All-hazards global catastrophic risk

What is global catastrophic risk?

The modern world faces unprecedented threats. The worst of these, known as global catastrophic threats, can include: global pandemics, nuclear war, asteroid and comet impacts, supervolcanoes, sudden and severe changes to the climate, and intentional or accidental threats arising from the use and development of emerging technologies.

Any of these are threats that may produce consequences severe enough to result in significant harm to international security and human well-being on a global scale. The term ‘‘global catastrophic risk’’ (GCR) refers to the tremendous risk produced by these possible threats. 

Addressing vulnerability

GCR is not only dependent on the severity of the event, but also on how vulnerable our societal systems are to withstand the threat or hazard. 

Vulnerable societal systems could include: political and governance systems; economic and financial systems; food, water, energy and environmental systems; infrastructure; health systems; and information systems.

Improving the resilience of societal systems can reduce the risk of global catastrophic threats.

What is an all-hazards approach to GCR?

All-hazards risk management relates to the legislation, policies, guidance or activities that governments could take to manage risk as a whole. By focusing on an all-hazards approach, Global Shield aims to develop policies that reduce GCR overall.

This approach is important because it provides a strategic policy framework to reduce GCRs. It provides governments and societies a holistic view of risk reduction efforts, which helps identify gaps in policy as well as linkages between different policy efforts.

Governments are also better able to address multiple threats and hazards at the same time when they adopt all-hazards policies. With all-hazards policies in place, governments can reduce risk across the threat spectrum and increase humanity’s ability to manage a catastrophe that’s triggered by multiple sources or that leads to cascading consequences. This approach is a more efficient use of government resources.

All-hazards policy is also an insurance strategy in the face of uncertainty. We cannot predict the future, the specific threats and hazards that will arise, and what their precise impact will be. Treating GCR as a category means that humanity can be ready for the unexpected and unprecedented. This approach is especially important for reducing the risk from unknown threats and emerging technologies, which by their very nature will have unanticipated effects on national and international security. 


An all-hazards approach helps save more lives, protects critical functions of society more efficiently and effectively, and ensures countries can recover more quickly from a catastrophe.

What does all-hazards GCR policy mean in practice?

Global Shield sees seven key areas policymakers can take actions on GCR in an all-hazards approach:

  • Risk governance: Functions that guide, coordinate and oversee GCR policy, including architecture and institutional design, policy guidance and strategic planning, personnel and culture, decision-making processes, and monitoring and evaluation of implementation.
  • Risk understanding: Activities to identify, study, analyze, assess, monitor or warn about GCR
  • Risk prevention: Activities that reduce the probability that global catastrophic threats or hazards occur or address the conditions that exacerbate GCR.
  • Risk preparedness: Activities that reduce the vulnerability of our health, economic, societal, environmental, and resource systems to GCR and increase overall resilience to GCR.
  • Risk response: Actions taken during and immediately after a risk event in order to reduce impact and recover from the catastrophe. 
  • Risk communications: Activities to share or exchange information and conduct dialogue with stakeholders about GCR.
  • Risk collaboration: Activities to coordinate and engage with these stakeholders to share information and lessons, and drive collective action on GCR.

Global Shield intends to research, develop, and advocate for pragmatic policies across each of these areas in the countries that it operates.