Alternate Food Generally food that is not dependent on sunlight, though in some catastrophes, there would be some sunlight.
Nuclear Winter/Autumn Nuclear war between the US and Russia would cause the burning of cities, and the smoke could block the sun for a decade, causing freezing temperatures even in the summer: nuclear winter. Regional nuclear war, such as that between India and Pakistan, would likely cause a nuclear autumn, or around 10% global food supply reduction.
Vasili ArkhipovSoviet Russian submarine officer who during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis refused to give his consent to the submarine captain’s order to launch a nuclear tipped torpedo at an American aircraft carrier, thereby almost certainly preventing global thermonuclear war. Thomas Blanton, director of the US National Security Archives, called him ‘the man who saved the world’. Why included: The human species has evolved to the point where the actions of a single man prevented the deaths of hundreds of millions if not billions of humans.
Stanislav Petrov Soviet air force officer on duty at a missile control center outside Moscow in 1983 when a new Russian satellite system detected what appeared to be an American nuclear first strike. Petrov correctly concluded that it must be a false alarm and did not send a warning up the chain of command. Like Vasili Arkhipov, he is believed to have saved the world from a nuclear holocaust.
The Strangelove Paradox In popular culture the idea that the more advanced an intelligent species becomes the more likely it is to destroy itself. Inspired by the 1964 motion picture Dr. Strangelove about the flawed logic of top decision makers in the US and the Soviet Union that results in the destruction of the human race in a nuclear war.
Multiple Breadbasket Failure Failure of major grain producing areas on multiple continents at the same time, which could be caused by coincident extreme weather.
Abrupt Climate Change Regional climate change of 10°C (18°F) in one decade. This has happened many times in the past.
Extreme Climate Change (Slow)More than 5°C (9°F) warming over about a century.
PreparednessAbility to respond quickly to a catastrophe and recover food systems. Though some would call this resilience, we want to contrast our efforts to conventional resilience to slow climate change.
Global Catastrophic Risk The threat of a catastrophe that significantly harms or destroys civilization.
Existential Risk The threat of a catastrophe that causes human extinction.
Asteroid/CometAsteroids are largely between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The big ones have mostly been mapped. Comets come from outside of the solar system, and are generally not mapped. We may have very little warning with a dark comet.
Species ConsciousnessIn popular culture, the idea that the more humans begin to consciously think of themselves as one intelligent species in the universe the more likely they are to behave as one.
Artificial IntelligenceAgents that humans create that take actions towards a set of goals. The main concern is when an AI surpasses humans across a wide range of domains and how to align such an AI with human goals.
Cuban Missile CrisisA close call in 1962 during the cold war in which the tensions between the US and Russia almost resulted in nuclear war.
Effective AltruismPhilosophy of using evidence and reason to determine the most impactful ways to benefit others and put it into practice.
HEMPHigh Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse. An electromagnetic wave caused by a nuclear detonation in the atmosphere that can severely damage infrastructure critical to the continued functioning of the electrical grid.
PandemicThe spread of an infectious disease affecting multiple countries and large numbers of people.
Volcano / SupervolcanoVolcanoes vary in size. We are most concerned about supervolcanic eruptions; the largest eruptions that can have large impact on global or regional climate. However, a large non-supervolcanic eruption in 1815 caused the year without a summer in 1816.
Loss of IndustryDamage to critical infrastructure causing electrical grid failure for a long period of time. Since nearly everything depends on electricity, including pulling fossil fuels from the ground, this could cause the collapse of industrial civilization. This can happen from natural events like solar storms or human caused events like HEMPs and a coordinated cyber attack.
Large Power TransformersLarge, custom built machinery that is critical to the functioning of the electrical grid. If damaged, can take months to years to replace.
Grid FailureDamage to electrical infrastructure stopping the flow of electricity to homes and businesses.
StuxnetA malicious computer virus thought to have been used to disable centrifuges in Iran for separating nuclear material. Illustrative of the potential damage that can be caused by computer viruses to physical infrastructure.
Single cell proteinGeneral term for food sources that involve algae or bacteria. Algae (seaweed) is in many conventional foods like sushi. Bacteria is in many conventional foods, like yogurt and the supplement spirulina.