Risk literacy for the Blue Economy

Project Status: 

Understanding risk literacy in the context of decision-making for a sustainable Blue Economy

About the project:

The growth of the Blue Economy is seeing novel activities emerge in Australian marine environments to support energy and living resources production systems. This is driven by a potential offshore expansion of aquaculture and diversification of cultured species, and the push to transition to renewable energy, including but not limited to offshore wind and tidal energy. It is expected and preferred these novel activities be sustainable, with environmental, economic, and social implications of new developments considered. To achieve sustainable outcomes, decision-making processes should be comprehensive across stakeholder groups, including non-specialists.

By definition, novel activities are subject to a lack of empirical evidence on performance and the sustainability of their operations, and inherently involve risks. In this context of uncertainty, assessing the sustainability of outcomes is challenging if embedded within an evidence-based decision-making framework. Risk literacy is the ability to evaluate risks when making decisions. Research on risk literacy – and communicating risks of developments to stakeholders – is more common in the fields of public health, medicine, and finance, but less so in marine management for primary industries. The overarching aim of this project is to examine how risks could be best communicated to stakeholders for informed decision-making leading to sustainable outcomes for emerging marine industries in Australia.

This HDR project will 1) conduct a literature review on risk literacy and communications in fields of environmental science and management for primary industries, particularly in the context of making judgements about the sustainability of activities ; 2) propose a conceptual framework connecting sustainability, uncertainty, and risk literacy in the context of marine primary industries; 3) examine how different people, including experts and non-experts, perceive and understand risk, including what factors can influence this understanding; 4) propose approaches or tools to communicate risks with uncertain outcomes to broad groups of stakeholders by considering links between risk literacy and decision-making by individuals and organisations, for example through scenario-based decision-support tools or comparisons with other industries and lived experience.

University of TasmaniaInstitute of Marine and Antarctic StudiesCSIRO Department of the EnvironmentGEOS
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