17 October 2016

Alumnus Howard Kunreuther held seminar at IIASA

Howard Kunreuther, former Director of IIASA’s RISK program from 1980-1982, spoke at IIASA on "Adaptation to Extreme Climate Events: Challenges and Opportunities." A video of the lecture may be found below.

© University of Pennsylvania

© University of Pennsylvania

Howard Kunreuther is currently the James G. Dinan Professor; Professor of Decision Sciences and Public Policy at the Wharton School, and co-director of the Wharton Risk Management Center. He has a long-standing interest in ways that society can better manage low-probability, high-consequence events related to technological and natural hazards. Howard was a Coordinating Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report, “Integrated Risk and Uncertainty Assessment of Climate Change Response Policies.” and is on the New York City Panel on Climate Change. He received the 2015 Shin Research Excellence Award from the Geneva Association and the International Insurance Society (IIS) in recognition of his outstanding work on the role of public-private partnerships in mitigating and managing risks. 

His recent seminar at IIASA looked at how the impacts of climate change on extreme events, such as floods, require us to reflect on ways that individuals, communities and governments can undertake adaptation measures. This talk indicated the importance of developing strategies that recognize the nature of the simplified choice rules and systematic biases of decision makers in dealing with low-probability high-consequences events. He suggested a set of guiding principles that require private-public partnerships for protecting against catastrophic events and the importance of addressing equity and affordability issues. Empirical data on ways to reduce future damage from flooding illustrated the types of strategies that have a good chance of being implemented. 

Before his seminar, Howard also said a few words in memory of Howard Raiffa along with IIASA Director General and CEO Professor Dr. Pavel Kabat and Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer, IIASA Risk and Resilience Program Director. This gathering took place the same day as family and friends honored the memory of Howard Raiffa during a memorial service at the Harvard Kennedy School. More information regarding the memorial service and video from the gathering at IIASA may be found here.

Being back at IIASA, Howard reflects on the impact the institute had for him:

"I was at IIASA from 1980-82, as part of an interdisciplinary research team, examining the risks of siting facilities that were viewed by the public as being hazardous, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities. My experience at IIASA had a profound influence on my future research career by highlighting the importance of linking risk assessment, risk perception and decision processes in developing risk management strategies. The Wharton Risk Management and Decision Processes Center, that was founded in 1985, has embodied these principles with its mission being to develop strategies for managing low probability high consequence events. 

It is most appropriate that my talk be a tribute to Howard Raiffa, who convinced me to take my sabbatical at IIASA in 1980. Howard was always concerned with developing risk management strategies that would have a good chance of being implemented. In my interactions with him over the years, I came to appreciate the challenges and opportunities for making this happen." 

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Last edited: 19 October 2016


Joanne Linnerooth-Bayer

Emeritus Research Scholar Equity and Justice Research Group - Population and Just Societies Program

Monika Bauer

IIASA Network and Alumni Officer Communications and External Relations Department

IIASA Network and Alumni Officer Communications - Communications and External Relations Department

International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
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Phone: (+43 2236) 807 0 Fax:(+43 2236) 71 313