Governing Disasters – The Challenge of Emergency Risk Regulation (Ed.)

Beyond the European Volcanic Ash Crisis

Edward Elgar Publishing 2011

Emergency crises have always tested our ability to organize and swiftly execute a coordinated response. Both natural and unnatural disasters pose new questions to which previous experience provides only limited answers. These challenges are arguably greater than ever, in a more globalized world confronted by a truly transnational hazard.

This is the first volume that addresses the complexities of the volcanic ash cloud that overshadowed Europe in April 2011, but has subsequently struck again in Australia, Chile and Europe. It does so from a multidisciplinary perspective, drawing upon research from economics, law, sociology and other fields, as well as volcanology and leading expertise in jet engineering. While our knowledge base is wide-ranging, there is a common focus on the practical lessons of the ash cloud crisis both for subsequent eruptions and for emergency risk regulation more generally.

Among many other insights Governing Disasters explains why it was that industry and regulators were largely unprepared for a phenomenon about which we were not scientifically ignorant. It concludes that the toolbox of risk regulation should not be expected to provide ready-made solutions but applied flexibly, creatively and with some humility. This unique and timely resource will be useful to policy makers, scholars, officials of international organizations, research institutions and consumer groups who want to acquire or further develop their capacities for risk regulation. For teaching purposes it is ideal for courses on risk regulation, disaster law and policy, and crisis management or as a supplement in courses on environmental law, transport law, space law or land use.

Contributors: A. Alemanno, N. Bernard, V. Brannigan, C.M. Briggs, M. Broberg, A. Burgess, G.G. Castellano, S. Chakraborty, A. Fioritto, F. Hansstein, L. Jachia, A. Jeunemaitre, C. Johnson, C. Lawless, F.B. López-Jurado, D. Macrae, M. Mazzocchi, V. Nikonov, M. Ragona, M. Simoncini, A.M. Viens


“Even the best-laid policy plans go awry. What do we do when, despite our best preventive efforts, a surprise crisis occurs? How do we regulate a disaster while it is unfolding? From volcanoes to tornadoes, and tsunamis to terrorists, extreme events test our resilience. In this illuminating volume, regulatory scholar Alberto Alemanno and his colleagues diagnose the complex combination of natural disasters and flawed institutions that make these crises so difficult to manage. They offer a set of insights and remedies that must be read by anyone concerned to deal with disasters in the future.

— Jonathan B. Wiener, Duke University

“This comprehensive edited volume makes an important and much needed contribution to an increasingly important dimension of risk assessment and management, namely emergency risk regulation. Drawing upon the responses of government, businesses, and the public to the 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland – which disrupted European air travel, it offers important lessons for policy-makers who are likely to confront similar unanticipated global risks. The recent nuclear power disaster in Japan makes this volume both timely and prescient.”

— David Vogel, University of California, Berkeley

“Catastrophes present us with a paradox. Many people don’t think they will happen, so before a catastrophe, regulations are typically viewed as unnecessarily invasive. But in the aftermath of a disaster everybody suddenly blames the government for not having been strict enough. Overregulation often follows. In light of the unprecedented series of catastrophes in recent years, more than ever, top leaders in government and business must understand and overcome this regulatory challenge. Alberto Alemanno’s innovative book tells you how.”

–Erwann Michel-Kerjan, The Wharton School’s Center for Risk Management

“[I]t is a valuable source of references to the literature for those who wish to learn more about this specific sub-field of risk research. Each of the chapters, from a different disciplinary perspective, ends with a bibliography and identifies a number of themes about the nature of emergency risk regulation. The book should be a valuable source of information and references for regulators, the regulated, and scholars in a wide range of disciplines such as law, economics, risk analysis, management, political science and sociology as it provides an original perspective on emergency risk regulation. “

–Tatjana Jovanic, European Journal of Risk Regulation

“The challenges posed by risky decisions are well documented. These decisions become even more daunting when they must be made in a midst of a crisis. Using the European volcanic risk crisis as the principal case study, Alberto Alemanno and the other contributors to this thought provoking volume derive valuable lessons for how policy makers can cope with the attendant time pressures, uncertainties, coordination issues, and risk communication problems. Once the next emergency risk situation occurs, it may be too late to learn about how to respond. Governing Disasters should be required reading for all policy makers and risk analysts in advance of the next international risk crisis.”

–W. Kip Viscusi, Vanderbilt University and Editor, Journal of Risk and Uncertainty