CCCR 2020 - Threats without enemies: natural global disasters and their consequences

Published on 11 December 2020

Threats without enemies: natural global disasters and their consequences.

As Martin Rees set out in ‘Our Final Century’, humanity has lived with certain global catastrophic risks throughout history. Naturally occurring catastrophic hazards such as asteroid impact, super-volcanic eruptions and solar flares, are all capable of pushing humanity toward extinction. These ‘natural’ global disasters form something of a baseline against which other risks can be assessed. The scale of >these risks may lead us to assume there is little we can do to protect ourselves, but through advancements in our understanding and surveillance of such risks, we may now be able to reduce our vulnerabilities and exposures to these risk and increase our chances of >survival. So, how should we think about these threats and what can they teach us about responding to global catastrophic risk in general?
1. How worried should we be about ‘natural hazards’ like asteroids, super-volcanic eruptions, solar flares and gamma-ray bursts?
2. What can we expect to happen in the event of such a catastrophe, what might this mean for humanity, and how might this compare to other kinds of disaster?
3. How has our improved understand and surveillance of these hazards changed our perceptions of the risks, and how we may increase
our resilience?

Doug Erwin: Past Biotic Crises and Response

Doug Erwin is Senior Scientist and Curator of Paleobiology at the United States National Museum of Natural History of the Smithsonian Institution, and an external faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute.

Lindley Johnson: What if the Dinosaurs had had a Space Program? The Asteroid Impact Hazard and Planetary Defense

Lindley Johnson is the Lead Program Executive for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the NASA Planetary Defense Officer at NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate, Planetary Science Division.

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