1 January 2012


Bernice Lee OBE

Executive Director, Hoffmann Centre for Sustainable Resource Economy

Felix Preston

Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Research Director, Energy, Environment and Resources

with Gemma Green


  • The frequency of high-impact, low-probability (HILP) events in the last decade such as Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and the nuclear crisis and tsunami in Japan, signals the emergence of a new 'normal' – the beginning of a crisis trend.
  • This report argues that governments and businesses remain insufficiently prepared to manage HILP crises and shoulder their economic, social and humanitarian consequences.
  • The report sets out the economic costs of HILP events and how the impacts of a shock spread across sectors and countries in today's globalized world. 
  • The report explores two critical dimensions of the decision-making environment during a crisis – omnipresent questions of scientific and technological uncertainty, and the competing economic and political interests of key stakeholders. 
  • Effective messaging and communications have never been more important in the management of high-impact events. The report draws on systemic analysis of social media to understand how the public discourse is shaped; highlights the window of opportunity to influence media messaging; and draws lessons for how the media should handle scientific uncertainties.