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These slides accompanied a talk I gave at the AAPG-CSPG Oil Sands & Heavy Oil Symposium: A Local to Global Multidisciplinary Collaboration in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, October 14-16, 2014.
The slides complement the related working paper: "Perspectives on Risk: From Techno-Economic Calculations to Socio-Cultural Meanings," available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2508488
Recent news reports have been filled with debates concerning energy and environment risks. For instance, are nuclear power plants safe, or should they be modified in light of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster? Is hydraulic fracturing a technological breakthrough for natural gas extraction, or a threat to humans and the environment? Is the proposed Keystone XL transnational pipeline an economic boon, or an environmental bane? More fundamentally, is climate change a problem, and if so, what should be done about it? Given questions such as these, risk has become a central concern for businesses, regulators and communities. At one level, risk is about calculations and numbers. When it first emerged in the seventeenth century, risk was related to gambling; risk meant the chances of an event occurring, and the magnitude of the losses or winnings it might bring. Such understandings are evident in technical perspectives on risk, including engineering, epidemiology, toxicology and probabilistic assessments, as well as in economic perspectives on risk, including finance, actuarial and insurance approaches. But at another level, risk is about narratives and meanings. We all live in a “risk society”; risk is a way of framing debates and giving meaning to what is at stake. Such understandings are evident in perceptual perspectives on risk, including psychological, behavioral, and public opinion studies, as well as in cultural perspectives, including sociology, political science and conflict resolution approaches. In this paper, we argue that understanding energy and environment risks requires bringing together both numbers and narratives. Only by going beyond techno-economic conceptualizations of risk and considering socio-cultural issues can we explain risk within and across societies, whether at a given point in time, or dynamically over time.