Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Probabilistic Safety Assessment & Management (PSAM)
135 Risk Analysis and Society: A Capabilities-Based Account of the Consequences of Natural or Man-Made Disasters (PSAM-0426)
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This paper presents an innovative theoretical framework for identifying and quantifying the impacts on society of natural or man-made hazards that are considered in risk and decision analysis. The framework is illustrated in relation to the consequences of Hurricane Katrina.
Prevailing approaches to risk analysis typically identify the kinds of potential consequences of hazards too narrowly, ignoring the broader societal impacts of such hazards. These approaches also lack a uniform and consistent metric for quantifying non-countable consequences like psychological trauma or societal impacts. Finally, the criteria used when evaluating risks are sometimes implicit, subjective, and potentially inaccurate.
This paper shows how the broader societal, non-countable consequences of hazards can be considered. Individual capabilities are used as an objective metric to measure and compare in a uniform way the societal consequences of disasters, including potential benefits and losses.
Drawing on the work in development economics of Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, individual capabilities are defined in terms of what an individual is or will be able, still able, or unable to do in the aftermath of a hazard. The capabilities of individuals are influenced by both their physical and mental well-being and the condition of broader societal systems or structures, which shape the options available to individuals. This capabilities-based approach can be used with different methods or techniques for risk determination and for risk evaluation. It can be used when assessing risk in diverse types of hazardous scenarios that range from catastrophic to minor. Since a capabilities-based approach is already in use in development economics, adopting this approach in risk and decision analysis will facilitate analysis in the two areas.
The impact of the devastating Hurricane Katrina goes well beyond a count of associated deaths and physical damage. It includes the trauma of survivors, the broader socio-economic impacts, and the influence these consequences have upon future political policy choices and decisions. The capabilities-based approach allows us to consider these factors, thereby going beyond the traditional dimensions considered.