Synopses & Reviews
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, are among 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, innovative applications 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.
In this shocking work, Posner reveals to an unsuspecting public that catastrophic risks are much greater than is commonly appreciated.
About the Author
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 Year in 1999.
Table of Contents
What is catastrophe?
The organization of this book
Some useful disctinctions
1. What are the catastrohpic risks, and how catastrophic are they?
Other unintended man-made catastrophes
Catastrophic synergies and lesser-included catastrophes
2. Why so little is being done about the catastrophic risks
3. How to evaluate the catastrophic risks and the possible responses to them
The difference cost-benefit analysis can make: the case of RHIC
A modest version of the precautionary principle
Discounting to present value
Taxes, subsidies, and options: the case of global warming
Valuing human lives
Risk versus uncertainty
Coping with uncertainty
Politics, expertise, and neutrality: RHIC revisited
4. How to reduce the catastrophic risks
Fiscal tools: a recap
Some hypothetical regulatory policies