Anthropogenic risk creation: understanding and addressing the challenges via a conceptual model

Ian G. J. Dawson, Yaniv Hanoch

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Humans create many risks, ranging from those that are relatively negligible and easily managed to those that are far less wieldy and pose a threat to the existence of humanity, the lives of numerous other species and/or the functionality of local and global ecosystems. The literature on the process of anthropogenic risk creation is limited and piecemeal, and there has been far greater emphasis on using reactive approaches to deal with anthropogenic risks (e.g., risk management) rather than on employing proactive approaches to avert further risk creation (e.g., responsible innovation). An obvious starting point for averting or reducing future anthropogenic risk creation is to understand better the generic features of the risk creation process and to identify points at which the creation process might be better controlled or averted. To this end, this paper presents a simplified conceptual Model of Anthropogenic Risk Creation (MARC) that provides a broad descriptive overview of the sequential stages that appear to have been evident in several historic and contemporary instances of anthropogenic risk creation. By explicating the stages in the risk creation process, MARC highlights the key points at which more attention could be given (e.g., by innovators, policymaker, regulators) to implementing or encouraging greater risk prevention or limitation. Moreover, MARC can help to stimulate critical debate about the extent to which humanity inadvertently creates adverse conditions, such as those that inhibit human prosperity and sustainability, and the extent to which anthropogenic risk creation is adequately understood, researched and managed. This paper also critically reflects upon related issues, such as risk creation as a learning process and the relative merits of initiatives to promote greater responsibility in research and innovation. Important areas for future research on the anthropogenic risk creation process are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-235
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number2
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.


  • Anthropogenic risk creation
  • innovation
  • invention
  • responsibility
  • risk management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Strategy and Management


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