L. Eriksson; R. Sala; M. Thomas; N. Pidgeon; E. Spence (chair). Location: A900

Forest risk management within an environmental stress framework

L. Eriksson

Different hazards (e.g., wind and climate change) may severely damage the economic, recreational, and ecological values of the forest. In several countries, including Sweden, a large share of the forest is owned by private forest owners and their responses to forest risks largely contributes to how these risks are managed. Since evidence suggests that forest risks may not have been actively managed in this context there is a need to explore the drivers of forest risk management further. By drawing on environmental stress research, where risks are considered potential stressors to the owner, the present study examined factors important for risk perception and responses among private forest owners in Sweden. A questionnaire was sent to 3000 randomly selected forest owners in the autumn of 2014 with a response rate of 50%. Different models were compared to provide insights on antecedents of cognitive and emotional aspects of risk perceptions and to reveal how coping appraisals (e.g., response efficacy) are related to risk perception and responses to forest risks. Hence, the study improves the understanding of the psychological processes preceding forest risk management and indicate how risk perception and coping appraisals may be related in the context of natural hazards management.

Controllability beliefs and exposure to the risks from air pollution: Results from a mixed-methods study

R. Sala & C. Oltra

Fatalistic beliefs have been associated to lower rates of health protection actions. But very few studies have explored controllability beliefs related to direct behaviours to reduce one’s exposure to air pollution. The present study aimed at describing controllability beliefs in a sample of urban residents as well as at exploring the association between controllability beliefs and different variables such as socio-demographics, habits, air pollution perception or information or engagement practices. A mixed-methods design was used, combining focus groups and a survey with a representative sample of residents in the city of Barcelona, Spain. Results from the survey show that only 20% of the participants perceived to have some control over their exposure to air pollution. Thematic analysis from the focus groups discussion show different fatalistic beliefs associated. Preliminary bivariate analysis show a moderate association with perceived levels of air pollution, a weak association with perceived level of information about air pollution and age, and a no relevant association with other independent variables such as sex or social status. Implications for air pollution communication and, specifically, for interventions aimed at promoting self-protection actions among urban populations, are discussed. 

A mixed-methods analysis of sea-level rise perceptions

M. Thomas, N. Pidgeon, L. Whitmarsh, & R. Ballinger

As coastal communities become increasingly exposed to the risks posed by sea-level rise, understanding their beliefs and responses becomes more important. We present the results of a mental models study that addressed this knowledge gap by exploring expert and public perceptions of sea-level rise on the Severn Estuary, a threatened coastal environment in the southwest of the United Kingdom. A model was developed using expert interviews (N=11), and then compared with public perceptions elicited via interviews (N=20) and a quantitative survey (N=359). Whilst we find a high degree of consistency between expert and public understandings, there are important differences that have implications for how sea-level risks are interpreted. We also find a number of potential barriers to engaging with the issue: individuals express low concern about sea-level rise in relation to other matters; they feel detached from the issue, seeing it as something that will happen in the future to other people; and many perceive that neither the causes of nor responses to sea-level rise are their responsibility. Such perceptions have repercussions for what are perceived as appropriate mitigation and adaption practices, and point to areas upon which future risk communications should concentrate.

Public understanding of ocean acidification and implications for risk communication

N.F. Pidgeon, S. Capstick, A. Corner, E. Spence, & P. Pearson

Ocean acidification (OA) is of increasing interest to climate scientists. Little research has examined how this topic is understood by members of the public. Findings are presented from two nationally representative British surveys carried out in 2013 and 2014 on knowledge and awareness about OA, perceptions of risks from OA, and views on policy relevance. Core findings show that public awareness remains very low, although some associations with climate change do exist. Images associated with OA are predominately negative. An additional experimental component to the 2nd survey wave considers the consequences of framing communication of OA in association with, or separate from, climate change. We also use psychometric measures to assess variability in attitudes towards OA according to people’s pre-existing values and cultural worldviews. The findings are interpreted in the context of developing effective communication, and promoting public engagement with OA.

Mental models approach towards the marine environment: Public risk perceptions of ocean acidification

E. Spence, N. Pidgeon, & P. Pearson

The effects of climate change on the marine environment are becoming more prevalent including the novel risk of ocean acidification. The absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide by the ocean and the changes in ocean pH has already affected shellfish hatcheries and fisheries, which are vital livelihoods for some communities. As there has been little research conducted to examine public risk perceptions of this novel risk, we aimed to explore this through a mental models approach. We compared expert and public risk perceptions of ocean acidification, in order to highlight areas of agreement, important knowledge gaps, and key misunderstandings. Through comparison of the different mental models constructed, we found low awareness of this risk with many attributing pollution and dumping waste as being the main causes of ocean acidification. Despite this, many identified that it would impact on numerous organisms resulting in the alteration of marine ecosystems. Respondents also linked this risk with climate change; mitigation strategies for ocean acidification were similar to those proposed for mitigating climate change such as reducing general pollution. These findings will be discussed as to how they may be implicated in future risk communications for members of the public.