459.2 Risk governance: A need to cope with risks of environmental and climate change in Brazil

Friday, August 3, 2012: 9:22 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Gabriela DI GIULIO , University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil
Environmental and climate changes are part of a new set of risks that are characterized by incomplete understanding of their causes and consequences, by the fact of being incalculable, impossible to compensate, and often invisible, uncontrollable and irreversible (Beck, 1992, 1995). Dealing with these risk situations is a complex task. It involves difficulties of working across disciplinary or knowledge boundaries, fails to address the long-term implications of decision-making, and weak articulation between scientific research and policymaking.

Drawing on empirical research on the Coast of São Paulo, Brazil we seek to identify and analyze some aspects of governance of risks associated with environmental and climate changes.

From our perspective, dealing with risk situations associated with environmental and climate changes, which are characterized by uncertainty/strain/controversy/complexity, demands a collective decision-making process. This process, called Risk Governance, takes account of the social and cultural factors that influence individualized and collective answers to risks, and considers the social and economic effects related to these risk situations.

However, our study, which includes the analysis of interviews and focus group meetings with social actors (experts/academic scientists/policymakers/community end users), have showed us some important gaps of institutional actions to cope with risks: a lack of a plan to engage the affected public; and fails in putting in practice the idea that public risk perception should play a key role in shaping natural hazards policy and management response. Our analysis has also suggested that there is a weak articulation between those who make science and those who use science to make decisions.

Our observations endorse a need for a debate/practice of Risk Governance in Brazil. There is an urgent need to put in practice a more distributed and participatory approach, which engages scientists, governments, and publics in a shared enterprise of responsible knowledge making to deal with risks.