Vulnerability and risk: Some thoughts from a political and policy perspective

Daniel Sarewitz, Roger Pielke, Mojdeh Keykhah

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

180 Scopus citations


Public policies to mitigate the impacts of extreme events such as hurricanes or terrorist attacks will differ depending on whether they focus on reducing risk or reducing vulnerability. Here we present and defend six assertions aimed at exploring the benefits of vulnerability-based policies. (1) Risk-based approaches to covering the costs of extreme events do not depend for their success on reduction of vulnerability. (2) Risk-based approaches to preparing for extreme events are focused on acquiring accurate probabilistic information about the events themselves. (3) Understanding and reducing vulnerability does not demand accurate predictions of the incidence of extreme events. (4) Extreme events are created by context. (5) It is politically difficult to justify vulnerability reduction on economic grounds. (6) Vulnerability reduction is a human rights issue; risk reduction is not.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)805-810
Number of pages6
JournalRisk Analysis
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Extreme events
  • Predictions
  • Public policy
  • Risk
  • Uncertainty
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Physiology (medical)


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