DP10730 | Averting Catastrophes: The Strange Economics of Scylla and Charybdis

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Faced with numerous potential catastrophes---nuclear and bioterrorism, mega-viruses, 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.