Two Workshops on Global Systems Science and Sustainability Challenges
Chair: Diana Mangalagiu
The understanding and governance of global systems – social, economic and ecological (socio-eco-eco) – raises questions about systemic risks and multi-scalar resilience. This requires new systemic perspectives in science and policy and the development of models and analyses that span the whole range of scales and domains. Global Systems Science (GSS) should find novel responses to the unsustainable trends of global socio-eco-eco systems by developing a new set of approaches to system modeling and governance. GSS should explore the role of ICT in linking various global systems, in fostering global learning communities and awareness, and developing new methodologies and decision support systems for global governance. The role of ICT here is twofold: bring the necessary knowledge (data on the state of the world, models, and data on societal and individual behaviors) and provide a means for new forms of societal organization to better cope and anticipate (systemic and emergent) risks.
In this workshop, we look into the global sustainability challenges through two different perspectives: 1/ from the challenge of extreme events and 2/ through the link between global climate policy and the financial crisis and global markets.
1/ Global sustainability and the challenge of extreme events
Traditionally, the main sources of risks – hazard, exposure and vulnerability to extreme events – tend to be dealt with separately. We will inquire how to better integrate risk management and governance and build pathways towards more resilient global interconnected societies.
Questions we would like to address include (but are not limited to):
- What is unique of global systems risks and the resilience of global systems (functioning)?
- What the challenges of extreme events mean for the reconceptualization of risk and resilience of global systems?
- How can our current knowledge support change processes? What is needed in order to reduce risks and better manage disasters?
- How to deal with the multi-scalar sources of instability in global systems?
- How to tackle the multi-dimensional aspects of disasters (natural disaster, pandemic etc.)?
- How to combine adaptability with transformability of systems? How to implement ‘extreme adaptation policies’? How to harness transformability?
- How can resilience to disasters be increased in a time of global economic crises, decreasing resource availability at local, national and international levels? How can more be achieved with less?
- What is the role of data (e.g. data through sensors, in a smart city context)?
- How to deal with the cognitive and empowerment issues at the core of global challenges? What is the role of social media in this process?
- E.g., the global environmental change and sustainability issues have been framed as a collective problem rather than an individual one. Is there a need to bring it back to the individual level and if yes, how?
- E.g., Individual and collective risk perceptions influence the allocation of resources and investment decisions. How models can better take such aspects into account?
- What role can ICT play in?
- Preventing disasters: E.g. Early warning systems; learning from previous disasters; disaster-related citizen participation; use of social media in mobilizing and activating information thus empowering citizens and help build resilient communities;
- Response times to disasters: E.g. Search and rescue technology and expertise; improvement of disaster investigation systems using smart phones, GPS, sensors, social media for gathering valuable information in real-time (providing situational updates, geo-location information, situation awareness etc.);
- Disaster recovery: E.g. Coordination of National Disaster Management Systems; public health and telemedicine during disaster recovery.
2/ The link between global climate policy and the financial crisis and global markets perspective
Today there is compelling evidence that at the heart of the global financial crisis there is a capital crisis from the energy flows imbalance (two third of global imbalances are due to energy). This raises the questions of the sustainability of a globalized open financial system dependent on fossil fuel and of its consequences in terms of systemic issues. A possible response is to tackle jointly the governance of energy systems – in which the climate can be thought an unwanted negative effect of its malfunctioning – with the governance of information systems, in which the financial systems are also part. Thus reforming climate and financial issues could be thought as two key pillars in the move toward an integrated strategy for a green transformation. A green transformation strategy could offer the opportunity to address the current financial and economic crisis by turning sufficient amounts of financial capital into entrepreneurial investment. Transforming the cities, businesses, energy systems and homes jointly with making the best use of information systems, including ICT and knowledge about transparency and governance of monetary flows so as to increase welfare while reducing damages to the environment is great opportunity and a tremendous challenge at the same time. Moreover, given the scale of the finance required, combined with tightening fiscal constraints in most industrialized countries, the challenge to leverage significant investment is.
Questions we would like to address include (but are not limited to):
- What type of science for what type of world? That is, it does not make sense to answer what type of science we want if we don’t know or make explicitly what type of world we want.
- Do we want a GSS to do the same as today? Or do we want a GSS for a different type of society(ies)? Is GSS as we can conceive of it today possible without the ICT tools at our disposal?
- How can GSS help addressing systemic risk, finance and the sustainability challenges together?
- How to bring into focus the long-term nature of both sustainability issues and long term-finance needed?
- How to tackle the issue of risk transfer from private to public sector (there are similarities in this respect between the financial crisis issues and the sustainability issues)? How can data and models of risk help in better regulation?
- How the broadening scope of information available for decision-making changes our conception of money and its role in how society functions? How changing the nature of information can change the nature of decision-making? Money is information but we know the system is fundamentally flawed and our balance sheet is broken – blind to a wide range of issues that matter greatly in terms of risk matrix that went global and multi-scalar with long supply chains and shadow (i.e., invisible) dependencies.
- What role ICT plays in a differentiated globalization? As ICT allows the emergence of different forms of local economies, it may push us in the direction of a new type of globalization with a re-evaluation of the nature, risks and opportunities in managing supply chains. Can ICT help us to rebalance supply chains based on their length, risks and social payoffs they bring by making visible and bringing into the decision making new dimensions reflecting forms of social capital invisible otherwise?
- How to use ICT to provide opportunities for public engagement, political participation, more sustainable consumption and altogether societal change?