Managing Risk with Climate Vulnerability Science

Author data: 
Paul C. Stern, Kristie L. Ebi, Robin Leichenko, Richard Stuart Olson, John Steinbruner & Robert Lempert
Publication Date: 
June 2013
Description: 

Nature Climate Change

Document Type: 
Articles and Op-Eds

Extreme storms, coastal floods, droughts, wildfires and other disruptive climate-related events are increasingly in the headlines, along with their associated major financial losses and social and political disruptions1. Climate change is causing extreme weather and climate events to become more frequent and intense, with this trend expected to continue and, for some kinds of event, to accelerate in the coming years and decades, regardless of attempts to limit the human actions responsible. Such events are occurring not just singly, but also jointly and sequentially, with less time for recovery in between.

Major climate-related disruptions may result from both extreme and non-extreme events that overwhelm a social system's defences, revealing the dangers of policy inaction. Policymakers and managers of public- and private-sector entities are seeking ways to effectively prepare for, respond to, cope with and recover from climate-related events. One avenue to improve preparedness is through the practice of 'stress testing', which, similar to the process in the financial sector, entails developing scenario-based risk analyses for potentially disruptive events, taking into consideration changes in key factors that affect impacts, particularly those outside historic experience. Climate stress tests consider how a potentially affected country, region, or socioeconomic system would be likely to perform, including how it might suffer, if struck by particular climate-related events and suggest ways to increase resilience to a broad range of possible disruptive events.