Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Davis

UC Davis Electronic Theses and Dissertations bannerUC Davis

The Greater the Risk, The Greater the Reward: How Environmental Risk Shapes Policy Response



How best to address so-called wicked problems that threaten the social and physical environment is a ubiquitous question in environmental governance scholarship. Lacking clear boundaries and straight-forward solutions, the sources and impacts of wicked problems are heterogeneously distributed across the landscape. Existing literature emphasizes the importance of myriad factors like knowledge, financial resources, and time, in catalyzing decision-maker response to these impacts. However, given the uneven distribution of impacts across the landscape, society translates their own experiences into valued environmental risks. It is up to decision-makers to assess these environmental risk valuations and determine how and when to respond and with whom to respond. To date, research into how environmental risk shapes decision-maker response is nascent. To fill this knowledge gap, this dissertation explores the role of environmental risk in shaping policy response across three cases: drinking water quality management and climate extremes in California, unconventional oil and gas drilling in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, and harmful algal bloom governance in Lake Erie.

Each chapter in this dissertation relies on a different data set and case study to assess how science supply aligns with perceived environmental risk (Chapter 1), whether and how actual environmental risk shapes policy response (Chapter 2), and how environmental risk shapes planned collaborative approaches to addressing wicked problems (Chapter 3). Data types employed in this dissertation include survey instruments (Chapters 1 and 2), literature reviews (Chapters 1 and 2), and planning document analysis (Chapter 3). Utilizing quadratic assignment procedure (Chapter 1), logistic regressions (Chapter 2), and social-ecological network analysis (Chapter 3), results suggest that environmental risk does play a role in catalyzing and shaping policy response to wicked problems.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View