Human-induced climate change has increased the severity of extreme events from droughts, wildfires and heatwaves to blizzards, hurricanes and floods.
A team of researchers from Princeton University and the Stockholm Resilience Center argue in the journal Ecosystems that humanity’s infrastructures — built, informational and social — are no longer sufficient to prepare for or respond to the volatility likely to define our future.
The authors argue that low-cost, rapid responses to extreme events, while necessary, are not enough to address the problem.
Instead, dealing with these extreme events will require new approaches to governance that emphasize large-scale collective action that is both adaptive and resilient. This means adopting proactive programs designed to assess and prepare for the repercussions of extreme events, rather than simply responding to these increasingly frequent disasters. It draws its inspiration from the evolutionary processes that have made biological systems robust and resilient.
“The actions of individual agents and the interests of societies must be integrated if we are to address the challenges posed by extreme events,” said author Simon Levin, professor in ecology and evolutionary biology.