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Understanding Human Judgment on Environmental Risks and Hazards in a Spatial Context

Speaker: Wanyun Shao, Auburn University Montgomery
Series: CEE Departmental Seminars
Location: Engineering Quad E219
Date/Time: Thursday, June 21, 2018, 11:00:00 a.m. - 12:00:00 p.m.


Wanyun ShaoThe coupling effects of changing climate and rising concentration of population and assets in the coastal regions have increased the threat of potential damages. There is an urgent need for coastal communities to prepare well for future hazards through mitigation and adaptation measures. A growing number of empirical studies have found that peoples’ motivation of voluntary risk mitigation and adaptation is low unless actual risk can be perceived. Risk perception is thus the precondition for adaptive behavior and behavior  intention. It is of both intellectual and practical interest to study what affects individuals’/communities’ risk perceptions.

In this talk, I will present four of my previous studies. The first three studies are focused on the individual level and the fourth on the aggregate level. I will start with understanding how local weather and climate affect  American public risk perceptions of climate change. I will then discuss how the spatial context represented by past flooding events and estimated flooding risks influence coastal residents’ voluntary flood insurance purchase decisions and their support for flood adaptation policies. As many policies are designed and implemented at an aggregate level (i.e., state, county, city), it is necessary to examine aggregate-level risk perceptions. In the fourth study, I will focus on how the contextual hurricane risks in conjunction with community resilience shape county-level perceptions of hurricane-related risks. I will end with a research agenda linking communities’ perception with contextual risks and  community resilience. I contend that the cognitive dimension including both risk  perceptions and perceived adaptive capacity is not represented in any of the existing community resilience indexes, and therefore needs to be measured, quantified, and incorporated into a more comprehensive index.