Reducing Global Catastrophic Biological Risks


This guide defines global catastrophic biological risks (GCBRs) as “risks that threaten great worldwide damage to human welfare, and place the long-term trajectory of humankind in jeopardy… [and are] broadly biological in nature”. The author then analyzes historical, current, and potential biological risks (e.g., The Black Death, horsepox, etc.) and argues that some historical biological risks such as the Black Death aren’t GCBRs because “although afflicting a large part of humanity, [they] left another large part unscathed”. He also notes that, beyond naturally occurring viruses, “‘Artificial’ GCBRs are a category of increasing concern, owed to advancing biotechnological capacity alongside the increasing risk of its misuse.”


Gregory Lewis

Publication Date

March 2020


80,000 Hours



Resource Type


Systems Addressed

Geopolitics and International Security • Health

Resource Theme

Catastrophic and Existential Risk • Disaster Prevention and Response
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