Natural and Man-Made Catastrophes

Theories, Economics, and Policy Designs
Wiley (Verlag)
  • 1. Auflage
  • |
  • erschienen am 9. Oktober 2018
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  • 272 Seiten
E-Book | ePUB mit Adobe-DRM | Systemvoraussetzungen
978-1-119-41682-1 (ISBN)
A thorough explanation of the mathematical theories, philosophies, and economics of catastrophes with a view to how humanity should be prepared for events with catastrophic consequences This book presents a holistic view of natural and man-made catastrophes, from mathematical theories and philosophy through to economics and policy. It is both academic and applied in its approach, offering both empirical evidence and academic reflections to give a new perspective on an ever-developing topic, and providing many examples of public policy and catastrophe responses from around the world. Natural and Man-made Catastrophes: Theories, Economics, and Policy Designs begins by introducing readers to numerous natural and man-made catastrophes and how catastrophe theories have played a pivotal role in designing policies and responses to them. It discusses hurricanes, earthquakes, nuclear disaster, asteroid collision, Large Hadron Collider, artificial intelligence, uncontrollable robots, global warming, infectious diseases without antibodies, and bioterrorism. It clarifies key mathematical and scientific theories--such as catastrophe theory, chaos, singularity, fractal, tipping point, unbounded variance, fat-tail, and Feigenbaum constant--on catastrophes. The book goes on to examine ancient and contemporary philosophies that have played critical roles in humanity's understanding of catastrophic outcomes. The book critically builds the economics of catastrophic events 1) by consolidating the catastrophe literature in natural sciences, scientific theories, and philosophy; 2) by constructing global empirical catastrophe data and analytical models using historical data on hurricanes and earthquakes; 3) and by critically reviewing policy experiences on the aforementioned catastrophic events. * Lays the foundation for the economic analyses and policy-making on potential humanity/universe threatening catastrophes * Includes many examples of public policy and behavioral responses to catastrophes from around the world * Provides a wide-ranging commentary on crucial implications of the studies, models, and concepts of catastrophes * Synthesizes the catastrophe literature in mathematical theories, philosophical traditions, economic analyses, policy studies, and contemporary concerns. Natural and Man-made Catastrophes: Theories, Economics, and Policy Designs is an important book for students, teachers, professionals, and policy makers who are involved in environmental research and disaster response.
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The Economics of Humanity-Ending Catastrophes, Natural and Man-made: Introduction

1.1 Fables of Catastrophes in Three Worlds

Since the beginning of human civilizations, humanity has feared catastrophes and has endeavored to prevent them, or cope with them if not stoppable. It is not an exaggeration to say that fears and horrors of catastrophes are deeply inscribed in the consciousness of human beings. As such, an enduring literature of catastrophes, natural and man-made, is easily found in a rich form in virtually all fields of mental endeavors including science, economics, philosophy, religion, policy, novels, poetry, music, and paintings.

The author has grown up listening to many fables and myths of catastrophes, some of which will be told presently, and is convinced that the readers of this book have heard similar, perhaps the same, stories growing up. Many stories of catastrophes may have been culturally passed on from generation to generation, some of which are a local event while others are larger-scale events.

Of the three fables, let me start with a fearful tale of a catastrophe that has been transmitted in the Mesopotamian flood tradition and the biblical flood tradition (Chen 2013). The great deluge myth goes that there was a great flood catastrophe a long time ago, which was caused by the fury of a heavenly being. All humans, animals, and plants were swept away to death by the deluge.

An old man, however, was informed of the catastrophic flooding days ahead, owing to the services he had rendered during his lifetime, and was instructed to build an ark. He built and entered the ark with his household members, essential goods, and animals. His family would be the only ones to survive the catastrophe, being afloat for 150?days in the deluge.

This myth of flood catastrophe has been passed down millennia as an early-warning fable for an imminent catastrophe on Earth, called popularly a judgment day. In that fateful day, only a handful of people will be permitted to escape the doomed fate. This fable or myth has left enduring imprints on many cultures and civilizations, including academics (Weitzman 1998).

When it comes to the tales of catastrophes, not all of them are loaded with fear and invoke imminence of a judgment day. Some tales are rather humorous and even make fun of the doomsday foretellers.

In the Chinese literature Lieh-Tzu, there was a man in the nation of Gi who was worried greatly that there was no place to escape if the sky fell. His panic was so much that he could neither eat nor sleep. On hearing his anxiety, a person who pitied his situation told him, "Since the sky is full of energy, how could it fall?" The man from the Gi nation replied, "If the sky is full of energy, shouldn't the Sun, Moon, and Stars drop because they are too heavy?" The concerned neighbor told him again, "Since the Sun, Moon, and Stars are burning with light, in addition to being full of energy, they will remain unbroken even if they should fall to the ground." The man from the Gi nation responded, "Shouldn't the Earth be collapsed then?" (Wong 2001).

In the East Asian culture, there is a popular word "Gi-Woo" which comes from the "Gi" nation and "Woo" which means worry and anxiety. The word is used in a situation in which someone is worried about something too much without a sound basis. The fable of Gi-Woo is a humorous depiction of a human tendency to worry too much beyond what is reasonably needed.

In the third type of fable of catastrophes, tellers of the fable take a different approach from the two aforementioned fables - that is, a rational and intelligent approach on the catastrophic risk. Recorded in the Jataka tales, the Buddha's birth stories, there was a rabbit who always worried about the end of the world. One day, a coconut fell from a palm-tree and hit the rabbit who, startled, started to run, screaming the world is breaking up. This intriguing tale goes as follows (Cowell et al. 1895):

Once upon a time, a rabbit was asleep under a palm-tree. All at once he woke up, and thought: "What if the world should break up! What then would become of me?"

At that moment, some monkeys dropped a cocoanut. It fell down on the ground just back of the rabbit. Hearing the noise, the rabbit said to himself: "The earth is all breaking up!" And he jumped up and ran just as fast as he could, without even looking back to see what made the noise.

Another rabbit saw him running, and called after him, "What are you running so fast for?" "Don't ask me!" he cried. But the other rabbit ran after him, begging to know what was the matter. Then the first rabbit said: "Don't you know? The earth is all breaking up!" And on he ran, and the second rabbit ran with him.

The next rabbit they met ran with them when he heard that the earth was all breaking up. One rabbit after another joined them, until there were hundreds of rabbits running as fast as they could go.

They passed a deer, calling out to him that the earth was all breaking up. The deer then ran with them.

The deer called to a fox to come along because the earth was all breaking up. On and on they ran, and an elephant joined them.

This tale of a frightened rabbit does not end here: there is a remarkable turnaround in the tale, which the author has saved, along with the rest of the story, for the final chapter of this book. It is quite sufficient to point out that we all - that is, the author and the readers who picked up this book on humanity-scale and universal catastrophes - are frightened rabbits. We are much scared about the possibility of the world's break-up owing to numerous uncontrollable mishaps, including nuclear wars, a gigantic asteroid collision, strangelets, singularity, killer robots, and global warming (Dar et al. 1999; Hawking et al. 2014).

1.2 Feared Catastrophic Events

The list of catastrophic events that are feared by people and societies is hardly short (Posner 2004). Some of these events have received extensive attention from researchers and policy-makers in the past, while others are emerging threats, therefore not-well-understood phenomena (for example, refer to the survey of American fears by Chapman University 2017). Some events have inflicted great harm on humanity over and over again historically, while other events are only a threat with a remote possibility. Some catastrophes are caused primarily by the force of nature, while others are primarily manmade.

Historically, catastrophic events are locally interpreted (Sanghi et al. 2010). A catastrophic event is one that wreaks havoc on a local community. The local community can be as small as a rural village, a town, or a city. A local catastrophe is most often a natural disaster, such as earthquakes, droughts, floods, heat waves, cold waves, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

Examples of a local catastrophe include an earthquake that strikes a city. Among the strongest earthquakes recorded are the 1960 Valdivia earthquake that hit the city of Valdivia in southern Chile, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Great Kobe earthquake in 1995 in Japan, the 1950 Assam-Tibet earthquake, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, and the 2011 earthquake off the Pacific coast of Tohoku in Japan.

The numbers of fatalities that resulted from the deadliest earthquakes in history make it obvious to the reader why these events are catastrophic events. The Shaanxi earthquake in China in 1556 killed 830?000 people; the Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004 resulted in the deaths of 280?000 people in South Asia; the 2010 Haiti earthquake was reported to have killed about 220?000 people; the Great Kanto earthquake in 1923 in Japan killed about 105?000; and the Kobe earthquake in Japan in 1995 killed 6434 people (Utsu 2013; EM-DAT 2017).

The deadliest earthquakes recorded in history are shown in Figure 1.1. Labels are attached to the vertical bars with more than 100?000 deaths. It is noticeable that the high-fatality earthquakes occurred most often at the centers of civilizations: Mongolian earthquakes at the time of the Mongol empire, Roman earthquakes during the time of the Roman empire. Also, high-fatality earthquakes occurred in high population centers: the Indian Ocean earthquake, Kashmir, and Chinese cities such as Shaanxi and Tangshan.

Figure 1.1Deadliest earthquakes during the past 2000?years..

Source: Utsu (2013), EM-DAT (2017)

As is clear in Figure 1.1, the high casualty events have not let up in recent decades despite progresses in technological and information capabilities. The 2011 Tohokhu earthquake in Japan claimed about 16?000 lives; the 2010 Haiti earthquake was reported to have killed about 220?000 people (according to the Haitian government); the 2008 Sichuan earthquake claimed about 88?000 lives; the 2005 Kashmir earthquake 100?000 lives; and the 2005 Indian Ocean earthquake 280?000 lives. As such, earthquakes remain one of the most catastrophic events that people are concerned about today.

An earthquake occurs as a result of the movements and collisions of the lithosphere's tectonic plates (Kiger and Russell 1996). The Earth's lithosphere, i.e. a rigid layer of rock...

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