Catastrophe

I low should nations think about worst-case scenarios If people's intuitions misfire, and if private and public decisions go badly wrong, can we devise a framework that might help The Precautionary Principle, now used in many international documents, is often said to provide an answer.1 Consider a few examples (1) The closing Ministerial Declaration from the United Nations Economic Conference for Europe in 1990 asserts, Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full...

Catastrophic Harm Version Precautions as Insurance

For some risks, people seek to create a margin of safety that operates as a kind of regulatory insurance. In deciding on our own behavior and the behavior of sensible governments, we might favor special precautions against worst-case scenarios. Perhaps it makes sense to buy extra insurance for catastrophic risks, on a principle of risk aversion. When low-probability risks of catastrophe are placed on-screen, so that people will not ignore them, many people are willing to pay much more to avoid...

Availability

In thinking about risks, people rely on certain rules of thumb heuristics that serve to simplify their inquiry.117 When using these mental short-cuts, people answer a hard question by substituting an easier one.118 Should Americans be fearful of hurricanes, nuclear power, AIDS, mad cow disease, alligator attacks, sniper attacks, or avian flu To answer this question, people try to think of relevant examples.119 If images of the threat come easily to mind, people are far more likely to be...

Ozone Depletion

Chlorofluorocarbons CFCs were originally used as fluids in refrigerators, in part because they were far safer than the available alternatives, which were either flammable or dangerously toxic.4 In addition to their numerous cooling applications, CFCs came to be used as propellants in aerosol spray cans. Widespread commercial and military uses for CFCs and related chemicals, prominently including halons, produced billions of dollars in revenues for their manufacturers. The idea that CFCs posed a...