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Exploring the Perceived Risk and Acceptability of Human Induced Earthquakes Related to Energy Development: The Case of Enhanced Geothermal

January 18, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm


The Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences Division at Mines presents Dr. Katherine McComas’ lecture, “Exploring the Perceived Risk and Acceptability of Human Induced Earthquakes Related to Energy Development: The Case of Enhanced Geothermal.”

Growing awareness of the potential for energy technologies to induce earthquakes has created a need to better understand how the public evaluates the risks of induced earthquakes against the benefits of these technologies. This presentation examines this topic in relation to several different technologies that induce seismicity yet also provide benefits to society. It includes a particular focus on efforts to develop enhanced geothermal systems in regions that historically experience less seismicity. Thus, it explores how people might react to the introduction of a relatively new risk to their environment and how they weigh this risk against the potential benefits, including reducing greenhouse gases. Sharing the results of two studies, the presentation highlights the importance people place on fairness in decision making about risk, which includes engaging with local stakeholders, particularly when the science is uncertain and the extent of the risks unknown. This talk is geared toward engineers, scientists, social scientists, and others interested in understanding approaches to managing public risk perceptions under conditions of uncertainty.

Dr. Katherine McComas is a professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University. Her research and teaching center on how people communicate about health, science, and environmental risks. Such communication can take place in multiple venues—from the front page of The New York Times, to the website of the Centers for Disease Control, to the local public meeting, to the doctor’s office.

She is particularly interested in how risk communication influences people’s attitudes and behaviors, as well as incentives and barriers people face in the context of risk communication. Recent work focuses more specifically on how to communicate about infectious and zoonotic disease risks that may be exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

Her research often takes place in contexts related to risk and environmental decision-making (e.g., Why do people attend public meetings about local environmental risks? Who do people trust for information about renewable energy?), and she enjoys sharing her results and discussing other relevant research with people outside of the classroom who want to learn more about risk communication.

Her research has earned multiple forms of recognition, including being inducted as a Fellow (2014), later Councilor (2015), and more recently President-elect in the Society for Risk Analysis, being giving the Advisory Committee Service Award (2010) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and others.




January 18, 2018
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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Marquez Hall
1600 Arapahoe St.
Golden, CO 80401 United States


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