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Averting catastrophes: the strange economics of Scylla and Charybdis

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  • Martin, Ian
  • Pindyck, R. S.

Abstract

Faced with numerous potential catastrophes—nuclear and bioterrorism, megaviruses, climate change, and others—which should society attempt to avert? A policy to avert one catastrophe considered in isolation might be evaluated in cost-benefit terms. But because society faces multiple catastrophes, simple cost-benefit analysis fails: Even if the benefit of averting each one exceeds the cost, we should not necessarily avert them all. We explore the policy interdependence of catastrophic events, and develop a rule for determining which catastrophes should be averted and which should not.

Suggested Citation

  • Martin, Ian & Pindyck, R. S., 2015. "Averting catastrophes: the strange economics of Scylla and Charybdis," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 62139, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:62139
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    catastrophes; catastrophic events; disasters; willingness to pay; policy objectives; climate change; epidemics; pandemics; nuclear terrorism; bioterrorism;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D81 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Criteria for Decision-Making under Risk and Uncertainty
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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