Climate change adaptation and online deliberation: Changing stakeholder attitudes

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The continually deteriorating state of the global climate is necessitating adaptations to local and global policy. To ensure the efficacy of adaptation policies, it is important that key stakeholders understand the projected impacts of climate change. This can change stakeholders’ attitudes and help them assist in the policy-making process through collaborative, co-creative processes. Professor Kenshi Baba of Tokyo City University, Japan, studies the effectiveness of online deliberation for increasing stakeholders’ understanding of the pros and cons of adaptations.
Rising sea levels, droughts, extreme weather, and other consequences of the growing climate crisis have increasingly necessitated mitigation and adaptation policies to reduce emissions and stave off the worst effects of a changing climate.

Nowhere is the need for climate change adaptation more vital than in the agricultural and disaster-prevention sectors. From a farming perspective, changes in precipitation and temperature, rising sea levels, and droughts will alter where, when, and what can be farmed. From a disaster-prevention perspective, sea-level rises, droughts, and more frequent and extreme weather events will require increased desalination and flood defences.

To develop policies to adapt to these changes, there is a growing body of scientific evidence which needs to be understood and applied by policymakers. However, to make climate adaptation policies which are actionable and practical, it is essential to include the stakeholders who will deliver them.

Kate Kultsevych/Shutterstock.com

Research by Professor Kenshi Baba at Tokyo City University involved offline deliberations with key stakeholders and relevant experts in each local community. It then looked at whether online deliberation with nationwide stakeholders could work to share knowledge from relevant experts, specifically to build climate change adaptation policies with a view to climate impacts 30 years in the future.

“Nowhere is the need for climate change adaptation more vital than in the agricultural and disaster prevention sectors.”

Climate change adaptation

Increased precipitation and rising temperatures are stressors that create problems in agricultural sectors, particularly in Baba’s study area, where there are higher rates of heat-related injuries, lower quality products such as in rice paddies, and changing areas where fruit trees can be grown.

To create effective policy and to change the attitudes of farmers and other agriculturists in the study area, it is important to put the relevant information from scientists and experts in local hands, to help to reduce any knowledge gaps. To explore this, Baba created an online deliberation study to bring together nationwide stakeholders and experts.

Making a guideline for dissemination of civic tech.

Online deliberation

Online deliberations may have various limitations compared to face-to-face discussions, such as participants being less likely to have an active role in meetings, higher rates of dropouts, and a reduced ability to build consensus among group members. However, deliberations through online communication have become a necessary ‘new normal’ because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Online deliberations, however, also have their benefits over a face-to-face discussion, in that they create a broad community where there otherwise might not be one. There are also no geographical or temporal constraints, and the conversation can be continuous. Therefore, it can bring people from different social positions and with different interests together. This can drive knowledge sharing and promote an exchange of ideas that may not have been possible otherwise.

Baba shows the effectiveness of online deliberations by identifying the changes in people’s attitudes towards climate change adaptation policies in the agricultural sector.

Online deliberation group

To study the effects of online deliberation for changing attitudes on climate change adaptation, Baba selected a group of participants based on set criteria. The first set of screening criteria required potential participants to be involved in agriculture, to live in one of the eight Japanese prefectures with an annual average temperature below 14oC, and to be interested in global environmental problems.

The selection process then further screened participants based on their mindset towards actions taken against impacts and damages by climate change in agricultural areas. By asking questions regarding the criteria mentioned above, the respondents were put into three groups based on these answers. Once the list of contributors was screened, they were sent a request to take part in the deliberation, and the first 90 responders were placed into the three groups.

Climate change will necessitate increased flood defences, while altering what can be farmed. Tomas Vynikal/Shutterstock.com

At the same time, Baba set up a panel of experts who shared scientific knowledge with participants.

The online deliberations took place over 14 days, with six themes spread throughout. The schedule was as follows:
Day 1-3 Theme A:
Self-introduction opening
Day 3–5 Theme B: Impacts of climate change in Japan
Day 5–8 Theme C: Japan 30 years later, after climate effects
Day 8–11 Theme D: Future scenario days
Day 11–13 Theme E: The most crucial option
Day 14 Theme F: Greeting the ending

With input from experts, each of these themes progressively built the participants’ knowledge. The participants were then asked to decide on the best policy measure based on their newly acquired knowledge.

The deliberation took place on message boards where the moderator drove the conversations forward through the themes. Experts could also post on the message board, and each participant was asked to write their opinion at least once, for one theme, on the message board. To measure attitude change during the online deliberation, questionnaires were given out before and after the study time.

Effectiveness of online deliberation

Out of the people that started, 60 participants filled out the final questionnaire.

The study results showed that the online deliberation process was successful in increasing knowledge and promoting a deeper understanding of climate adaptation among participants as they listened to the opinions of other participants with differing ideas and read the materials given to them by experts, along with scientific findings.

“The study showed that the online deliberation process was successful in increasing knowledge and promoting a deeper understanding of climate adaptation.”

The results indicated that 85% of the participants voluntarily searched online and read relevant books to further their knowledge beyond the online discussion. The impacts of climate change were realised at a higher level, as were the perceived effectiveness of climate change adaptation policies. These changes in attitudes strongly influenced the evaluation of the pros and cons of climate change policy.

Adaptation in disaster prevention

The results of this study were supported by the results from a similar study Baba conducted on the challenges of implementing climate change adaptation policies in disaster prevention.

Netta Arobas/Shutterstock.com

The disaster-prevention study took a parallel approach in bringing stakeholders together with relevant experts onto an online forum for deliberation. The primary difference was the content and stakeholders: this time, the stakeholders were people in disaster-stricken cities and towns.

The method of performing the online deliberation in this study also involved three groups of 30, this time consisting of people within possible disaster areas. The study was again conducted over 14 days with a clear structure guided by a mentor with materials from experts. To discern the differences in attitudes after the deliberation, questionnaires were given to the participants before and after.

The results of the study showed that almost all adaptation measures were seen more favourably compared to before the deliberation. Participants also gained a better understanding of the measures they personally could take to adapt to climate disasters, though evaluation regarding some drastic measures remained less favourable after deliberation, meaning they will be difficult to implement.

Although disaster prevention involves stakeholders with different policy needs, the study’s results reinforce the efficacy of online deliberations to change attitudes about climate change adaptation.

These novel studies are some of the first to look at how attitudes towards climate change adaptation in agricultural production and disaster prevention can be changed by providing expert knowledge and discussion.

As adaptation will be increasingly essential to acclimatise society to the impacts of climate change, stakeholder engagement will be critical in ensuring policies are enacted correctly and effectively. Baba’s timely research shows how online deliberation can be a great conduit for policymakers, scientists, and experts to share knowledge with agriculturists, people living in disaster areas, and other stakeholders, to ensure the long-term sustainability of farming and to improve resilience within Japan and globally.

Do you believe furthering the possibilities of online deliberation through technologies like virtual and augmented reality could increase their effectiveness in changing attitudes?
We are now developing a new online deliberation system that integrates local knowledge of citizen’s observations uploaded on the web. GIS collected by the citizen science approach and scientific knowledge provided by experts and various open data. Based on the knowledge integration, the system will visualise the progress of the deliberation of citizens and experts with a kind of artificial intelligence, and then result in deepening their mutual understanding and attitude changes. Virtual and augmented reality will enhance the participants’ attitude change via avatars and affect their behaviour in real life via the Proteus effect. These devices will be effective in negotiation simulation (a kind of role-playing game) which we have been developing and exploring.

 

References

  • Baba K, Amanuma E, Kosugi M (2021). Attitude Changes of Stakeholders towards Climate Change Adaptation Policies in Agricultural Sector by Online Deliberation. Climate. 9(5):75. doi.org/10.3390/cli9050075
  • Baba K, Amanuma E and Iwami A (2021) Perception and Attitude Changes of Stakeholders for ResilientCity Policy by Online Deliberation. Front. Sustain. Cities doi.org/10.3389/frsc.2021.763758
DOI
10.26904/RF-141-2609269634

Research Objectives

Professor Kenshi Baba studies risk communication and consensus building regarding the climate crisis via online and offline deliberations.

Funding

  • Social Implementation Program on Climate Change Adaptation Technology (SI-CAT) of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), Japan, Grant No. JPMXD0715667201
  • The Research Institute of Science and Technology for Society (RISTEX) of the Japan Science and Technology Agency (JST), Japan, Grant No. JPMJRX20B5.

Collaborators

Ms. Eri Amanuma, Dr. Motoko Kosugi, Dr. Asako Iwami, Dr. Michinori Kimura, Dr. Terukazu Kumazawa and Prof. Mitsuru Tanaka

Bio

Kenshi Baba is a Professor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies, Tokyo City University. His research interests include consensus building, risk communication, and policy process within local environmental issues. He was involved in national research projects on climate change and contributed to the IEA Wind Task 28 committee and IPCC AR5 WGII.

Kenshi Baba

Contact

3-3-1 Ushikubo-nishi, Tsuzuki, Yokohama, Kanagawa 224-8551 JAPAN

E: kbaba@tcu.ac.jp
T: +81 45 910 2554

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