Queen's University — Since 1873
15th September 2009

Consulting citizens on climate control

Queen’s graduate randomly selected as one of 100 Canadians to participate in international project on climate change

Helen Ma, ArtSci ’06, will participate in World Wide Views on Global Warming, an international citizen consultation project, in Calgary later this month.
Helen Ma, ArtSci ’06, will participate in World Wide Views on Global Warming, an international citizen consultation project, in Calgary later this month. (Christine Blais)

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Helen Ma, ArtSci ’06, won’t be going to the United Nations’ Climate Change Conference this December, but her opinions on climate change might be.

Ma, who lives in Kingston, is one of 100 Canadians who have been randomly selected to participate in World Wide Views on Global Warming, an international citizen consultation project.

On Sept. 26 she’ll travel to the University of Calgary, where she and other participants will learn about, discuss and vote on issues related to climate change.

The results of the consultation will be part of a report that will be given to UN delegates when they deliberate climate change issues in Copenhagen from Dec. 7 to 18.

Ma said she believes her economics background will help her understand the issues they’re going to deliberate.

“I can apply economic analysis onto some of the policy choices that we’re going to have to make,” she said. “For example, what type of technologies should we invest in, in order to mitigate greenhouse gases and reduce the levels of, say, carbon dioxide?”

Edna Einsiedel, University of Calgary international development studies professor and project chair in Canada, said 3,000 potential participants were randomly generated by a research firm to represent Canada’s various demographics.

The University sent out letters to everyone on the list, inviting them to fill out application forms stating why they were interested in participating in the consultation, she said.

Ma filled a form out in June.

“We have participants from Newfoundland all the way to B.C.,” Einsiedel said.

The project, initiated by the Danish Board of Technology, is taking place in 39 countries, she added.

“The decisions that the citizens will be making will be pooled together,” Einsiedel said, adding that the goal of Danish organizers is to reach an agreement that will replace the Kyoto Protocol when it expires in 2012.

Ma said she’s become more conscious of her own actions related to climate change since she learned about the project.

“I’ve been biking to school everyday and I’ve been starting to look into ways we can make our home more energy efficient,” she said. “I’ve been talking to my parents about investing in a solar water-heating system.”

She said she appreciates the Danish project’s emphasis on giving ordinary citizens a chance to have their voices heard before the UN.

“This is an opportunity for citizens to be engaged and to express their opinions to policy makers of what our concerns are, what changes we’d like to see and to let policy makers know that they have our support in making the changes we need to make,” she said.

“This is history in the making.”

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