Climate change, bushfire risk and environmental values

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This week’s featured research article has just been published in Society and Natural Resources by University of Adelaide and UniSA researchers and discusses climate change, bushfire risk, and environmental values by examining a potential risk perception threshold in peri-urban South Australia. The researchers state that striking a balance between the management of environmental risks and values is a challenge for decision-makers. If people perceive that environmental risks are increasing they may be willing to discount local values to manage those risks, so the identification of thresholds in risk perception in relation to specific behaviours could help to avoid policy failures. The researchers present the complex relationships between perceptions of climate change and bushfire risks, environmental values and support for actions to mitigate local risks for peri-urban regions in South Australia. The results of a household survey (N=988) suggest that a threshold of risk perception in relation to climate change and bushfire management has not been exceeded and people are broadly supportive of balanced management interventions. A minority of people do not perceive that climate change is increasing bushfire risk, and are supportive of risk mitigation interventions even at the expense of local biodiversity. However, a larger group believe that climate change is a driver of bushfire risk, yet are still more likely to prioritize ecological values and are unwilling to discount those values for risk mitigation. The researchers conclude that targeted communication could assist different groups to respond to gaps in knowledge and action to facilitate effective, differentiated interventions within forested landscapes on the margins of urban areas. The paper can be downloaded here (or email jennie.fluin@sa.gov.au for a copy).