Future as infeasible, desirable and unimaginable: an analysis of lay public imaginaries of the 2°C goal and low-carbon energy transitions
Shinichiro Asayama (Waseda University)
Midori Aoyagi (National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan)
Paper short abstract:
The study critically analyzes how well the IPCC's consensus knowledge can speak to ordinary citizens. By exploring the lay public sense-making of the 2°C goal and the role of low-carbon energy technologies to achieve its goal, it suggests the limit of 'linear-consensus' model of expertise.
Paper long abstract:
The Paris Agreement can be seen as a consensus built by scientists and policymakers, leading toward a decarbonized energy future. Among others, the IPCC has played a significant role to produce scientific knowledge on the feasibility of limiting global average temperature increase to below 2°C. In post-Paris era, the 2°C goal is now acknowledged as a science-policy 'consensus' within international expert communities as both an attainable and desirable pathway for the humanity. At the same time, however, there is a reasonable doubt on how well this consensus on 2°C goal recognized and shared widely by diverse stakeholders and lay publics, outside from climate communities. In this study, we explored the lay public sense-making of the 2°C goal and the role of low-carbon energy technologies (e.g. renewables, nuclear, carbon capture and storage) to achieve its goal. We conducted seven focus groups with Japanese citizens and analyzed their discourses on the 2°C futures. Our findings show the three different narratives about the plausibility of 2°C goal emerged from focus group discussions: the 2°C future as unimaginable, infeasible and desirable. People embraced their ambiguity on whether and how we should aim at achieving the 2°C goal as well as their ambivalence in either accepting or rejecting nuclear energy for its solutions. The study suggests a lack of local cultural narratives on the desirable futures may alienate people from a expert consensus, living up to the 2°C goal.