A collaboration between the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the International Science Council, the Simon Institute for Long term Governance and the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk has led to the publication of a new report, “Hazards with escalation potential: Governing the drivers of global and existential catastrophes.”


The report is a briefing note to inform policymakers and experts about global catastrophic risks and the need for strategic foresight. Understanding these risks can improve investments in critical areas, such as healthcare and AI regulation, and enhance preparedness for future events.


The report has been based on a comprehensive literature review, an expert elicitation survey and two expert consultations, providing a body of knowledge that reflects recent scholarship on catastrophic and existential risk, identifies hazards with escalation potential, and infers their shared characteristics based on existing hazard classification and challenges in risk understanding and governance.


The briefing note identifies ten hazards with escalation potential from four types: geohazards, biological, technological, and social. It also discusses climate change and artificial intelligence as underrepresented drivers of global risks, which can create, modify, or amplify other hazards. The note analyses the standard features of the hazards with escalation potential, such as exponential growth, global scope, severe and cascading impacts, irreversible shifts, exceedance of coping capacities, trust erosion, uncertainty and complexity, shared ownership, technology, development and uncertainty. The report examines the gaps and challenges in the existing risk governance systems, such as lack of foresight, coordination, accountability, and public awareness. The note provides implications for hazard and risk understanding and risk governance at the national and international levels. It suggests ways to improve risk assessment, modelling, prevention, preparedness, and response strategies.


Click here to read the report on Prevention Web.

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