionally-, or locally- specific scientific information

  • Lack of public awareness, engagement, pressure

  • Lack of leadership

  • Political opposition

  • Ignorance

  • Lack of intra- and interagency coordination, collaboration and communication, incl. across scale

  • Lack of funding

  • Competing priorities

(Source: Moser & Ekstrom, PNAS 2010)

Transferable lessons from a governance perspective

Transferable Lessons from a Governance Perspective

  • Capacity constraints are pervasive

  • Leadership and agency/organizational culture are crucial

  • Departmental divisions and stovepipes within any level of government

  • Cross-scale interaction and coordination very limited

  • Cross-scale impediments through regulation, policies at cross-purposes, counter-productive incentives, perverse subsidies, lack of coordination and communication

  • Regional cooperation is necessary, but often mechanisms are not yet established

  • Governmental devolution (“new public management “) has magnified problems

  • Current budget crisis multiplies problems

Effective governance the art and skill of turning capacity into action

Effective Governance: The Art and Skill of Turning Capacity into Action

  • Leadership

  • presence

  • quality

  • style

  • Political calculus

  • timing

  • power/influence

  • political support

  • Knowledge

  • availability, access, quality, integration, human capital


  • Costs

  • planning

  • implementation

  • monitoring

  • evaluation

  • Institutional issues

    • laws, regulations, rules

    • procedures

      • Agency culture (transparency,

      • accountability)

      • Stakeholder engagement

      • (quality and degree)

      • Interagency collaboration

    • effective governance (expertise,

    • efficiency, leverage at point of

    • Intervention, trust, social capital)

  • Social acceptability

  • deeply held cultural values

  • social justice

  • costs

  • impacts on ownership, rights,

  • entitlements

Source: Moser (2009) in Adger et al, Adapting to Climate Change: Thresholds, Values, Governance.

A personal assessment of the current state of affairs

A Personal Assessment of the Current State of Affairs

  • America is going backwards on mitigation; early on adaptation; geoengineering is an elite concern.

  • Development of adaptation plans without adequate scientific input or guidance

  • The scientific community is behind the 8-ball, and will be hard pressed to build capacity and knowledge fast enough

  • Short of a lot of luck… much early adaptation will lead to maladaptation and/or insufficient adaptation, high cost, and possibly foreclosure of future options

  • Existing governance systems are inadequate and/or failing

  • A rush to “big action” (big-scale mitigation, geo-engineering) WILL occur at some point

  • Demand on effective governance systems only growing

Trust anyone

Trust anyone?

Cultural Contingencies and Challenges in a Time of Rapid Change

If someone asked you

If someone asked you….

“Do you have diabetes?”

… would you answer?

Some contingencies of trust

Some contingencies of trust

  • The mental state of one person

    (ranging from stable/secure to paranoid)

  • The action of the other person

    (ranging from ethical to criminal)

  • The scope and scale of the behavior/

    issue/technology at hand

  • Past experience

  • Context (geographical, social, temporal, political, economic, cultural)

Who do americans trust on climate change

Who do Americans trust on climate change?

Source: Leiserowitz et al. (2009)

Source: Leiserowitz et al. (2010)

Determinants of trust

Determinants of trust

  • Perceptions of

    • Knowledge and expertise

    • Openness and honesty

    • Concern and care

  • Actions that indicate trustworthiness

    • Commitment and follow-through

    • Voluntary and ample information provision and disclosure

  • Trust and trustworthiness rise with

    • Demographic homogeneity

    • Social connection

    • Social interaction

  • Cultural value commitments influence who is viewed as a trustworthy source

    • Changed over time

  • Trust mitigates risk perceptions and concern

  • Trust is slow to build, quickly to lose, and almost impossible to regain once broken

Trust and risk governance

Trust and Risk Governance

Need for trust

Presence of trust

Source: Funtowicz and Ravetz, Postnormal science

Trust is critical for all aspects of risk governance

Trust is critical for all aspects of risk governance

Source: IRGC Risk Governance Framework (2006)

Public engagement on climate solutions

Public Engagement on Climate Solutions

Getting Beyond Checking the Box

A brief history of risk communication public engagement

A Brief History of Risk Communication & Public Engagement

  • Phase I – Information dissemination

    • Those exposed to risk lack relevant, appropriate information

    • Experts know best

    • Risk comparisons

  • Phase II – Persuasion

    • Better risk PR

    • Education about personal risk behavior vs. environmental risks

  • Phase III – Two-way dialogue

    • Members of public and risk managers expected to engage in social learning

    • Goal is to build mutual trust

    • Stakeholders understand risk assessment and response options

    • Decision-makers take into account stakeholder concerns

Why engage the public

Why Engage the Public?

Some good arguments, for starters…

  • Ad-hoc, reactive responses by individuals likely to be insufficient, more expensive, uncoordinated, and with negative side effects for public goods

  • Many decisions will go beyond individuals’ capacity

    • Financial

    • Scientific/technical assessment of need, adequacy

    • Local/regional coordination

  • Planned, proactive, publicly guided and facilitated responses are or should be the responsibility of government

The principled reasons

The Principled Reasons

© Public Engagement Systems

  • Governments can’t do it alone

    Achieving major policy outcomes, requires greater engagement and participation from citizens

  • Governments shouldn’t do it alone

    There are strong moral and political arguments for protecting and enhancing personal responsibility

  • Cost savings in doing it together

    Involving the public in active implementation/behavior change can be significantly more cost-effective than traditional service delivery.

(Adapted from Halpern et al., 2004)

Goals for engagement

Goals for engagement

Inform and educate about climate change, solutions

Mobilize people to actively engage

Initiate deeper social, cultural changes


Source: Steve Forrest for International Herald Tribune

Engaging the public on climate change

Engaging the Public on Climate Change

© David Love

How is it different?

  • Continued skepticism among some about climate change

  • Uncertainty around climate change

  • In-depth knowledge on mitigation lacking; adaptation is still an unfamiliar concept

  • Audience interest and readiness?

  • Persuasion that both mitigation and adaptation are needed

  • Non-stationarity of climate demands periodic revisiting of decisions and policies, ongoing monitoring, learning, and thus repeated public engagement

  • Local and state governments limited in their capacity

Engaging the public on climate change1

Engaging the Public on Climate Change

How is it the same?

  • Many management issues not new, just bigger

  • Engagement is hard

  • Some “sacred cows” will need to be addressed, eventually

  • Demand for government to lead, be role model, do its part

  • Demand that private interests do their part, cooperate toward the common good

  • Same interest groups likely to care

  • For now, the same legal context

  • For now, the same programmatic options to begin addressing climate change

Level of civic engagement

Level of civic engagement

Who shows up?

Source: Leiserowitz et al. (2009)

© 2011 - Training slides developed by Susanne C. Moser, Ph.D., all rights reserved

Forms of engagement

Forms of Engagement

(Adapted from Rowe and Frewer, 2005, pp.276-277)

Public engagement who what when how

Public engagement - who, what, when, how

  • Many ways to “segment” the population

    • By type

    • By stage in change process

    • By traditional demographics

    • By role (e.g., position, influence)

    • By attitude/opinion (e.g., GW’s six Americas, cultural groups)

  • Need for mobilizer/mobilizee match (messenger, influentials, importance of trust)

  • We don’t take it seriously, don’t use it strategically

Public engagement who what when how1

Public engagement - who, what, when, how

  • Engagement purposes and positions

    • “Against” can be powerful, often not enough

      • 1st Category of actions: Preventing loss, damage; diminishing a destructive trend

    • “For” can be more attractive but also unfamiliar, always needed

      • 2nd Category of actions: Developing new (infra)structures, institutions, technologies;

      • 3rd Category of actions: New ways of thinking, visions

Public engagement who what when how2

Public engagement - who, what, when, how

  • Dynamic process – multi-disciplinary plethora of theories (psychology, innovation, social movements, political process, social learning…)

    • When to start with whom

    • When to reach out further

    • Balance of powers at different stages

    • What to do in different phases/stages (internal/external communication, in-group management and care)

      • Example: Dealing with setbacks, disillusionment, burn-out, cynicism, hopelessness, doubt of purpose/identity

Public engagement who what when how3

Public engagement - who, what, when, how

  • Persistent and emerging challenges with climate change

    • Overcoming barriers to engagement

    • Linkages across scale

    • Representation in global/regional emergencies

    • Speed vs. thoroughness

    • Hierarchy or sequences of needed inputs

Why public dialogue

Why Public Dialogue?

  • Mass /one-way communication is not enough

  • To transcend impasse on deeply polarized matters

  • To change, we need social support

  • The need for forums for deeper social engagement, ongoing dialogue, and support/accountability go unmet to date

The way forward

The Way Forward

  • Rapidly and substantially expand multidisciplinary CC research, R&D

  • Build technical capacity within all sciences and among decision‐makers (social science in particular!!)


  • Expand the nation’s decision support capabilities


  • Identify ways to provide financial and technical resources to governing institutions

  • Seriously engage the American public in the development and debate of a comprehensive climate risk management strategy


Thank you

Thank you!


[email protected]

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