Catastrophe: Risk and Response

Paperback | December 1, 2005

byRichard A. Posner

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Catastrophic risks are much greater than is commonly appreciated. Collision with an asteroid, runaway global warming, voraciously replicating nanomachines, a pandemic of gene-spliced smallpox launched by bioterrorists, and a world-ending accident in a high-energy particle accelerator, areamong the possible extinction events that are sufficiently likely to warrant careful study. How should we respond to events that, for a variety of psychological and cultural reasons, we find it hard to wrap our minds around? Posner argues that realism about science and scientists, innovativeapplications of cost-benefit analysis, a scientifically literate legal profession, unprecedented international cooperation, and a pragmatic attitude toward civil liberties are among the keys to coping effectively with the catastrophic risks.

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Catastrophic risks are much greater than is commonly appreciated. Collision with an asteroid, runaway global warming, voraciously replicating nanomachines, a pandemic of gene-spliced smallpox launched by bioterrorists, and a world-ending accident in a high-energy particle accelerator, areamong the possible extinction events that are su...

Richard A. Posner is Judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including Overcoming Law a New York Times Book Review editors' choices for best book of 1995 and An Affair of State, one of their choices for Best Book of the ...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 5.59 × 8.7 × 0.91 inPublished:December 1, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195306473

ISBN - 13:9780195306477

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Table of Contents

IntroductionWhat is catastrophe?The organization of this bookSome useful disctinctions1. What are the catastrohpic risks, and how catastrophic are they?Natural catastrophesScientific accidentsOther unintended man-made catastrophesIntentional catastrophesCatastrophic synergies and lesser-included catastrophes2. Why so little is being done about the catastrophic risksCultural factorsPsychological factorsEconomic factors3. How to evaluate the catastrophic risks and the possible responses to themThe difference cost-benefit analysis can make: the case of RHICA modest version of the precautionary principleDiscounting to present valueTaxes, subsidies, and options: the case of global warmingValuing human livesRisk versus uncertaintyCoping with uncertaintyPolitics, expertise, and neutrality: RHIC revisitedSummary4. How to reduce the catastrophic risksInstitutional reformsFiscal tools: a recapSome hypothetical regulatory policiesConclusionNotesIndex

Editorial Reviews

"This book provides a balanced and immensely informative discussion of catastrophic risks to the planet, and makes a logical first stab at policy responses. It should stimulate far more attention to the growing threat of such catastrophes as bioterrorism, strangelet disasters from particleaccelerators, and non-linear climate change, among the academic and policy community."--Ian W. H. Parry, Resources for the Future