Iceland’s Volcanic Eruption in Perspective

A couple of days ago I wrote on John Redwood’s blog

“Nowadays we appear to be too risk averse. The two examples of aircraft suffering from engine failure as a result of flying through an volcanic ash clouds were both (most probably) within a few miles of the volcano. The current volcanic particles could be bigger, but the density of the clouds will be lower a thousand miles or more from the volcano. The risk to an engine going down is very small, especially if the more concentrated areas are avoided.”

In today’s Times, under “Government ‘too cautious’ over ash cloud, Adonis admits” we have the following:-

“Britain was among the last European countries to lift flying restrictions as the first flight touched down at Heathrow just before 10pm yesterday.”

Last night the Civil Aviation Authority accepted evidence from airlines and manufacturers that flights could pass through low-density ash cloud without risking passengers’ safety

“Mr Brown said: “You have got to make sure that people are safe and secure.”

“We would never be forgiven if we had let planes fly and there was a real danger to people’s lives.”

 

I am not a scientist, merely an accountant who tries to put things in perspective. What drives Gordon Brown’s thinking is not to be perceived to be taking risks. This has cost us dearly in the reaction to terrorist attacks (even incompetent ones like the shoe-bomber and someone setting fire to their underpants); the reaction to swine flu and the reaction to climate change. Good decision-making is not a matter of how it will be perceived, or waiting until the evidence all goes one-way. Good decision-making through assessing the magnitude of risks with limited information.

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