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

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

Seth Stein , Jerome Stein

ISBN: 978-1-118-62080-9

Apr 2014, American Geophysical Union

280 pages

$58.99

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.

Additional resources can be found at: http://www.wiley.com/go/Stein/Playingagainstnature

Related Resources

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiv

Note on Further Reading and Sources xvi

About the Companion Website xviii

1 A Tricky, High-Stakes Game 1

1.1 Where We Are Today 1

1.2 What We Need to Do Better 6

1.3 How Can We Do Better? 14

Questions 17

Further Reading and Sources 19

References 20

2 When Nature Won 22

2.1 The Best-Laid Plans 22

2.2 Why Hazard Assessment Went Wrong 24

2.3 How Mitigation Fared 30

2.4 The Challenges Ahead 32

Questions 35

Further Reading and Sources 35

References 36

3 Nature Bats Last 38

3.1 Prediction Is Hard 38

3.2 Forecasts, Predictions, and Warnings 40

3.3 Earthquake Prediction 45

3.4 Chaos 50

Questions 53

Further Reading and Sources 54

References 55

4 Uncertainty and Probability 57

4.1 Basic Ideas 57

4.2 Compound Events 60

4.3 The Gaussian Distribution 64

4.4 Probability vs Statistics 68

4.5 Shallow and Deep Uncertainties 70

Questions 72

Further Reading and Sources 73

References 74

5 Communicating What We Know and What We Don’t 75

5.1 Recognizing and Admitting Uncertainties 75

5.2 Precision and Accuracy 81

5.3 Testing Forecasts 83

5.4 Communicating Forecasts 86

Questions 93

Further Reading and Sources 94

References 95

6 Human Disasters 97

6.1 Assessing Hazards 97

6.2 Vulnerability and Interconnections 99

6.3 The 2008 US Financial Disaster 101

6.4 Pseudodisasters and Groupthink 105

6.5 Disaster Chic 109

Questions 110

Further Reading and Sources 112

References 113

7 How Much Is Enough? 115

7.1 Rational Policy Making 115

7.2 Lessons from National Defense 119

7.3 Making Choices 122

7.4 Uncertainty and Risk Aversion 124

7.5 Present and Future Value 126

7.6 Valuing Lives 129

7.7 Implications for Natural Hazard Mitigation 131

Questions 132

Further Reading and Sources 134

References 135Contents ix

8 Guessing the Odds 136

8.1 Big Events Are Rare 136

8.2 Time-Independent Probability Models 140

8.3 Time-Dependent Probability Models 145

Questions 149

Further Reading and Sources 150

References 150

9 When’s the Next Earthquake? 151

9.1 A Very Tough Problem 151

9.2 Earthquake Frequency-Magnitude Relation 152

9.3 Earthquake Cycle Model 158

9.4 Computing Earthquake Probabilities 168

9.5 Shaky Probabilities 170

Questions 172

Further Reading and Sources 174

References 175

10 Assessing Hazards 176

10.1 Five Tough Questions 176

10.2 Uncertainties 177

10.3 How Is the Hazard Defi ned? 178

10.4 Where Will Large Earthquakes Occur? 182

10.5 When Will Large Earthquakes Occur? 187

10.6 How Big Will the Large Earthquakes Be? 190

10.7 How Much Shaking? 194

10.8 Dealing With the Uncertainties 196

10.9 Next Steps 200

Questions 201

Further Reading and Sources 201

References 202

11 Mitigating Hazards 204

11.1 Approaches 204

11.2 Accepting Risk 205

11.3 Transferring Risk 206

11.4 Avoiding Risk 207

11.5 Mitigating Risk 208

11.6 Combined Strategies 213

Questions 214

Further Reading and Sources 217

References 217

12 Choosing Mitigation Policies 220

12.1 Making Choices 220

12.2 House Fire Mitigation 223

12.3 Losses from Hazards 227

12.4 Optimal Natural Hazard Mitigation 228

12.5 Nonoptimal Natural Hazard Mitigation 232

12.6 Mitigation Given Uncertainties 233

12.7 Robust Policy Making 235

Questions 238

Further Reading and Sources 239

References 240

13 Doing Better 241

13.1 Final Thoughts 241

13.2 Community Decision Making 242

13.3 Improved Organization 244

Questions 248

Further Reading and Sources 249

References 249

Index 251

“That Rumsfeld’s pithy and precise summary of the nature of uncertainty in policymaking is often cited as opaque and obscurant shows more than anything the need for a book like this.”  (Survival Global Politics & Strategy,  1 February 2015)