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Developing the “Global Risk Continuum”

black swan 7

After the GNOSIS Black Swan Events workshop, I would like to use the enthusiasm roused by the presentations to suggest a collaborative effort to create an update to the Global Risk Continuum. If you remember from my presentation on rocket bodies in LEO, I presented the figure below as the primary artifact from the Global Risk Continuum paper completed in 2019.

In the original abstract for this effort, we stated that we wanted to provide perspective on space-related hazards come from both natural and man-made sources. The use of satellites in Earth orbit is now essential to the functioning of nation-states and commerce. The loss of these resources increases global risk as both the world population and global reliance on technology increase. Risks from natural cosmic threats from outside the confines of Earth include asteroids (i.e., Near Earth Objects, NEOs), solar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Threats from Near-Earth Objects (NEOS) are becoming clearer as our ability to detect and characterize them improves. Space weather, driven largely by solar dynamics, and changes to the Earth’s magnetic field that could decrease the natural protective shielding of Earth against solar storms, likewise threaten our planet. 

At the same time, the risk to the world’s population from catastrophes originating from human activity, war, pandemics, geophysical phenomena, weather, climate change, and other Earth-based risks appear to be increasing. As the global population has increased from 800 million in 1800 to nearly eight billion in 2019, the number of people whose lives might be affected by these low probability and high consequence events has risen significantly.

While it is difficult to precisely determine the effect of any of these risks individually, it can be instructive to create a common framework that allows comparison of a diverse set of hazards to evaluate risk awareness, mitigation, and remediation. These hazards span from high probability, moderate consequence events to low probability high consequence scenarios.

The Global Risk Continuum (GRC) presents individual scenarios within these threat classes along a single risk scale. As a first step in this analysis, a GRC is created by independently determining the probability for each type of event, and the consequence of each as represented in an estimated economic impact. The risk is then determined by taking the product of these two terms. Assumptions and conversion factors needed to enable this common baseline and preliminary observations of the results are provided. 

This is a “work in progress” that will require significant cooperation and collaboration to refine over time into a useful tool for policymakers, scientists, and others. The process of establishing ‘estimates’ of risk is an iterative process that will evolve and improve over time. The 2019 paper described a thought process and the beginnings of a methodology rather than a complete tool for global risk assessment.

I propose that we put together a group of individuals who would like to take the next steps on this project. Are you interested? Let me ( and Stuart ( know if you are willing and able to contribute to GRC #2.

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