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COVID-19 Transmission: Estimating Risk in Indoor Settings

Part of the Perspectives on Planetary Risk series

Jose Jimenez will review the importance of aerosols for disease transmission, a topic he has been working on with the world’s leading aerosol scientists since March 2020. He will summarize the scientific evidence showing that COVID-19 transmission is driven by aerosols, with a smaller fraction from surface transmission, and with a minor contribution of ballistic “WHO” droplets (only important when coughing and sneezing). Prasad Kasibhatla will discuss how this knowledge of aerosol -driven transmission can be used to derive quantitative estimates of COVID-19 transmission risk in indoor settings using a web-based risk assessment tool (http://covid-exposure-modeler-data-devils.cloud.duke.edu/) he has developed in collaboration with Jose Jimenez and colleagues at Duke. The discussion and audience questions will be moderated by Jonathan Wiener.

Panelists:

Jose-Luis Jimenez is a Professor of Chemistry and a Fellow of CIRES at the University of Colorado at Boulder. He holds a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT. His research group focuses on advanced real-time aerosol measurements and their application to aircraft and laboratory studies, and on mathematical modeling. He is a Highly Cited Researcher and a Fellow of the American Association for Aerosol Research (AAAR) and the American Geophysical Union (AGU).

Prasad Kasibhatla is a Professor of Environmental Chemistry in the Nicholas School of the Environment (with a secondary appointment in the Civil and Engineering Department in the Pratt School of Engineering) at Duke University. His research focuses on developing a quantitative understanding of the factors that determine the chemical composition of the atmosphere using numerical models in conjunction with surface, airborne, and satellite-based measurements of atmospheric chemical composition.

Moderator:

Jonathan Wiener is the William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professor of Law, Professor of Environmental Policy, and Professor of Public Policy, at Duke University. He is also the Co-Director of the Duke Center on Risk, in Science and Society, and Past President of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).

 

Asteroids, Planetary Defense, and Global Catastrophic Risk

Part of the Perspectives on Planetary Risk series

Speakers

Dr. Seth Baum

Executive Director, Global Catastrophic Risk Institute
Research Affiliate, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge

Asteroids as a case study in global catastrophic risk

Global catastrophic risk can be defined broadly as risks to the survival of life or global human civilization. The extreme severity of global catastrophic risks makes them important even if their probability is low. This presentation discusses recent research on asteroid risk and its implications for the broader study of global catastrophic risks. Asteroids are a valuable case study for both risk and policy analysis of global catastrophic risk. For risk analysis, asteroids are distinctive as being arguably the global catastrophic risk that is the most well-quantified in terms of probability and severity. This is aided by robust empirical data from the geologic history of asteroid collision events and ongoing astronomical surveys. However, the human consequence of asteroid collision is much less well understood, in part due to indirect effects such as the explosion from an asteroid collision being mistaken as a nuclear attack. Likewise, it is difficult to resolve the risk-risk tradeoffs in the proposed use of nuclear explosives for asteroid deflection. As a policy topic, asteroids have a relatively long history of both research and policy attention. Scientific awareness of asteroid risk dates to the 1940s and policy activity dates to the late 1980s. Whereas it is sometimes proposed that policymakers pay less attention to extreme low-probability/high-severity risks, policymakers have given more attention to the low-probability/high-severity portion of asteroid risk. A closer look at asteroid policy sheds light on the broader prospects for policy on global catastrophic risk.

Dr. Elisabeth Paté-Cornell

The Burt and Deedee McMurtry Professor in the School of Engineering, Stanford University

Professor and Founding Chair, Department of Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University

Past President of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA)

Asteroids Risk Assessment: A Probabilistic Model

Following the 2013 Chelyabinsk event, the risks posed by asteroids attracted renewed interest, from both the scientific and policy-making communities. Impacts from near-Earth objects (NEOs), while rare, have the potential to cause great damage to cities and populations. Point estimates of the risk (such as mean numbers of casualties) have been proposed, but because of the low-probability, high-consequence nature of asteroid impacts, these averages provide limited actionable information. While understanding that more observations are needed to refine its input (e.g., NEO diameters), I will present a probabilistic model that allows a more complete evaluation of the risk of NEO impacts—as we know it today—because the results are probability distributions that cover the range of potential casualties. We show that civil defense measures are likely to be beneficial but not a panacea. We also compute the probability of an impact with cataclysmic effects. We conclude that there is a continued need for NEO observation, and for analyses of the feasibility and risk-reduction effectiveness of space missions designed to deflect or destroy asteroids that threaten the Earth.

Moderator

Prof. Jonathan Wiener

Co-Director, the Duke Center on Risk, in Science and Society

William R. and Thomas L. Perkins Professor of Law, Professor of Environmental Policy, and Professor of Public Policy, Duke University

Past President of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA)

Dr. Seth D. Baum is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, a nonprofit and nonpartisan think tank. He is also an editor of the journal Science & Engineering Ethics and an honorary affiliate of the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge. He leads an interdisciplinary research agenda of risk, ethics, and policy analysis of catastrophic risks, focusing primarily on artificial intelligence, asteroids, and nuclear war.

Dr. Marie-Elisabeth Paté-Cornell is a Professor and the Founding Chairman of the Management Science and Engineering department at Stanford. Her specialty is engineering risk analysis, with applications to complex systems (space, medical, offshore platforms, cybersecurity, nuclear, etc.). She is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, the French Académie des Technologies, the Draper Lab Corporation, the NASA Advisory Council, and a Distinguished Visiting Scientist of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She was a member of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (2001 to 2008) and several other boards. She holds a BS in Mathematics and Physics, an Engineering degree in Applied Math/CS, an MS in Operations Research, and a Ph.D. in Engineering-Economic Systems both from Stanford University. Her current research focuses primarily on space systems and on cyber risk analysis, generally for a specified organization, and related topics. She was President of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) in 1995–96.

 

Managing Climate Risks Through Geoengineering. Opportunities and Challenges.

Part of the Perspectives on Planetary Risk series


Anthropogenic climate change poses serious risks. Yet even aggressive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions will most likely not be able to prevent harmful impacts, especially to already-vulnerable people, organisms, and ecosystems. Humans may be able to artificially cool the planet to counter climate change. What’s more, this “solar geoengineering” appears able to manage risks in ways that emissions reductions and adaptation to a changed climate cannot.

At the same time, it poses environmental risks and governance challenges of its own. For example, solar geoengineering would be global in effect but seems technically feasible and inexpensive enough that many states – or perhaps even nonstate actors – could implement it on their own, regardless of any international consensus. How can its potential be explored without catalyzing new types of climate conflict? Reynolds will offer a brief introduction to solar geoengineering’s capabilities and limitations, with an emphasis on incentives and problem structure. After responses from our discussants, substantial time will be reserved for participants’ questions.

Dr. Jesse Reynolds researches how society can manage environmental opportunities and challenges, particularly those involving new technologies. While his approach is centered within international environmental law, he draws from international relations and economics. Reynolds’s book The Governance of Solar Geoengineering: Managing Climate Change in the Anthropocene was recently published on Cambridge University Press. He is an Emmett/Frankel Fellow in Environmental Law and Policy at the UCLA School of Law. He is also an associate researcher at the Utrecht University Center for Water, Oceans, and Sustainability Law and a research affiliate at Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program.

Discussants

Juan Moreno-Cruz, Associate Professor, School of Environment, Enterprise and Development, and Canada Research Chair, University of Waterloo

David M. McEvoy, Professor of Economics and Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs & Administration,
Appalachian State University

Mariia Belaia, Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University

Moderator

Tyler Felgenhauer, Research Scientist, Duke Center on Risk in Science & Society, Duke University


Co-sponsors

This webinar is co-sponsored by the Duke Center on Risk seminar series on “Perspectives on Planetary Risks,” and the Environmental Institutions Seminar of the Nicholas School of the Environment, the Sanford School of Public Policy, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, at Duke University.

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