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What Do Local Officials See in Participatory Technology Assessment for Climate Adaptation?

Thu, August 30, 4:00 to 5:30pm, ICC, E5.3


Assessing the impacts of climate change on cities presents challenges for collecting and creating projections of impacts, as well as for grounding those projections in local priorities. Public involvement in assessments of the local impacts of climate change is one way to bridge projections and local values. However, participatory exercises are not immune to criticism, which often centers on whether public involvement is substantively incorporated into decision-making. The impact of public involvement on decision-making hinges on the ways local officials use, interact with, and think about participatory exercises. Yet local official's views are rarely examined in scholarship on public participation, particularly around the flurry of proposed methods for gathering public input promulgated by STS scholars (e.g., participatory technology assessment [pTA]).

We conducted interviews and meetings with local officials to explore how they interacted with, perceived, and utilized a deliberative, pTA-based forum. The forum brought together diverse residents of central Arizona, USA to assess potential impacts of extreme heat and drought and potential strategies to address those impacts. Through meetings and workshops, we sought to 1) share the opinions of forum participants with local officials; 2) identify local officials' specific interests that can be used to guide additional analysis of forum participant responses; and 3) identify pathways for future public input around climate adaptation. Our work 1) shows how to make public input salient for local officials and 2) contributes to our understanding of how better to ground assessments of climate change impacts in local priorities.