Of Fire and Storm – Climate Change, the “Unseen” Risk for the U.S. Economy – State of Play

This is an update of the 17 September 2018 release of this article analysing the economic costs of climate change on the U.S. economy in 2018. This update integrates the consequences, and especially the costs, of the super hurricane “Michael”, which hammered the Florida panhandle, then Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia, between the 10 and the 14 of October 2018 (Camilla Domonoske, “Michael Will Costs Insurers Billions, but Won’t Overwhelm the Industry, Analysts Say”, NPR, October 14, 2018).

“Michael” took over from “Florence”, the monster storm that hit and battered the U.S. East Coast on 12 September 2018. It looks like a new climate-related disaster “peak”.  It could announce a transition towards possibly worse, considering the last 12 months of climate hellish conditions.

Thus, a major question arises: is climate change becoming a major risk for the U.S. economy? If yes, how should economic actors react (Jean-Michel Valantin, “Climate Change: The Long Planetary Bombing”, The Red (Team) Analysis Society, September 18, 2017)?

Useful Rules for Strategic Foresight and Risk Management from Taleb’s The Black Swan

This second article on The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable by Nassim Nicholas Taleb emphasises some of the author’s points that are crucial for foresight and warning. Likewise, they are necessary for any work dealing with the future and its anticipation, from risk management to horizon scanning through early warning.

The methodology of SF&W and risk management allows addressing these points. They should become rules and principles all analysts follow. Indeed, without paying attention to them, good analysis is impossible. The first article on The Black Swan can be accessed here.

Humility

humility, doubt

(Notably pp.190-200) Considering uncertainty, but also our imperfect condition of human beings, the complexity of the social world, feedbacks, our more than insufficient knowledge and understanding, we must ….

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Taleb’s Black Swans: The End of Foresight?

Since Nassim Nicholas Taleb published his bestseller The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable back in 2007, “Black Swans” and “Black Swans events” have become part of everyday language.

They are used as a catchphrase to mean two different things. First, as was the case in the Brookings interesting interactive “briefing book” Big Bets and Black Swans: Foreign Policy Challenges for President Obama’s Second Term, “black swans” represent high impact, low probability events, what is also known as wild cards.[i]

Second, “black swans” refer to events that could absolutely not be predicted, as, for example for the Economist in ”The prediction games: Our winners and losers from last year’s edition”. Unfortunately, in this case, the label “black swans” excuses foresight errors. It tends to stop explanations and evaluation. Similarly, some will make statements along the line of “oh, but there is no point to do any foresight (or futures work or forecast), did you not read Taleb’s Black Swan? One cannot predict or foresee anything.”

This is a rather bold statement, especially when one seeks to anticipate uncertainty and to foresee and warn. We thus need to explore the unpredictability claim further.

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