The Polemic of Sea Level Rise: Unlocking the Potential of Social Learning for Improved Climate Risk Governance in Local Governments of Australia

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:10 AM
Room: Booth 52
Oral Presentation
Asiyah KASSIM , Australian National University, Canberra ACT, Australia
Sea level rise is one of the most critical climate change impacts that could exacerbate shoreline erosion, storm surge and flooding. As it represents complex, uncertain and significant environmental, financial, social and legal risks to coastal populations, it demands a rethink of institutional arrangements for risk governance in the whole system of Australian coastline (Abel et al., 2011; Ryan et al., 2011; Leitch and Robinson, 2012). However there are challenges like conflicting expectations and normative judgements of values, contradictory perspectives of evidences and knowledge to deal with (Leitch and Robinson, 2012). Accordingly, the government will need to balance the aspiration, expectations and values of coastal communities by taking into account the social dimensions of uncertainty which hold a vital role in the ability of local authorities to shift to new governance and practices (Leitch and Robinson, 2012; Taylor et. al., 2012; Susskind, 2013). Failure to realize this may jeopardize the objectives of building trust, legitimacy and cooperation in risk management and impair the ideas of deliberation and inclusion desired for improved risk governance. Thus translating this quest into practical strategies is of paramount. This study aims to explore sociologically-informed approaches to risk governance through deep investigation and understanding of how social learning underpins risk perception, communication and decision making through negotiation and compromises and that it holds potentials to improve risk governance. Theories orientations for the research derived from Luhman’s System Theory and Social Amplification of Risk Framework (SARF). This study embarks on interpretive case study involving local governments in Australia with local government officers and local communities as unit of analysis. The findings that revealed the implications and explicit attention of social learning in risk decision making will be the basis of practical intervention for future risk policy making as well as extending the current sociological theories of risk.