Climate change: a conversation on interconnected risks

Interconnected people

This is part of a Twitter conversation with Chris Parker, a UK hydrologist who specializes in climate hazards and climate impacts, on Jan 1, 2022.

Chris Parker @HyperHydr0

I often wonder how many possible climate hazards, impacts or risks there are that no one has either experienced, observed or thought possible. Given the events of the past 12 months it would be good to have some ideas so at least we are not totally blindsided if and when they occur.

Deirdre Des Jardins @flowinguphill

I think the risk that we aren’t looking at are the cumulative impacts on our society of multiple disasters. We’re already seeing some major, societal level impacts of COVID-19.

Chris Parker

Compound, concurrent and cascading risks are certainly areas of active research but the interconnected nature means it is very challenging.

Deirdre Des Jardins

I did research in complex systems theory at the Santa Fe Institute in the 1990s. One of the things that defines a system at a phase transition is instability at all scales, from micro to global. And I think our society is starting to experience that kind of instability.

On the most micro scale, it is neuropsychological responses to the existential threats posed by climate change, and activation of fear and anger. This could translate to increasing tribal bias and affective polarization between subgroups. They are the building blocks of society.

Chris Parker

Yes, I think COVID-19 has certainly highlighted this, if it wasn’t already obvious from climate discourse.

Further reading

Boxell, L., Gentzkow, M. & Shapiro, J. 2020. “Cross-Country Trends in Affective Polarization.” National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper No. 26669. Jan 2020.

Clark, C., Liu, B. Winegard, B., & Ditto, P. 2019. ‘”Tribalism is human nature.” Current directions in psychological science., 28(6).

Pescaroli, G., Alexander, D. 2018. Understanding Compound, Interconnected, Interacting, and Cascading Risks: A Holistic Framework. Risk analysis, 38(11).

Renström EA, Bäck H. 2021. Emotions during the Covid-19 pandemic: Fear, anxiety, and anger as mediators between threats and policy support and political actions. J Appl Soc Psychol. August 2021, 51(8).

Taylor, S. 2020. Anxiety disorders, climate change, and the challenges ahead: Introduction to the special issue. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 76.

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