There’s evidence that asteroid impacts may have occurred much more frequently, and recently, than anyone previously thought. Of course evidence isn’t proof — there may be a better explanation for the apparently-related “chevrons” (huge inland flow-molded sedimentary deposits) and undersea craters, from which proponents of the asteroid-impact hypothesis infer mega-tsunamis — but it might be a good idea to reconsider the odds of asteroid impacts in light of this new information.
And speaking of odds, why is global warming more of a threat than asteroids? I’m not saying it isn’t. I am saying that our public-resource allocation decisions ought to be driven by realistic comparisons of the expected aggregate costs (i.e., the odds that an event will happen or its incidence in the population, multiplied by the cost of the event if it happens) of each class of events. What are the expected aggregate costs of
-Nuclear or other WMD attacks?
Not all of the information necessary to make such comparisons is available, but in cases where it isn’t (asteroids, global warming, WMD attacks) we can stipulate wide ranges of odds and possible costs and use these ranges in our comparisons.
Comparing risks in this way might lead to a different set of public priorities than does our current societal practice of responding to the most publicized and dramatic risks.
OTOH, there is little if any incentive for public officials to evaluate relative risks on their merits. The political incentives are all for response to spectacular risks and risks that have organized constituencies.
I suspect that better public education is the only effective remedy for this classic problem of public choice. Citizens are more likely to demand rational allocation of public resources if they better understand science, probability and statistics, and history — IOW, if they have the tools to make more-realistic risk assessments.
(Cross-posted on the Chicago Boyz Forum.)