Research Alert

A study by researchers in New Zealand ranked 20 island nations as potential refuges for humans in the event of a catastrophic pandemic. Island refuges are one strategy proposed to mitigate against existential threats like a pandemic, nuclear war, and extreme global warming. To determine the strength of each island as a safe harbor for humanity, their data analysis included 14 factors such as education level, military capability, climate vulnerability, and health security. The top performers were Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, Japan, and Cuba. The researchers also assessed the performance of each island nation during early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their results showed that the fewer visitors an island has per annum, and the farther it is from the nearest landmass, the longer it took for COVID-19 to arrive. The authors suggest several mitigation strategies to improve the top islands’ chances of success in a refuge scenario. These include stockpiling medical supplies, developing off-grid communications networks, strengthening community ties to avoid conflict and disinformation, and passing legislation that requires government to consider the long-term future. 

The full article can be found on the Risk Analysis journal website at