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Catastrophic risks


  • Graciela Chichilnisky


Catastrophic risks are rare events with major consequences and of great interest to green economics. The article investigates the way economics deals with catastrophic risks. Classic expected utility theory is insensitive to rare events no matter how important these may be, based on the axioms of Von Neumann (1944), Arrow (1971) and DeGroot (1970/2004) that define proximity of observations in terms of 'averages' obliterating outliers. A new axiomatic extension to the theory of choice introduced new axioms that are sensitive to rare events, and characterised the criteria that these imply (Chichilnisky, 1996, 2000, 2002, 2010; Lawuers, 1993). These are expected utility combined with a new term that focuses on extremal events, explaining 'fat tails' and 'outliers'. Continuity based on 'the topology of fear' provides the required sensitivity to rare events (Chichilnisky, 2009c). Experimental evidence for the new axiomatic treatment is in Chanel and Chichilnisky (2009). The results relate to Debreu's (1954) work on Adam Smith's Invisible Hand and Le Doux's (1996) work on the neurological responses to fear.

Suggested Citation

  • Graciela Chichilnisky, 2009. "Catastrophic risks," International Journal of Green Economics, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 3(2), pages 130-141.
  • Handle: RePEc:ids:ijgrec:v:3:y:2009:i:2:p:130-141

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    Cited by:

    1. Chanel, Olivier & Chichilnisky, Graciela, 2013. "Valuing life: Experimental evidence using sensitivity to rare events," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 198-205.
    2. Luterbacher Urs & Sandi Carmen, 2014. "Breaking the Dynamics of Emotions and Fear in Conflict and Reconstruction," Peace Economics, Peace Science, and Public Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 20(3), pages 1-44, August.
    3. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 2000. "An axiomatic approach to choice under uncertainty with catastrophic risks," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 221-231, July.
    4. Olivier Chanel & Graciela Chichilnisky, 2009. "The influence of fear in decisions: Experimental evidence," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 39(3), pages 271-298, December.
    5. Graciela Chichilnisky & Peter Eisenberger, 2009. "Asteroids: Assessing Catastrophic Risks," Working Papers 09-13, LAMETA, Universitiy of Montpellier, revised Nov 2009.
    6. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 2009. "Avoiding extinction: equal treatment of the present and the future," Economics - The Open-Access, Open-Assessment E-Journal, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW), vol. 3, pages 1-25.
    7. Chichilnisky, Graciela, 1998. "The economics of global environmental risk," MPRA Paper 8812, University Library of Munich, Germany.


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