Chair: Professor Roger Bradbury
There is a strong sense that risks in international security are the most potent risks of all because such risks threaten the existence of states. And the threats to one state can cascade, engulfing neighbours. We’ve seen this most recently with the Arab Spring—instability in Tunisia cascaded across the Maghreb and on to Egypt, Syria and Iraq. But we’ve also seen it throughout history, for example with the collapse of the Roman Empire and subsequent Dark Ages. A collapse of national security can result in a failed state, a collapse in international security can result in a collapse of civilisation itself.
Today the risks have grown and changed and entangled—and become global in scale. To the traditional risks of war and pestilence, and perhaps the weather, we must now add the planetary risks inherent in the transition from the Holocene to the Anthropocene epoch and the risks of disruptive technology inherent in the looming ‘technology singularity’.
The international order, already under stress from traditional strategic competition among the major powers, must now try to cope with these novel 21st century risks. We now live in a world where the risk of thermonuclear war is not the only major risk. Lethal pandemics, runaway global warming, ocean acidification, famine and cyber war—to name only a few—must be added to our risk calculus.
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