Emerging Risks in the 21st Century

An Agenda for Action

image of Emerging Risks in the 21st Century

The 21st Century has so far witnessed a host of large-scale disasters in various parts of the world including: windstorms, flooding, new diseases infesting both humans and animals, terrorist attacks and major disruptions to critical infrastructures. It is not just the nature of major risks that seems to be changing, but also the context in which risks are evolving as well as society’s capacity to manage them.  This book explores the implications of these developments for economy and society in the 21st century, focussing in particular on the potentially significant increase in the vulnerability of major systems.  It concentrates on five large risk clusters: natural disasters, technological accidents, infectious diseases, food safety and terrorism, identifies the challenges facing OECD countries and sets out recommendations for governments and the private sector as to how the management of emerging systemic risks might be improved.

English Also available in: French

Risk Assessment

This chapter focuses on risk assessment, a scientific process that aims to identify and evaluate each step in the evolution of a hazard, from its origins to its final consequences for the system in question. The process can take a variety of forms depending on the nature of the hazard, the system involved, and the context in which the risk evolves. In past decades a myriad of risk assessment procedures have been developed. Those that are briefly reviewed in this chapter include hazard and risk assessment for natural disasters, using tools ranging from statistical analysis to catastrophe models; toxicity assessment for hazardous substances, based on estimated dose-response relationships; and safety assessments for highly structured systems such as plants or aeroplanes.


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