How Extreme Weather Events Could Take Down Entire Socioeconomic Systems
Planning for individual disasters, rather than thinking of them as interconnected events, could have severe consequences for health, energy and agriculture, food production and other vital sectors, based on a recent research study.
The study, developed by researchers at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, focused on understanding how extreme weather might affect linked socioeconomic systems. It reviewed eight historical concurrent heat/drought events in Europe, Africa and Australia from the past 20 years, then compiled examples of interlinked impacts on critical services and sectors.
In one example, drought events reduced river navigation options, resulting in limits to transport of critical goods. In another, prolonged heat buckled railroad tracks, affecting rail transport. In each cascading process, the researchers found the most important impacts focused on health, energy, and agriculture/food production sectors.
As part of the conclusion, the study’s authors noted, “More efforts should be concentrated on the analysis of such cascading risks and on strategies to interrupt such chains of impacts, rather than compartmentalizing risk assessment into single extreme events, impacts and sectors.”