Lara Mani and I have a comment article published in Nature this week about large magnitude volcanic eruptions:
TLDR: I also wrote a twitter thread here:
This is more condensed focus piece, but contains elements we've covered in these posts too.
This is really the start of the work we've been doing in this area, we're hoping to quantify how globally catastrophic large eruptions would be for our global food, water and critical systems. From there, we'll have a better idea of the most effective mitigation strategies. But because this is such a neglected area (screenshot below), we know that even modest investment and effort will go a long way.
We highlight several ways we think could help save a lot of lives both in the near term (smaller, more frequent eruptions) and the in future (large mag and super-eruptions):
a) pinpointing where the biggest risks area/volcanoes are b) increasing and improving monitoring c) increasing preparedness (e.g. nowcasting-see below), and d) research volcano geoengineering (the ethics of which we're working with Anders Sandberg on).
The last point may interest some others in the x-risk community, as potential solutions like these ones (screenshot below), could potentially help mitigate the effects from nuclear, and asteroid winters too. We're having conversations with atmospheric scientists about this type of research.
Another way tech-savy EAs might be able to help with is the creation of 'nowcasting' technology, which again would be useful for a range of Global Catastrophic Risks.
The paper has been covered a fair bit in the international media, (e.g. https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/one-in-six-chance-of-a-massive-volcanic-eruption-this-century-tzlgb6ksx) and we feel like we could use this mometumn to make some tractable improvements to global volcanic risk.
If you'd like to help fund our work or discuss any of these ideas with us then get in touch!
It is interesting to note that, at least according to Toby Ord's The Precipice, the existential risk from 2021 to 2120 from climate change is only 10 times (= 0.1 % / 0.01 %) as large as than of supervolcanic eruptions. However, efforts to reduce the damage of these are much more neglected, and do not seem clearly non-tractable, so they are arguably underrated.
Based on the probability of 1/6 of an eruption with a magnitude equal or larger than 7 in this century, and existential risk from eruptions in this century of 0.00800 % (= 1 - (1 - 0.01 %)^(80/100)), it seems like the probability of existential catastrophe given an eruption of magnitude equal or larger than 7 is 0.05 % (= 0.00800 % / (1/6)). Do you think this is too low/high? What would be the ejection of soot into the stratosphere given a volcanic eruption whose volcanic explosivity index is at least 7?