For my next post in this Anthropogenic Existential Risk thread, I provide a series of linked references as examples of the diverse type of evaluations that are being performed to both evaluate such existential risks and what can be done to mitigate such risks/threats to human existence:
The following linked reference provides another example of the evaluation of global catastrophic risk associated with food supply:
Baum, Seth D., David C. Denkenberger, Joshua M. Pearce, Alan Robock, and Richelle Winkler (June 2015), Resilience to global food supply catastrophes. Environment, Systems, and Decisions, DOI 10.1007/s10669-015-9549-2.http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10669-015-9549-2
Abstract: "Many global catastrophic risks threaten major disruption to global food supplies, including nuclear wars, volcanic eruptions, asteroid and comet impacts, and plant disease outbreaks. This paper discusses options for increasing the resilience of food supplies to these risks. In contrast to local catastrophes, global food supply catastrophes cannot be addressed via food aid from external locations. Three options for food supply resilience are identified: food stockpiles, agriculture, and foods produced from alternative (non-sunlight) energy sources including biomass and fossil fuels. Each of these three options has certain advantages and disadvantages. Stockpiles are versatile but expensive. Agriculture is efficient but less viable in certain catastrophe scenarios. Alternative foods are inexpensive pre-catastrophe but need to be scaled up post-catastrophe and may face issues of social acceptability. The optimal portfolio of food options will typically include some of each and will additionally vary by location as regions vary in population and access to food input resources. Furthermore, if the catastrophe shuts down transportation, then resilience requires local self-sufficiency in food. Food supply resilience requires not just the food itself, but also the accompanying systems of food production and distribution. Overall, increasing food supply resilience can play an important role in global catastrophic risk reduction. However, it is unwise to attempt maximizing food supply resilience, because doing so comes at the expense of other important objectives, including catastrophe prevention. Taking all these issues into account, the paper proposes a research agenda for analysis of specific food supply resilience decisions."
The next linked reference provides an example of the evaluation of global risks & resiliance associated with difficult to quantify catastrophic threats:
Baum, Seth D. (June 2015), Risk and resilience for unknown, unquantifiable, systemic, and unlikely/catastrophic threats. Environment, Systems, and Decisions, , DOI 10.1007/s10669-015-9551-8.http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10669-015-9551-8
Abstract: "Risk and resilience are important paradigms for analyzing and guiding decisions about uncertain threats. Resilience has sometimes been favored for threats that are unknown, unquantifiable, systemic, and unlikely/catastrophic. This paper addresses the suitability of each paradigm for such threats, finding that they are comparably suitable. Threats are rarely completely unknown or unquantifiable; what limited information is typically available enables the use of both paradigms. Either paradigm can in practice mishandle systemic or unlikely/catastrophic threats, but this is inadequate implementation of the paradigms, not inadequacy of the paradigms themselves. Three examples are described: (a) Venice in the Black Death plague, (b) artificial intelligence (AI), and (c) extraterrestrials. The Venice example suggests effectiveness for each paradigm for certain unknown, unquantifiable, systemic, and unlikely/catastrophic threats. The AI and extraterrestrials examples suggest how increasing resilience may be less effective, and reducing threat probability may be more effective, for certain threats that are significantly unknown, unquantifiable, and unlikely/catastrophic."
The next linked reference provides an example of how to evaluate the risks of far future global threats:
Baum, Seth D. (2015), The far future argument for confronting catastrophic threats to humanity: Practical significance and alternatives. Futures, DOI 10.1016/j.futures.2015.03.001.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328715000312
Abstract: "Sufficiently large catastrophes can affect human civilization into the far future: thousands, millions, or billions of years from now, or even longer. The far future argument says that people should confront catastrophic threats to humanity in order to improve the far future trajectory of human civilization. However, many people are not motivated to help the far future. They are concerned only with the near future, or only with themselves and their communities. This paper assesses the extent to which practical actions to confront catastrophic threats require support for the far future argument and proposes two alternative means of motivating actions. First, many catastrophes could occur in the near future; actions to confront them have near-future benefits. Second, many actions have co-benefits unrelated to catastrophes, and can be mainstreamed into established activities. Most actions, covering most of the total threat, can be motivated with one or both of these alternatives. However, some catastrophe-confronting actions can only be justified with reference to the far future. Attention to the far future can also sometimes inspire additional action. Confronting catastrophic threats best succeeds when it considers the specific practical actions to confront the threats and the various motivations people may have to take these actions."
The next linked reference provides an example of evaluating the somewhat familiar threats associated with a nuclear winter:
Baum, Seth D. (2015), Confronting the threat of nuclear winter. Futures, DOI 10.1016/j.futures.2015.03.004.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328715000403
Abstract: "Large-scale nuclear war sends large quantities of smoke into the stratosphere, causing severe global environmental effects including surface temperature declines and increased ultraviolet radiation. The temperature decline and the full set of environmental effects are known as nuclear winter. This paper surveys the range of actions that can confront the threat of nuclear winter, both now and in the future. Nuclear winter can be confronted by reducing the probability of nuclear war, reducing the environmental severity of nuclear winter, increasing humanity's resilience to nuclear winter, and through indirect interventions that enhance these other interventions. While some people may be able to help more than others, many people—perhaps everyone across the world—can make a difference. Likewise, the different opportunities available to different people suggests personalized evaluations of nuclear winter, and of catastrophic threats more generally, instead of a one-size-fits-all approach."
The next linked reference discusses the concept of employing isolated refuges to reduce the risk of human extinction:
Baum, Seth D., David C. Denkenberger, and Jacob Haqq-Misra. Isolated refuges for surviving global catastrophes. Futures, forthcoming, DOI 10.1016/j.futures.2015.03.009.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016328715000464
Abstract: "A variety of global catastrophes threaten the survival of human civilization. For many of these catastrophes, isolated refuges could keep some people alive and enable them to rebuild civilization in the post-catastrophe world. This paper examines the potential importance of refuges and what it would take to make them succeed. The successful refuge will have a variety of qualities, including isolation from catastrophes and self-sufficiency. These qualities can be achieved through a variety of specific design features. We introduce the concept of surface-independence as the gold standard for refuge excellence: refuges isolated from Earth's surface will offer maximum protection against both the catastrophe itself and potentially harmful post-catastrophe populations. However, surface-independence introduces significant design challenges. We present several challenges and evaluate possible solutions. Self-sufficiency in food provision can be greatly enhanced via chemical food synthesis. The rejection of waste heat from subterranean refuges can be enhanced via building piping networks and locating refuges near running groundwater or in ice. The high cost of extraterrestrial refuges can be offset by integrating refuges into space missions with scientific, political, or commercial goals. Overall, refuges show much promise for protecting civilization against global catastrophes and thus warrant serious consideration."