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Does size matter? A study of risk perceptions of global population growth

Does size matter? A study of risk perceptions of global population growth
Does size matter? A study of risk perceptions of global population growth
The global human population now exceeds seven billion and is projected to reach 10 billion around 2060. While population growth has been associated with certain benefits (e.g., economies of scale, technological advancements), theoretical models, probabilistic projections and empirical evidence also indicate that this growth could increase the likelihood of many adverse events (e.g., climate change, resource shortages) and the impact of these events, as more people are exposed to the outcomes. While concerns about these issues are well-documented in the academic literature, there is little evidence concerning the public’s perceptions of the risks associated with global population growth (GPG) and how these perceptions are likely to influence related decisions. To address these issues, we conducted a UK-based study that examined respondents’ risk perceptions of GPG, their willingness to embrace mitigation/precautionary behaviors, and reasons for variations in these two factors. We found that GPG is perceived as a moderate-to-high risk, with concerns about the increased likelihood of resource shortages, ecological damage and violent conflict being foremost. Respondents believed that the worst effects of GPG would arrive around 2050 and would be experienced by the world’s poorest people. Respondents who perceived greater levels of risk from GPG were generally those who indicated a greater willingness to embrace mitigation behaviors (e.g., reduce resource consumption) and preventative actions (e.g., support political action to limit growth). We discuss how our findings might be utilized to better manage the potential challenges associated with GPG and we suggest several directions for further research.
global population growth, psychological distance, risk behavior, risk communication, risk perception
0272-4332
65-81
Dawson, Ian
dff1b440-6c83-4354-92b6-04809460b01a
Johnson, Johnnie
6d9f1a51-38a8-4011-a792-bfc82040fac4
Dawson, Ian
dff1b440-6c83-4354-92b6-04809460b01a
Johnson, Johnnie
6d9f1a51-38a8-4011-a792-bfc82040fac4

Dawson, Ian and Johnson, Johnnie (2017) Does size matter? A study of risk perceptions of global population growth. Risk Analysis, 37 (1), 65-81. (doi:10.1111/risa.12576).

Record type: Article

Abstract

The global human population now exceeds seven billion and is projected to reach 10 billion around 2060. While population growth has been associated with certain benefits (e.g., economies of scale, technological advancements), theoretical models, probabilistic projections and empirical evidence also indicate that this growth could increase the likelihood of many adverse events (e.g., climate change, resource shortages) and the impact of these events, as more people are exposed to the outcomes. While concerns about these issues are well-documented in the academic literature, there is little evidence concerning the public’s perceptions of the risks associated with global population growth (GPG) and how these perceptions are likely to influence related decisions. To address these issues, we conducted a UK-based study that examined respondents’ risk perceptions of GPG, their willingness to embrace mitigation/precautionary behaviors, and reasons for variations in these two factors. We found that GPG is perceived as a moderate-to-high risk, with concerns about the increased likelihood of resource shortages, ecological damage and violent conflict being foremost. Respondents believed that the worst effects of GPG would arrive around 2050 and would be experienced by the world’s poorest people. Respondents who perceived greater levels of risk from GPG were generally those who indicated a greater willingness to embrace mitigation behaviors (e.g., reduce resource consumption) and preventative actions (e.g., support political action to limit growth). We discuss how our findings might be utilized to better manage the potential challenges associated with GPG and we suggest several directions for further research.

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accepted manuscript Does Size Matter - Dec 2015.docx - Accepted Manuscript
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 30 December 2015
e-pub ahead of print date: 9 February 2016
Published date: January 2017
Keywords: global population growth, psychological distance, risk behavior, risk communication, risk perception
Organisations: Centre of Excellence in Decision, Analytics & Risk Research

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 385390
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/385390
ISSN: 0272-4332
PURE UUID: 79dfced7-7a9b-4e99-a497-048f090b51b6
ORCID for Ian Dawson: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-0555-9682

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 11 Jan 2016 15:39
Last modified: 28 Apr 2022 06:18

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