This area will cover relevant news of the threat to the planet from Near Earth Objects (NEOs) including concepts and designs for mitigation. All opinions are those of the author.

16 November 2007

Interesting Article on Modern Perception of Global Natural Risks

Selections from the article...

In recent years, humankind has become aware of a number of global and existential risks that potentially threaten our survival.

These natural and man-made risks comprise cosmic disasters, volcanic super-eruptions and climatic disruption on the one hand, and nuclear warfare, technological catastrophes and fully-fledged bioterrorism on the other.

In order to secure the future of civilisation, we are challenged to recognise and ward off these low-probability, but potentially destructive hazards.

A new debate is gaining momentum about how best to achieve a secure future for our planetary civilisation.

A recent study confirms that the annual percentage of people killed by natural disasters has decreased tenfold in the last 40 years, in spite of the fact that the average annual number of recorded disasters increased fivefold. Evidently, open and technological societies are becoming increasingly resilient to the effects of natural disasters.

The more people see, hear or read about the risks of Near Earth Object (NEO) impacts, nuclear terrorism or global climate catastrophes, the more concerned they have become. The mere mention of catastrophic risks, regardless of its low probability, is enough to make the danger more urgent, thus increasing public estimates of danger.

Scientists who evaluate risks are often torn between employing level-headed risk communication and the temptation to overstate potential danger.

In recent years, leading scientists in the UK, such as Brandon Carter, Stephen Hawking and Sir Martin Rees, have advanced the so-called Doomsday Argument, a cosmological theory in which global catastrophes due to low-probability mega-disasters play a considerable role.

This speculative theory maintains that scientific risk assessments have systematically underestimated existential hazards. Hence the probability is growing that humankind will be wiped out in the near future.

Nevertheless, there are many good and compelling reasons why human extinction is not predetermined or unavoidable.

According to a more optimistic view of the future, all existential risks can be tackled, eliminated or significantly reduced through the application of human ingenuity, hyper-technologies and global democratisation.

Current advances in developing an effective planetary defence system, for example, will eventually lead to a protective shield that can safeguard life on the Earth from disastrous NEO impacts.

"Existential risk and democratic peace"
BBC Viewpoint
Benny Peiser, Liverpool John Moores University, UK
15 November 2007

Link: Article

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