606.1 Risk communication strategies, perceptions and attitudes to risks: A Brazilian case study

Friday, August 3, 2012: 2:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Gabriela DI GIULIO , University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
José Eduardo VIGLIO , Center for Environmental Studies and Research, Center for Environmental Studies and Research - University of Campinas, Campinas, Brazil
The debate about environmental/climate change offers a rich opportunity to analyze how perceptions/attitudes/understandings of risk are shaped by the ways in which risk is communicated through the media and other mediating outlets, including scientists and experts who are responsible for risk assessments.

Making use of social constructivist and social amplification of risk frameworks, we investigate how Brazilian academic scientists involved in a large-scale project of climate change on the Coast of São Paulo, Brazil and Brazilian experts involved in mapping of risk areas have dealt with risk communication. We also seek to illuminate the role of the media in this risk communication process.

Based on interviews and focus group meetings with different social actors, our study seeks to investigate (i) how the communication strategies adopted by academic scientists and experts may interfere with the understanding/perceptions/attitudes to risks of policymakers and authorities; (ii) how the media coverage of risks related to environmental/climate change may influence the risk communication process.

Our results point out that academic scientists and experts are conscious about the relevance of risk communication; however their strategies are different. Efforts cover of actions based on knowledge deficit model to participative risk communication strategies, including delivery of reports to policymakers, direct communication with other groups, participation in public audiences, interviews to the media, and interactive workshops.

Despite these efforts, academics and experts recognize that there are still gaps in the dialogue between those who make science and those who use science to make decisions. These gaps may interfere with attitudes to risks.

Considering the debate about environmental/climate change, the social actors also recognize that the media coverage has a formative role in the risk communication process, not just through the transmission of scientific facts, but through the selection, presentation and framing of information.