Energy production can pose risks, such as nuclear accidents, oil spills, and earthquakes caused by gas production. Besides experts’ evaluations of risks, appropriate risk assessment and management require knowledge about how people experience these risks and which mitigation measures they prefer. Media are often the sole source of information about public risk perceptions. Yet, media typically only report the most severe risks. By studying perceptions of different types of risks – among people with varying exposure to risks – we demonstrate how social science research can complement media reporting. We conducted a longitudinal questionnaire study into public risk perceptions of earthquakes caused by gas production in the province of Groningen, the Netherlands. While the media have reported multiple high risks and strong negative emotions, we found that people were mostly concerned about the risks for properties and for the image of the province of Groningen. Feeling powerless was the strongest negative emotion. People also evaluated mitigation measures as urgent but poorly implemented. Our results suggest that appropriate risk assessment and management need to follow a multi-method approach. This should incorporate multiple levels of analyses, including media reports, social science research on public risk perceptions, and experts’ evaluations of risks.
- Risk perceptions
- Gas production