Risk analysis

  • Climate & securityClimate change risk assessment: “The inconvenient may become intolerable”

    An international group of scientists, energy policy analysts, and experts in risk from finance and the military on Monday released a new independent assessment of the risks of climate change, designed to support political leaders in their decisions on how much priority to give to the issue. Their report argues that the risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security or public health. This means focusing on understanding what is the worst that could happen and how likely it is to occur. The report identifies thresholds beyond which “the inconvenient may become intolerable.” These include limits of human tolerance for heat stress, and limits of crops’ tolerance for high temperatures, which if exceeded could lead to large-scale fatalities and crop failure; as well as potential limits to coastal cities’ ability to successfully adapt to rising sea levels.

  • Climate & securityClimate change risk assessment: Policy brief

    The international group of experts which yesterday released the report Climate Change: A Risk Assessment (University of Cambridge, July 2015), summarized their recommendations in a policy brief. “An honest assessment of risk is no reason for fatalism. Just as small changes in climate can have very large effects, the same can be true for changes in government policy, technological capability, and financial regulation,” the experts write. “Leadership can make this virtuous circle turn faster, more fully mobilizing our ingenuity, resources, and commitment. In this way, the goal of preserving a safe climate for the future need not be beyond our reach.”

  • Emerging threatsEmerging threats require a new social contract between the state, citizens: Study

    Technological advancements create opportunities for governments and the private sector, but they also pose a threat to individual privacy and individual – and public — safety, which most Americans look to the government to protect. The authors of a new book on emerging threats argue that while, at one time, “the government used to be our sole provider of security,” companies which store troves of private information are also key to Americans’ privacy and security. They say that the United States may need a new social contract between the state and its citizens on matters of security and privacy. “The old social contract has its roots in the security dilemmas of the Enlightenment era,” they write. “In our new era, everyone is simultaneously vulnerable to attack and menacing to others. That requires a different, more complex social contract — one that we are just starting to imagine.”

  • GeohazardsExtreme geohazards: Reducing disaster risk, increasing resilience

    Extreme hazards — rare, high-impact events — pose a serious and underestimated threat to humanity. The extremes of the broad ensemble of natural and anthropogenic hazards can lead to global disasters and catastrophes. Because they are rare and modern society lacks experience with them, they tend to be ignored in disaster risk management. While the probabilities of most natural hazards do not change much over time, the sensitivity of the built environment and the vulnerability of the embedded socio-economic fabric have increased rapidly.

  • FloodsPredicting the scope of flash flooding

    Devastating flooding, such as Iowa’s flood of 2008 — which swamped many Iowa communities, along with ten square miles of Cedar Rapids — are notoriously difficult to predict. Researchers set out to gain a better understanding of flood genesis and the factors impacting it. They were able to do this by zeroing in on the impacts of certain rainfall patterns at the smallest unit of a river basin: the hillslope scale.

  • Infrastructure protectionU.S. yet to develop a strategy to secure nation’s critical infrastructure

    For years, the U.S. government has warned federal and state agencies about the threat posed by hackers who may target computer systems responsible for operating nuclear plants, electric substations, oil and gas pipelines, transit systems, chemical facilities, and drinking water facilities. In February 2013, President Barack Obama issued a directive stating, “It is the policy of the United States to strengthen the security and resilience of its critical infrastructure against both physical and cyber threats.” Two years later the federal government has yet to develop or adopt a consensus on how to secure America’s critical infrastructure from cyber criminals.

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  • Tornado safe roomsOhio helps resident pay for tornado safe rooms

    In recent years, Ohio has averaged twenty-three tornadoes annually. The state also experienced winds topping 70 mph during Hurricane Ike in 2008, 100 mph in the derecho during the summer of 2012, and near hurricane-force winds along Lake Erie in northeastern Ohio during superstorm Sandy in the fall of 2012. Many Ohio residents living along “Tornado Alley” have rehearsed their escape plans several times to prepare for the next time a tornado touches ground. To offer residents better protection, since 2013 the Ohio Emergency Management Agency(EMA) has been helping qualified homeowners pay for safe rooms which can withstand the most destructive windstorms.

  • Resilience to Extreme WeatherReducing the impact of extreme weather

    How do we reduce the impact of extreme weather today while preparing ourselves for future changes? What can we do to build our resilience? A new report from the Royal Society investigates these, and other, key questions to help inform important decisions about adaptation and risk reduction that are being made at global, national and local levels.

  • Resilience to Extreme WeatherNew report highlights “significant and increasing” risks from extreme weather

    A comprehensive new report, published by the Royal Society, indicates that exposure of human populations to extreme weather is set to increase as global climate and population size, location, and age continue to change. The report focuses on the risks to people from floods, droughts, and heatwaves. These are some of the most frequent and damaging extreme events that currently occur and their impacts will change with the changing climate. The report also calls for changes to global financial accounting and regulation to ensure that extreme weather risk is made explicit. At present, these risks are not systematically factored into investors’ valuations or assessed by creditors.

  • Risk analysisRisk analysis for an increasingly more complex world

    The increasing complexity and interconnection of socioeconomic and environmental systems leaves them more vulnerable to seemingly small risks that can spiral out of control, according to the new study. Developing adaptable systems for finance and international relations could help reduce the risk of major systemic collapses such as the 2008 financial crisis, according to the study.

  • ResilienceSome states are better prepared than others for climate change challenges

    In recent years, a number of states have started taking action to prepare their communities for climate change. Many have even developed specific adaptation plans to guide their work. Until now, though, no one has been able to define how much progress states are actually making in implementing those plans. The Georgetown Climate Center’s (GCC) online tool, the State Adaptation Progress Tracker, changes that. A GCC release says that now, anyone will be able to quickly determine how much progress their state is making and decision-makers will be able to learn from innovative examples of actions other states are taking.

  • EarthquakesComplicating the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest

    Nearly forgotten research from decades ago complicates the task of quantifying earthquake hazards in the Pacific Northwest, according to a new report from scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey, the University of Washington, and other universities. The report focuses on the Cascadia subduction zone — a giant active fault that slants eastward beneath the Pacific coast of southern British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and northern California.

  • Lab safetyResearch institutions must support strong, positive safety culture in chemical labs

    Everyone involved in the academic chemical research enterprise — from researchers and principal investigators to university leadership — has an important role to play in establishing and promoting a strong, positive safety culture, says a new report from the National Research Council. This requires a constant commitment to safety organization-wide and emphasis on identifying and solving problems, rather than merely adhering to a set of rules and assigning blame when those rules are not followed.

  • InfrastructureMapping Florida sinkholes

    Sinkholes are common in Florida because of porous rock underground, such as limestone, which holds water. Over time, acid in the water dissolves the rock, creating a void. The Florida Geological Surveyand Florida Department of Emergency Managementare making progress on creating a statewide map showing where sinkholes are most likely to form. Florida received more than $1 million in federal funding last year to conduct a three-year study which would eventually help emergency planners predict where sinkholes are likely to develop, especially after large rainstorms.

  • EarthquakesWastewater injection induces Oklahoma quakes: study

    The dramatic increase in earthquakes in central Oklahoma since 2009 is likely attributable to subsurface wastewater injection at just a handful of disposal wells, finds a new study. The researchers say Oklahoma earthquakes constitute nearly half of all central and eastern U.S. seismicity from 2008 to 2013, many occurring in areas of high-rate water disposal.