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Playing against Nature: Integrating Science and Economics to Mitigate Natural Hazards in an Uncertain World

Book Description

Defending society against natural hazards is a high-stakes game of chance against nature, involving tough decisions. How should a developing nation allocate its budget between building schools for towns without ones or making existing schools earthquake-resistant? Does it make more sense to build levees to protect against floods, or to prevent development in the areas at risk? Would more lives be saved by making hospitals earthquake-resistant, or using the funds for patient care? What should scientists tell the public when - as occurred in L'Aquila, Italy and Mammoth Lakes, California - there is a real but small risk of an upcoming earthquake or volcanic eruption? Recent hurricanes, earthquakes, and tsunamis show that society often handles such choices poorly. Sometimes nature surprises us, when an earthquake, hurricane, or flood is bigger or has greater effects than expected from detailed hazard assessments. In other cases, nature outsmarts us, doing great damage despite expensive mitigation measures or causing us to divert limited resources to mitigate hazards that are overestimated. Much of the problem comes from the fact that formulating effective natural hazard policy involves combining science, economics, and risk analysis to analyze a problem and explore the costs and benefits of different options, in situations where the future is very uncertain. Because mitigation policies are typically chosen without such analysis, the results are often disappointing. This book uses general principles and case studies to explore how we can do better by taking an integrated view of natural hazards issues, rather than treating the relevant geoscience, engineering, economics, and policy formulation separately. Thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter invite readers to confront the complex issues involved.

Readership: Instructors, researchers, practitioners, and students interested in geoscience, engineering, economics, or policy issues relevant to natural hazards. Suitable for upper-level undergraduate or graduate courses.

Table of Contents

  1. Endorsements
  2. Title page
  3. Copyright page
  4. Preface
  5. Acknowledgments
  6. Note on Further Reading and Sources
  7. Epigraph
  8. About the Companion Website
  9. 1: A Tricky, High-Stakes Game
    1. 1.1    Where We Are Today
    2. 1.2    What We Need to Do Better
    3. 1.3    How Can We Do Better?
    4. Questions
    5. Further Reading and Sources
    6. Note
    7. References
  10. 2: When Nature Won
    1. 2.1    The Best-Laid Plans
    2. 2.2    Why Hazard Assessment Went Wrong
    3. 2.3    How Mitigation Fared
    4. 2.4    The Challenges Ahead
    5. Questions
    6. Further Reading and Sources
    7. Note
    8. References
  11. 3: Nature Bats Last
    1. 3.1    Prediction Is Hard
    2. 3.2    Forecasts, Predictions, and Warnings
    3. 3.3    Earthquake Prediction
    4. 3.4    Chaos
    5. Questions
    6. Further Reading and Sources
    7. References
  12. 4: Uncertainty and Probability
    1. 4.1    Basic Ideas
    2. 4.2    Compound Events
    3. 4.3    The Gaussian Distribution
    4. 4.4    Probability vs Statistics
    5. 4.5    Shallow and Deep Uncertainties
    6. Questions
    7. Further Reading and Sources
    8. Note
    9. References
  13. 5: Communicating What We Know and What We Don't
    1. 5.1    Recognizing and Admitting Uncertainties
    2. 5.2    Precision and Accuracy
    3. 5.3    Testing Forecasts
    4. 5.4    Communicating Forecasts
    5. Questions
    6. Further Reading and Sources
    7. References
  14. 6: Human Disasters
    1. 6.1    Assessing Hazards
    2. 6.2    Vulnerability and Interconnections
    3. 6.3    The 2008 US Financial Disaster
    4. 6.4    Pseudodisasters and Groupthink
    5. 6.5    Disaster Chic
    6. Questions
    7. Further Reading and Sources
    8. Note
    9. References
  15. 7: How Much Is Enough?
    1. 7.1    Rational Policy Making
    2. 7.2    Lessons from National Defense
    3. 7.3    Making Choices
    4. 7.4    Uncertainty and Risk Aversion
    5. 7.5    Present and Future Value
    6. 7.6    Valuing Lives
    7. 7.7    Implications for Natural Hazard Mitigation
    8. Questions
    9. Further Reading and Sources
    10. Note
    11. References
  16. 8: Guessing the Odds
    1. 8.1    Big Events Are Rare
    2. 8.2    Time-Independent Probability Models
    3. 8.3    Time-Dependent Probability Models
    4. Questions
    5. Further Reading and Sources
    6. Note
    7. References
  17. 9: When's the Next Earthquake?
    1. 9.1    A Very Tough Problem
    2. 9.2    Earthquake Frequency-Magnitude Relation
    3. 9.3    Earthquake Cycle Model
    4. 9.4    Computing Earthquake Probabilities
    5. 9.5    Shaky Probabilities
    6. Questions
    7. Further Reading and Sources
    8. References
  18. 10: Assessing Hazards
    1. 10.1    Five Tough Questions
    2. 10.2    Uncertainties
    3. 10.3    How Is the Hazard Defined?
    4. 10.4    Where Will Large Earthquakes Occur?
    5. 10.5    When Will Large Earthquakes Occur?
    6. 10.6    How Big Will the Large Earthquakes Be?
    7. 10.7    How Much Shaking?
    8. 10.8    Dealing With the Uncertainties
    9. 10.9    Next Steps
    10. Questions
    11. Further Reading and Sources
    12. References
  19. 11: Mitigating Hazards
    1. 11.1    Approaches
    2. 11.2    Accepting Risk
    3. 11.3    Transferring Risk
    4. 11.4    Avoiding Risk
    5. 11.5    Mitigating Risk
    6. 11.6    Combined Strategies
    7. Questions
    8. Further Reading and Sources
    9. Note
    10. References
  20. 12: Choosing Mitigation Policies
    1. 12.1    Making Choices
    2. 12.2    House Fire Mitigation
    3. 12.3    Losses from Hazards
    4. 12.4    Optimal Natural Hazard Mitigation
    5. 12.5    Nonoptimal Natural Hazard Mitigation
    6. 12.6    Mitigation Given Uncertainties
    7. 12.7    Robust Policy Making
    8. Questions
    9. Further Reading and Sources
    10. Note
    11. References
  21. 13: Doing Better
    1. 13.1    Final Thoughts
    2. 13.2    Community Decision Making
    3. 13.3    Improved Organization
    4. Questions
    5. Further Reading and Sources
    6. Note
    7. References
  22. Supplemental Images
  23. Index
  24. End User License Agreement