Plenary 2: Mega disasters with cascading effects


Recent disasters, such as the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, have revealed that initial failures, in particular of technical systems, may trigger subsequent damage resulting in mega-disasters, which impact the built environment and create political, social, and financial consequences, not only at the country level, but also to the international community as a whole. The global risk community is called upon to develop innovative tools for decision making processes and practical intervention against global, systemic and complex risks, as well as to combat very large disasters. This session will address questions about how these cascading effects lead to mega-disasters and what measures should be applied to reduce their effects. The panellists will consider how well prepared the world is, and ought to be, in the face of exceptionally large and complex disasters during the whole risk cycle. Besides addressing intervention, response and recovery, the speakers will further discuss prevention and preparedness measures. Do completely unforeseen events, popularly known as 'black swans' really exist, or are we merely neglecting the risks posed by low probability-high consequence phenomena? An emphasis will be made on the interaction of intense and high-magnitude physical events with socio-economic consequences and vulnerabilities, as well as on how to prevent, or at least interrupt, the development of cascading events. Further highlighted will be the importance of redundant systems and of resilience regarding the threat of mega disasters.

Kirk W. JUNKER, Professor, Chair, International Master of Environmental Science / Chair, US American Law, University of Cologne, Cologne, Germany 

Albrecht BROEMME, President, Technisches Hilfswerk THW, Bonn, Germany
Wendy CUE, Chief, Environmental Emergencies Section, Joint UNEP/OCHA Environment Unit, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs UNOCHA, Geneva, Switzerlan
Honorary Minister Maria MUTAGAMBA, Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Government of Uganda, Kampala, Uganda
Haresh C. SHAH, Obayashi Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, Stanford University, Founder and Senior Advisor, Risk Management Solutions RMS Inc., Stanford, USA
Charles STEGER, President, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA
Muralee THUMMARUKUDY, Senior Programme Officer, Post-Conflict and Disaster Management Branch, United Nations Environment Programme UNEP, Geneva, Switzerland