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Environmental Risks and Hazards

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Environmental Risks and Hazards

This topic explores concepts in risk assessment and risk management and applies them to environmental issues and policy.  This topic introduces students to different types of environmental risks and the policy tools that are available to respond to them. Students learn to distinguish between local and international environmental risks, and the unique challenges that responding to the latter type presents. Students also learn about the special challenges posed to policymakers by catastrophic environmental risks,

Topic Learning Outcome:  Upon mastering this topic, students will be familiar with different types of environmental hazards, and will be familiar with the possible advantages and risks associated with various policy approaches to reducing environmental harms. 

Core Concepts Associated With This Topic: Climate Change; Global Warming Potential (GWP); Greenhouse Effect

Recommended Readings: UCLA Public Policy 252 and Urban Planning 263

Slovic, P. 1987. “Perception of Risk,” Science 236: 280-285. Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation

Roger Cooke and Carolyn Kousky. What the feds can do about hurricanes. St. Petersburg Times, Thursday, May 28, 2009.

Roger M. Cooke, Carolyn Kousky. Are Catastrophes Insurable? Resources, Summer 2009 (172). 

Global Climate Risk Index 2012: Who suffers most from extreme weather events? Weather-related loss events in 2010 and 1991 to 2010

On the Front Line of Climate Change and Displacement: Learning from and with Pacific Island Countries.

Malik, Arun S. 2008. “How Should We Tackle the Forest Fire Problem?” Resources 169.

Addressing Community Wildfire Risk: A Review and Assessment of Regulatory and Planning Tools Institutional Obstacles to Success in Implementing a Statewide Community-Based Fire Planning Mandate. California Journal of Politics & Policy, Volume 3, Issue 1 2011

Sample Assessment Questions:

      1.)   What are some of the unique challenges global environmental risks, such as climate change, present to policymakers that do not exist in the case of local environmental problems/issues?

      2.)   What is a catastrophic environmental risk? Provide an example. What are some potential sources of bias (political, cognitive, etc) that may prevent the formulation of maximally rational policy responses to low-probability catastrophic risks?

      3.)   In one page or less, respond to the following statement: “The objective of environmental policy should be to reduce all environmental risks as close to zero as possible.”

Page Created By: Katherine Valiquette, 20 March 2015; edited by Ben Eisen.


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© University of Toronto 2008
School of Public Policy and Governance