Inter-Research > ESEP > v12 > n2 > p81-97  
Ethics in Science and Environmental Politics

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ESEP 12:81-97 (2012)  -  DOI:

EMF controversy in Chigu, Taiwan: contested declarations of risk and scientific knowledge have implications for risk governance

Shu-Fen Kao*

Graduate Institute of Asset Management and Urban Planning, University of Kang-Ning, Tainan, 70970, Taiwan, ROC

ABSTRACT: This article examines the controversy concerning the emission of electromagnetic waves at a meteorological radar site in Chigu, Taiwan, as an example of an emerging technological risk. At the heart of this controversy is a lack of scientific evidence and consensus regarding potential or future effects of the radiation on human health. The Chigu meteorological radar site started operating in 2000, and medical problems have inexplicably increased in one offshore community adjacent to this radar station since 2006. The community residents have long suspected that such disproportionate medical problems are a result of their daily exposure to electromagnetic waves from this meteorological radar site and now they are calling for this station to be dismantled. The Central Weather Bureau has responded to local residents’ protests by claiming that no scientific evidence of such risk exists, according to the criteria set by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) in Taiwan and several documents published by the World Health Organization. Environmental activists and local residents have never agreed with such responses and claims. Controversies between both camps continue to fester. Drawing from arguments presented in studies by Funtowicz and Ravetz and the literature on participatory risk governance, the present study employs a qualitative approach, with in-depth interviews and analysis of documentary data, to investigate this case. The research delineates conflicting portrayals and framings of scientific knowledge and risk by technocrats and by civil society. The ‘post-normal science’ call for democratizing expertise has a critical role in providing a perspective through which a contemporary complex scientific controversy may be better understood in social-political contexts in Taiwan and shed light on better risk governance.

KEY WORDS: Declaration of risk · Scientific knowledge · Post-normal science · Electromagnetic field · EMF · Participatory risk governance · Deliberation · Meteorological radar · Taiwan

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Cite this article as: Kao SF (2012) EMF controversy in Chigu, Taiwan: contested declarations of risk and scientific knowledge have implications for risk governance. Ethics Sci Environ Polit 12:81-97.

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