Society For Risk Analysis Annual Meeting 2017

Session Schedule & Abstracts

* Disclaimer: All presentations represent the views of the authors, and not the organizations that support their research. Please apply the standard disclaimer that any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations in abstracts, posters, and presentations at the meeting are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other organization or agency. Meeting attendees and authors should be aware that this disclaimer is intended to apply to all abstracts contained in this document. Authors who wish to emphasize this disclaimer should do so in their presentation or poster. In an effort to make the abstracts as concise as possible and easy for meeting participants to read, the abstracts have been formatted such that they exclude references to papers, affiliations, and/or funding sources. Authors who wish to provide attendees with this information should do so in their presentation or poster.

Common abbreviations

Climate Change Communication I

Room: Salon 2   3:30 pm–5:00 pm

Chair(s): Sol Hart

Sponsored by Risk Communication Specialty Group

M4-K.1  3:30 pm  The causal effect of flood experience on climate engagement: evidence from search requests for green electricity in Germany. Osberghaus D, Demski C*; Centre for European Economic Research and Cardiff University

Abstract: Personal experience of climate change-related weather events has the potential to reduce the psychological distance of climate change and to trigger engagement in climate protection measures. We use a novel longitudinal dataset on revealed household behaviour and insured damage data to re-examine this relationship, which has mostly been studied by cross-sectional and self-reported data. Using a difference-in-differences estimator, we quantify the causal effect of experiencing financial damage from the 2013 floods in Germany on the interest for renewable energy tariffs in online power portals, which we take as a proxy for engagement in climate protection. The results broadly confirm the expected positive effect of flood experience on climate engagement, but there are important non-linear effects. Most notably, the effect drops to zero if damages are very high meaning the causal effect of flood experience on interest in green energy holds only for moderately affected regions. One explanation for this inverted U-shaped effect is that high flood damages may constrain the available budget for costly climate protection, due to high recovery and reconstruction costs. This interpretation is supported by further analyses regarding various economic indicators and flood insurance coverage. Another explanation refers to non-protective responses such as feelings of helplessness and resignation if damages are relatively high. When supporting private climate engagement, policymakers should not rely on a motivating effect of damage experience, but should acknowledge the economic and psychological limitations of severely flood-affected households. Moreover, the analysis shows that high flood insurance penetration is not only beneficial in terms of flood resilience, but also increases the probability that households engage in climate protection in the aftermath of an event.

M4-K.2  3:50 pm  Integrating the Socio-Ecological Perspective in Predicting Willingness to Take Actions to Mitigate Climate Change Impacts: A case for Michigan’s Huron River watershed. TSAI J*, Cheng C, Esselman R; Northern Arizona University

Abstract: As climate change adaptation becomes an integral part of 
urban planning for coping with climate change, communicating climate change risks and adaptation strategies plays a critical role in engaging the public to progress towards a sustainable future. Despite an increase in research investigating the individual-level factors influencing policy support and behavioral decisions, the interactions between intrapersonal, interpersonal, and community-level factors remain scarce. This study integrates the socio-ecological perspective in public health intervention to delineate the mechanism through which lay people decide to take actions and install green infrastructure to mitigate climate change impacts. The socio-ecological approach highlights the multiple-levels of contextual influences on human behavior. Thus we ask: 1) How do intrapersonal, interpersonal and community-level factors predict lay public’s behavioral intentions? 2) How do intrapersonal, interpersonal and community-level factors predict lay public’s willingness to install green infrastructure? In collaboration with The Huron River Watershed Council, we recruited Michigan residents (N =149) to participate in an online survey using a convenience sample. The survey was uploaded and collected from November 2016 to January 2017. Intrapersonal-level factors include risk perception, anger, worry, issue importance, self-efficacy and perceived certainty of climate impacts. Interpersonal-level factors capture people’s social connections. Community-level factors are measured by indicators of social vulnerability (Cutter et al., 2003) and perceived community vulnerability. We found that perceived community vulnerability, feeling angry about the lack of urgent policy responses, issue importance, and self-efficacy positively predict local residents’ intention to take actions and willingness to install green infrastructure. Findings highlight the importance of developing a multi-level intervention to promote individual behavioral change for developing resilience.

M4-K.3  4:10 pm  Risk Perceptions of Enhanced Weathering as a Biological Negative Emissions Option. Pidgeon NF*, Spence E; Understanding Risk Research Group, Cardiff University

Abstract: This paper addresses risk perceptions and the social acceptability of enhanced weathering, a carbon dioxide reduction technology which would involve spreading silicate particles over terrestrial surfaces in order to boost the biological processes which currently sequester CO2 as part of the earth’s natural carbon cycle. Carbon reduction technologies have gained in prominence following the Paris International Climate Agreement in 2015, which aspires to a global “balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases” (i.e. net-zero emissions) sometime between 2050 and 2100. The implication of this is that by then all remaining ‘positive’ fossil fuel emissions (e.g. from aviation, shipping, and other hard to decarbonise sectors) must be fully offset by operation of an equivalent set of ‘negative’ emission processes. We present the first exploration of British attitudes towards enhanced weathering as a biological negative emission option, using an online survey (n=935) of a representative quota sample of the public. Not surprisingly, baseline awareness of weathering was extremely low. When presented with a description many respondents remained undecided or neutral about risks, although more people support than oppose weathering. Factors predicting support for weathering and its research included feelings about the technology (affect) and trust in scientists. Over half of the sample agree that scientists should be able to conduct research into effectiveness and risks, but with conditions also placed upon how research is conducted; including the need for scientific independence, small-scale trials, strict monitoring, risk minimisation, and transparency of results. Public engagement is needed to explore in more detail risk and benefit perceptions for biological and other types of negative emissions technologies.

M4-K.5  4:30 pm  Denying Denialism: Uncovering the Methods and Institutions of Climate Change Denial. Frey HC*; North Carolina State University

Abstract: A denialist is a person who refuses to admit the truth of a concept that is supported by the majority of scientific evidence. Denialism typically contains a few or more of the following institutional or methodological elements: (a) stakeholders interested in preserving a status quo, usually for short-term profit; (b) front groups; (c) use of fake “experts”; (d) information laundering; (e) cherry picking and taking information out of context; (f) red herrings (e.g., mass murderer Ted Kaczynski believes in climate change, do you?); (g) creation of an “echo chamber” that repeats false messages; (h) over-emphasis or manufacturing of uncertainty; (i) conspiracy theories; and (j) outright lying. Although denialism violates principles of rational inference and critical thinking, it is persuasive to many target audiences, such as the lay public and politicians. Denialist organizations are effective at empowering individuals to believe that they can quickly enter public discourse on complex scientific issues. With well over half a billion dollars funneled to front groups, climate change denialism is active and well-funded. Journalistic media amplify the voices of deniers, leading to false equivalency of “two sides” of climate science. Ideological beliefs and lack of critical thinking contribute to acceptance of denialist messages. Denialism seeks to obliterate the distinction between science and values in policy debates. For instance, rather than admit to not caring about climate change or not wanting to take action, a ‘skeptic’ instead asserts that the science is not valid. Conspiracy theorist deniers accuse ‘alarmists’ and ‘warmists’ of an ulterior “desire to control people’s lives” or desire to pad their resumes with more scientific grants. Denialism also leads to an inaccurate perception of controversy, which itself impedes action. Although this seminar focuses on raising awareness of the methods and institutions of denial, some responses to denialism are discussed.

M4-K.6  4:50 pm  Decomposing the public’s fear of nuclear power. Vaishnav P*, Abdulla A; Carnegie Mellon University

Abstract: There is a substantial literature that examines public attitudes to technologies that are considered particularly controversial. Of these findings, perhaps the most replicated and undisputed is nuclear power’s unique status as a technology that engenders “dread.” In this paper, we recruit respondents and randomly assign them to one of two groups. The first of these groups is given information about the risk profile of each of the clean technology options available for mass deployment. The second group is given the same risk profile information, although the names of the options are withheld. In each case, we task respondents with creating an energy portfolio to meet U.S. electricity demand in 2030 under a carbon dioxide emissions constraint. Our results show that stripping nuclear power of its label—but not its risks—results in a large (7%) and statistically significant (p = 0.01) increase in support for the technology. This translates to an additional 350TWh of nuclear generation in the US. In our second study, we created three vignettes, each of which asked respondents the extent (on a scale of 1-6) to which they supported a proposed energy infrastructure project. These three vignettes were identical in their discussion of accident risk, but one proposed building a hydroelectric power plant, the second a hydroelectric dam, and the third a nuclear power plant. Despite communicating identical risks across all three treatments, respondents expressed an unambiguous preference for hydroelectric power plants over nuclear power plants (p=0.002). Our work implies that seeking to develop an accident-proof reactor will not enable nuclear power to gain the level of acceptability required for substantially increased deployment. More generally, developers of new technologies must not only make them actuarially safe, but also be extraordinarily careful to shape the public’s perception of them.

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