Preventing Catastrophic Threats

Earlier this month, just after the US national elections, the Federation of American Scientists [FAS] held a symposium in Washington DC on “Preventing Catastrophic Threats”, at which a group of speakers presented recommendations to the new administration on responding to catastrophic threats to US national security.

Distinguished experts will address the policy and technological aspects of conventional, nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, biotechnology, nuclear safety, electricity generation, distribution, and storage, and cyber security. At the symposium, these experts will present their recommendations for preventing and reducing risks from catastrophic threats, and for developing an effective energy policy.

The recommendations presented at the symposium have now been collected in a report, Recommendations to Prevent Catastrophic Threats, which is available to read or download [PDF, 44 pp.] on the Web.  The report is a collection of 13 policy memos, each written by one or more authorities on the topic; it also contains introductory material, and information about the authors.  The topics of the memos are:

  1. Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism
  2. Urgent Steps to Reduce Nuclear Dangers
  3. Nuclear Weapons and Nuclear Power
  4. Options for Nuclear Force Reduction
  5. U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy
  6. Preventing and Mitigating Cyber Attacks
  7. The Changing Biological Threat
  8. Curbing the Threat from Illicit Small Arms and Light Weapons
  9. Goals for Chemical and Biological Nonproliferation and Disarmament
  10. Debunking Energy Security Myths
  11. Science Diplomacy, Science Partnerships, and U.S. National Security
  12. Energy Policy in the New Administration
  13. R&D Investment to Commercialize Green Energy Technologies

I haven’t yet read through all the contents, and I can’t guarantee that I, or anyone, will agree with absolutely every recommendation in this report.  What I have read, though, does strike me as largely sensible advice, provided by knowledgeable people.  I think the report is a valuable resource, especially for those of us in the reality-based community, and it provides a good overview of some very important issues.

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