While environmental change will expose different regions to different impacts, the extent of those impacts and effective responses at the local level will be determined not only by the location’s sensitivity and vulnerability but also by local groups and individuals’ capacity, including their institutional links, social networks and motivation to action. In parallel, scientific information plays a critical and ambivalent role in informing environmental change adaptation by providing both an improved understanding of the climate risks and response alternatives (Serrao-Neumann et al., 2013). Considering our analyses about communicating risks and uncertainties, in this panel session we propose four talks to debate the dialogue between the providers and users of science, focusing on the factors shaping the public concern and belief in environmental change. 1) How to engage the public on risk governance through a participative dialogue - In this talk Gabriela Di Giulio and José Eduardo Viglio argue that participative risk communication is a decisive element to integrate the public in the debate of global environmental change, and must be an integral part of the disaster response and emergency management, involving many forms of flow of information between social groups, and ensuring different modes of interaction and partnership. One of those modes which will be discussed by them is the focus group, a qualitative and participatory research method which joins the opportunity for both the identification of knowledge gaps and risk perceptions, and the support of a co-production and use of risk knowledge. Drawing on empirical studies in Brazil, the authors point out that generating a better understanding of the community’s aspirations and capacities as well as issues that need to be addressed is critical to assist the decision-making process. 2) How to communicate the politics and science of solar radiation management (SRM) as a potential option to mitigate anthropogenic climate change. In this talk Phil Macnaghten argues that recent policy and science communication treatments of SRM have insufficiently addressed its potential implications for contemporary political systems. Exploring the emerging ‘social constitution’ of SRM, the author outlines four reasons why this is likely to pose immense challenges to liberal democratic politics: that the unequal distribution of and uncertainties about SRM impacts will cause conflicts within existing institutions; that SRM will act at the planetary level and necessitate autocratic governance; that the motivations for SRM will always be plural and unstable; and that SRM will become conditioned by economic forces. He will conclude by pointing to the challenges SRM poses for science communication – the potential for solar radiation management to negate democracy; the challenges of how to decide to initiate a global social experiment; and the anticipation of dynamics of geopolitical conflict that may ensue. 3) Communicating risks and uncertainties of climate change: IPCC’s challenges - The researcher talks about one of the main challenges faced by IPCC: communicating risks/uncertainties of the climate change science to the public. Based on his/her experience, the researcher outlines that scientists have been called to respond how they can stimulate the dialogue with the society in a context of urgency and pressure. What is an acceptable risk in terms of climate change? How to make it clear with all scientific uncertainties that actions must be taken to reduce future risks associated with climate change? How to communicate that although our knowledge of climate change process is still limited, we need to act now because the possible future consequences can disrupt some critically important ecosystems? 4) Decision making towards climate change - Debates about climate change adaptation often overemphasize the need of good evidence and how that evidence is communicated to decision makers and the public. Increasingly more publications are now showing that it is less the knowledge as such but the trustful relationship between experts and decision makers that supports the ‘coproduction’ of knowledge as a basis of good decision making. However, Jens Zinn will argue that local governments are used to deal with risks and uncertainties in decision making situations and have developed strategies to deal with them. In such context scientific evidence might not be the most important factor that informs decision making but political uncertainty and competing interests. Moderating the development of new governance frameworks that integrate and give more weight to emerging regional players might be as important as the development of a new regional narrative that could help to define a joined interest while competing interests remain. Zinn will report from a recent research project in Australia that examines decision making towards climate change in regional governance and planning.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Communicating risks and uncertainties of global environmental change and extreme events

Gabriela Marques Di Giulio   University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

José Eduardo Viglio   Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil

Philip Martin Macnaghten   Durham University - Universidade Estadual de Campinas, United Kingdom and Brazil

Jens Zinn   Melbourne University, Australia

While environmental change will expose different regions to different impacts, the extent of those impacts and effective responses at the local level will be determined not only by the location’s sensitivity and vulnerability but also by local groups and individuals’ capacity, including their institutional links, social networks and motivation to action. In parallel, scientific information plays a critical and ambivalent role in informing environmental change adaptation by providing both an improved understanding of the climate risks and response alternatives (Serrao-Neumann et al., 2013). Considering our analyses about communicating risks and uncertainties, in this panel session we propose four talks to debate the dialogue between the providers and users of science, focusing on the factors shaping the public concern and belief in environmental change. 1) How to engage the public on risk governance through a participative dialogue - In this talk Gabriela Di Giulio and José Eduardo Viglio argue that participative risk communication is a decisive element to integrate the public in the debate of global environmental change, and must be an integral part of the disaster response and emergency management, involving many forms of flow of information between social groups, and ensuring different modes of interaction and partnership. One of those modes which will be discussed by them is the focus group, a qualitative and participatory research method which joins the opportunity for both the identification of knowledge gaps and risk perceptions, and the support of a co-production and use of risk knowledge. Drawing on empirical studies in Brazil, the authors point out that generating a better understanding of the community’s aspirations and capacities as well as issues that need to be addressed is critical to assist the decision-making process. 2) How to communicate the politics and science of solar radiation management (SRM) as a potential option to mitigate anthropogenic climate change. In this talk Phil Macnaghten argues that recent policy and science communication treatments of SRM have insufficiently addressed its potential implications for contemporary political systems. Exploring the emerging ‘social constitution’ of SRM, the author outlines four reasons why this is likely to pose immense challenges to liberal democratic politics: that the unequal distribution of and uncertainties about SRM impacts will cause conflicts within existing institutions; that SRM will act at the planetary level and necessitate autocratic governance; that the motivations for SRM will always be plural and unstable; and that SRM will become conditioned by economic forces. He will conclude by pointing to the challenges SRM poses for science communication – the potential for solar radiation management to negate democracy; the challenges of how to decide to initiate a global social experiment; and the anticipation of dynamics of geopolitical conflict that may ensue. 3) Communicating risks and uncertainties of climate change: IPCC’s challenges - The researcher talks about one of the main challenges faced by IPCC: communicating risks/uncertainties of the climate change science to the public. Based on his/her experience, the researcher outlines that scientists have been called to respond how they can stimulate the dialogue with the society in a context of urgency and pressure. What is an acceptable risk in terms of climate change? How to make it clear with all scientific uncertainties that actions must be taken to reduce future risks associated with climate change? How to communicate that although our knowledge of climate change process is still limited, we need to act now because the possible future consequences can disrupt some critically important ecosystems? 4) Decision making towards climate change - Debates about climate change adaptation often overemphasize the need of good evidence and how that evidence is communicated to decision makers and the public. Increasingly more publications are now showing that it is less the knowledge as such but the trustful relationship between experts and decision makers that supports the ‘coproduction’ of knowledge as a basis of good decision making. However, Jens Zinn will argue that local governments are used to deal with risks and uncertainties in decision making situations and have developed strategies to deal with them. In such context scientific evidence might not be the most important factor that informs decision making but political uncertainty and competing interests. Moderating the development of new governance frameworks that integrate and give more weight to emerging regional players might be as important as the development of a new regional narrative that could help to define a joined interest while competing interests remain. Zinn will report from a recent research project in Australia that examines decision making towards climate change in regional governance and planning.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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