Existential Risk: Diplomacy & Governance

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Existential Risk: Diplomacy & Governance

The 2015 Paris Agreement represented a huge global effort to safeguard future generations from damaging climate change. But climate change is not the only serious risk to humanity. Our collective commitment to our children and future generations needs to extend to all existential risks — those with the potential to permanently curtail humanity’s opportunity to flourish. These risks include nuclear war, engineered pandemics, and other catastrophes resulting from emerging technologies.

These disasters could cause an almost unimaginable loss. They would lead to immediate harm, but in their most extreme forms, they have the potential to wipe out humanity entirely.

Such risks may seem unlikely and distant. Indeed, in any one year they are improbable. But small probabilities accumulate - and because disaster risk reduction is a global public good individual nations will tend to underinvest in it. Nuclear weapons and climate change themselves would have once been unimaginable. It may be that emerging technologies introduce new risks that are even harder to manage. Managing existential risk may prove to be the decisive geopolitical challenge of the 21st century.

The first half of this report offers an overview of existential risks. The second half presents three opportunities for humanity to reduce these risks.

Report from The Future of Humanity Institute by Sebastian Farquhar, John Halstead Owen Cotton-Barratt, Stefan Schubert, Haydn Belfield, and Andrew Snyder-Beattie.

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