Lara Mani; Doug Erwin; Lindley Johnson

Published On


Page Range

pp. 123–146


  • English

Print Length

24 pages



6. Natural Global Catastrophic Risks

To what extent is humanity vulnerable to natural catastrophic risks such as large-magnitude volcanic eruptions and Near-Earth Object impacts? And what does this risk landscape look like? This chapter explores the current state of research on natural catastrophic risks and considers how the latter are often underestimated, although their impact on our complex societies continues to grow.


Lara Mani

Senior Research Associate at Centre for the Study of Existential Risk

Lara Mani, PhD, is a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge, UK, where her research seeks to understand the efficacy of various communication methods and strategies for gaining traction for the mitigation and prevention of global catastrophic risks. Lara’s work also focuses on volcanic risk and particularly on the global risks posed by large magnitude eruptions and their cascading impacts.

Doug Erwin

Senior Scientist and Curator at National Museum of Natural History
External Faculty member at Santa Fe Institute

Douglas Erwin is a Senior Scientist and Curator at the National Museum of Natural History and an External Faculty member at the Santa Fe Institute. A paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, his research topics involve the end-Permian mass extinction and recovery, the early evolution of animals and the evolution of gene regulatory networks. He has just completed a book on evolutionary novelty and innovation.

Lindley Johnson


Lindley Johnson graduated from the University of Kansas in 1980 with a BA in Astronomy and a commission from Air Force ROTC. He also has an MS degree in Engineering Management from the University of Southern California. He is now assigned to NASA Headquarters Science Mission Directorate, Planetary Science Division, as the Lead Program Executive for the Planetary Defense Coordination Office and the NASA Planetary Defense Officer, tasked with warning and response to any potential impact of Earth by an asteroid or comet. Prior to NASA he served twenty-three years of Air Force active duty, obtaining the rank of lieutenant colonel and numerous military awards and decorations while working on a variety of national security space systems. After joining NASA in 2003, he was the Program Executive for NASA’s Deep Impact mission to comet Tempel 1, launched in January 2005 to deliver an impact probe to the comet’s surface on July 4, 2005, and explore the composition and interior structure of comets. He then served for eight years as the Lead Program Executive for the Discovery Program of mid-class Solar System exploration missions. NASA’s Near-Earth Objects Observations programme has discovered over 19,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets since Lindley became its manager, over 87% of the total known. Lindley has received NASA’s Exceptional Achievement Medal for his work on comet and asteroid missions. Asteroid 5905 (1989 CJ1) is named “Johnson” to recognise Lindley’s efforts in detecting near-Earth objects.