Five GCR grants from the Global Challenges Foundation

The Global Challenges Foun­da­tion isn’t an or­ga­ni­za­tion I hear much about, though it fo­cuses on global catas­trophic risks and has worked alongside FHI to pub­lish an­nual re­ports on GCRs.

The Foun­da­tion re­cently pub­lished “re­search overviews” fo­cused on ei­ther GCRs or global gov­er­nance, each of which was funded by a €10,000 grant. I’m link­ing to each overview here.

Save for two CSER re­searchers who wrote one of the overviews, these au­thors/​in­sti­tu­tions weren’t fa­mil­iar to me in the con­tact of GCR re­duc­tion, but I’d hope that strong re­search is com­ing from many differ­ent places and dis­ci­plines, even those that never in­ter­act with EA fund­ing net­works. If you have some fa­mil­iar­ity with any of the top­ics in­volved, I’d be cu­ri­ous to hear your views on the qual­ity of the work (or, given how long it would take to read any of these, how ex­cit­ing/​in­ter­est­ing the topic and fram­ing seem to you).

List of overviews

The Car­tog­ra­phy of Global Catas­trophic Governance

The in­ter­na­tional gov­er­nance of global catas­trophic risks (GCRs) is frag­mented and in­suffi­cient. This re­port pro­vides an overview of the in­ter­na­tional gov­er­nance ar­range­ment for 8 differ­ent GCR haz­ards and two drivers. We find that there are clusters of ded­i­cated reg­u­la­tion and ac­tion, in­clud­ing in nu­clear war­fare, cli­mate change and pan­demics, biolog­i­cal and chem­i­cal war­fare. De­spite these con­cen­tra­tions of gov­er­nance their effec­tive­ness if of­ten ques­tion­able. For oth­ers, such as catas­trophic uses of AI, as­ter­oid im­pacts, so­lar geo­eng­ineer­ing, un­known risks, su­per-vol­canic erup­tions, in­equal­ity and many ar­eas of ecolog­i­cal col­lapse, the le­gal land­scape is lit­tered more with gaps than effec­tive policy. We sug­gest the fol­low­ing steps to help ad­vance the state of global GCR gov­er­nance and fill the gaps:

  • Work to iden­tify in­stru­ments and poli­cies that can ad­dress mul­ti­ple risks and drivers in tan­dem;

  • Closer re­search into the re­la­tion­ship be­tween drivers and haz­ards to cre­ate a deeper un­der­stand­ing of our col­lec­tive ‘civ­i­liza­tional bound­aries’. This should in­clude an un­der­stand­ing of tip­ping points and zones of un­cer­tainty within each gov­er­nance prob­lem area;

  • Ex­plo­ra­tion of the po­ten­tial for ‘tail risk treaties’: agree­ments that swiftly ramp-up ac­tion in the face of early warn­ing sig­nals of catas­trophic change (par­tic­u­larly for en­vi­ron­men­tal GCRs);

  • Closer ex­am­i­na­tion on the co­or­di­na­tion and con­flict be­tween differ­ent GCR gov­er­nance ar­eas. If there are ar­eas where act­ing on one GCR could detri­men­tally im­pact an­other than a UN-sys­tem wide co­or­di­na­tion body could be a use­ful re­source.

  • Fur­ther work on build­ing the fore­sight and co­or­di­na­tion ca­pac­i­ties of the UN for GCRs.

The in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is un­der­pre­pared for nat­u­ral or man-made catas­tro­phes. The recom­men­da­tions above can en­sure that in­ter­na­tional gov­er­nance nav­i­gates the tur­bu­lent wa­ters of the 21st cen­tury, with­out blindly sailing into the storm.

Weapons of mass de­struc­tion—the state of global gov­er­nance among ris­ing threats & emerg­ing opportunities

The re­port ex­am­ines the key strengths, weak­nesses and gaps in cur­rent in­ter­na­tional norms and in­sti­tu­tions of the world com­mu­nity around the threat of weapons of mass de­struc­tion and offers ideas for strength­en­ing these mechanisms.

The threat of weapons of mass de­struc­tion has long been found to be more com­plex, while at the same time the stan­dards of the world com­mu­nity re­gard­ing pos­ses­sion and use have weak­ened. This causes the re­port to point out con­tem­po­rary times as cru­cial to this in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity risk. It pro­vides a num­ber of recom­men­da­tions in or­der to deal with the de­vel­op­ments re­gard­ing global dis­aster risks from weapons of mass de­struc­tion. They in­clude strength­en­ing the cur­rent weapons con­trol struc­tures and in­creas­ing the de­gree of adap­ta­tion in the disar­ma­ment com­mu­nity to the in­creas­ingly in­ter­wo­ven threats of weapons of mass de­struc­tion.

For this, im­proved con­di­tions for cre­ativity, learn­ing and bridge build­ing be­tween the stake­hold­ers are needed. It strength­ens lead­er­ship and pro­vides new suc­cess sto­ries of elimi­na­tion and risk re­duc­tion, fo­cus­ing on cre­at­ing new ar­eas for col­lab­o­ra­tion, and gen­er­ally not be­ing afraid to test new ideas.

The re­spon­si­bil­ity to pre­pare and pre­vent—a cli­mate se­cu­rity frame­work for the 21st century

The de­struc­tive Thirty Years’ War com­pel­led Euro­pean monar­chs to es­tab­lish a na­tion-state sys­tem at West­phalia in 1648. The globally dev­as­tat­ing first and sec­ond world wars pre­cip­i­tated the cre­ation of an in­ter­na­tional or­der de­signed to pro­tect the sovereignty of na­tion-states against ex­ter­nal ag­gres­sion and de­crease the like­li­hood of con­flict. This is the world or­der we are still liv­ing in to­day. How­ever, given the rapid rate of cli­mate change and its likely im­pli­ca­tions for global se­cu­rity (here­after referred to as “cli­mate se­cu­rity”), the cur­rent world or­der will have to adapt – and adapt quickly. The differ­ence be­tween to­day and ma­jor global dis­rup­tions of the past is that though the risks are un­prece­dented, our fore­sight is un­prece­dented as well. Tech­nolog­i­cal de­vel­op­ments have given us cli­mate mod­els and pre­dic­tive tools that en­hance our abil­ity to an­ti­ci­pate and miti­gate com­plex risks.

This com­bi­na­tion of un­prece­dented risks and un­prece­dented fore­sight lays the foun­da­tion for a Re­spon­si­bil­ity to Pre­pare and Prevent (R2P2) – a frame­work for man­ag­ing the cli­mate se­cu­rity risks. The frame­work is con­cerned with what we know about cli­mate se­cu­rity risks, what gaps ex­ist in gov­ern­ing these risks, and how to close this global gov­er­nance gap. The main cli­mate se­cu­rity gov­er­nance gaps iden­ti­fied in this pa­per are:

  • Gap 1: The Right In­for­ma­tion. There is cur­rently no stan­dard­ized global hub for cli­mate se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion to in­form co­her­ent in­ter­na­tional policy ac­tions to ad­dress cli­mate se­cu­rity risks, and a lack of ac­cepted fu­ture pro­jec­tions in a field dom­i­nated by foren­sic anal­y­sis.

  • Gap 2: The Right Peo­ple. Ad­dress­ing cli­mate se­cu­rity risks is ham­pered by a gap be­tween cli­mate change mes­sen­gers and the se­cu­rity au­di­ences needed to take ac­tions to ad­dress cli­mate se­cu­rity risks, as well as a lack of in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized lead­er­ship on the is­sue within the global se­cu­rity com­mu­nity.

  • Gap 3: The Right Time. There are cur­rently no global gov­er­nance mechanisms for al­ign­ing in­ter­na­tional cli­mate policy ac­tions with in­ter­na­tional ac­tions to ad­dress cli­mate se­cu­rity risks.

To fill the global gov­er­nance gaps, this pa­per pro­poses the es­tab­lish­ment of an in­ter­na­tional R2P2 Cli­mate Se­cu­rity Gover­nance Frame­work made up of three in­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ples:

  • Prin­ci­ple 1: Assess­ment & An­ti­ci­pa­tion. Stan­dard­ized, ag­gre­gated and cred­ible global cli­mate se­cu­rity as­sess­ments, in­clud­ing cli­mate se­cu­rity fu­tures, aimed at aid­ing co­her­ent in­ter­na­tional ac­tion.

  • Prin­ci­ple 2: Ele­va­tion & Trans­la­tion. Lead­er­ship by se­nior, globally-re­spected se­cu­rity prac­ti­tion­ers who trans­late cli­mate se­cu­rity in­for­ma­tion for global se­cu­rity de­ci­sion-mak­ers, and is­sue reg­u­lar recom­men­da­tions for in­ter­na­tional ac­tion.

  • Prin­ci­ple 3: Co­or­di­na­tion & Align­ment. In­ter­na­tional cli­mate se­cu­rity co­or­di­na­tion mechanisms for al­ign­ing the policy win­dows of in­ter­na­tional cli­mate change policy with in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity policy as they re­lated to cli­mate se­cu­rity risks.

R2P2 builds from the Re­spon­si­bil­ity to Pre­pare Frame­work pub­lished in Au­gust 2017, a speech to the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil pre­sent­ing that frame­work, and a forth­com­ing book on the sub­ject. As a core part of its mis­sion of an­ti­ci­pat­ing, an­a­lyz­ing and ad­dress­ing core sys­temic risks to se­cu­rity in the 21st cen­tury, the Coun­cil on Strate­gic Risks and its Cen­ter for Cli­mate and Se­cu­rity is work­ing to bet­ter un­der­stand what we know and what steps should be taken to ab­sorb or lessen the se­cu­rity risks of cli­mate change. This re­port, made pos­si­ble by the gen­er­ous sup­port of the Global Challenges Foun­da­tion, con­tributes to that task.

A Knowl­edge Overview on Global Catas­trophic Risks and the Global Gover­nance Gap

This knowl­edge overview pa­per ex­plores the im­pli­ca­tions of com­plex­ity think­ing for gov­ern­ing global catas­trophic risks (GCRs), in par­tic­u­lar a new breed of su­per-com­plex GCRs. It offers a novel in­ter­ro­ga­tion of why legacy gov­er­nance struc­tures are ‘not fit for pur­pose’ when it comes to re­spond­ing to the com­plex drivers of GCRs. This as­sess­ment pro­vides the ba­sis for an ex­plo­ra­tion of sys­temic de­sign prin­ci­ples which could serve as a com­pass for poli­cy­mak­ers and other par­ti­ci­pants seek­ing to in­no­vate upon ex­ist­ing gov­er­nance con­figu­ra­tions in the face of mount­ing global com­plex­ity and risk im­per­a­tives. This ex­er­cise sug­gests that es­tab­lish­ing right re­la­tion­ship be­tween over­lap­ping com­pli­cated and com­plex do­mains is a nec­es­sary con­di­tion for any de­sign crite­ria un­der­pin­ning gov­er­nance of a vi­able global civil­i­sa­tion.

Nat­u­ral Disasters and Poli­ti­cal Violence: Assess­ing the Intersections

The num­ber and in­ten­sity of nat­u­ral dis­asters is on the rise, while poli­ti­cal vi­o­lence re­mains at a very high level. Both phe­nom­ena of­ten oc­cur in the same ar­eas, un­der­min­ing hu­man se­cu­rity and de­vel­op­ment, and caus­ing con­sid­er­able de­vel­op­ment set­backs. This re­port as­sesses the state of knowl­edge on the in­ter­sec­tions be­tween nat­u­ral dis­asters and poli­ti­cal vi­o­lence based on a sys­tem­atic and ex­ten­sive re­view of the ex­ist­ing sci­en­tific liter­a­ture. By do­ing so, it also iden­ti­fies knowl­edge gaps to be ad­dressed by fu­ture re­search.