A Scale of Risk

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This article proposes a conceptual framework for ranking the relative gravity of diverse risks. This framework identifies the moral considerations that should inform the evaluation and comparison of diverse risks. A common definition of risk includes two dimensions: the probability of occurrence and the associated consequences of a set of hazardous scenarios. This article first expands this definition to include a third dimension: the source of a risk. The source of a risk refers to the agents involved in the creation or maintenance of a risk and captures a central moral concern about risks. Then, a scale of risk is proposed to categorize risks along a multidimensional ranking, based on a comparative evaluation of the consequences, probability, and source of a given risk. A risk is ranked higher on the scale the larger the consequences, the greater the probability, and the more morally culpable the source. The information from the proposed comparative evaluation of risks can inform the selection of priorities for risk mitigation.

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