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Danger is all around: Eliciting expert perceptions for managing climate change through a mental models approach

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Global Environment Change, Volume 17, Number 1, p.131-146 (2007)



It has long been acknowledged that understandings of risk are influenced by external or ëobjectiveí assessments, and by internal or ësubjectiveí value judgements. In-depth research has been undertaken on how lay people perceive climate change and related risks, whereas work on expert opinions is more limited. This paper reports on 22 ëexpertí interpretations elicited through a mental models approach, and encapsulated in a ëmetaí-influence diagram, denoting three conceptualisations of danger in relation to climate change: (i) human influence upon the climate system; (ii) impacts upon natural and human communities; and (iii) threat to the status quo, especially in the form of mitigation measures and related costs. These conceptualisations raise questions about how experts bring to bear their knowledge, values and understanding of climatic and social systems in articulating such discourses. This paper also discusses the implications of such diverse perspectives on managing climate change.