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Engaging publics through climate math

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Energy democracy hopes to foster community engagement and participation in shaping our transition from fossil fuels to a renewable energy-based economy. These considerations result from critiques by environmental justice, climate justice, and just transition advocates. Although many are sympathetic to energy democracy ideals, climate goals often are articulated in math terms. This essay defines the aforementioned key terms and asks: what are the limitations and possibilities of engaging publics when climate action solely is articulated in numbers? A compelling case study is the City of Boulder – recognized as a global leader in climate science and a national leader in innovative environmental planning. This essay shares work from 2016, when the City shared a climate action plan for public feedback, supported several public participation events, and passed climate action legislation goals. We argue a just transition and energy democracy ideals are hindered if we reduce climate goals to math.

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Keywords: accountability; carbon; climate math; energy democracy; environmental communication; public participation

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2018

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