Risk Today and in the Future

Risks are changing in character and becoming more overlapping, especially as countries are highly interdependent and connected to each other. Professor Mo Hamza from the Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety at Lund University, also the organizer of the symposium on 7 March, discusses the risks of today and of the future:

What are some of the greatest risks for humankind in the future?

Image: Asian Development Bank

“Climate change impact is by far the greatest risk that humankind is facing at the moment. In fact, it is already happening and can no longer be seen as a problem in the distant future. Climate impact in one part of the world can lead to mounting pressure on livelihoods and human systems or political instability and conflict in another

part of the world. No country or region is immune from its impact, which is manifested in different forms. Where risk originates and where its effects are noticeable are therefore not necessarily in the same spot”, says Mo Hamza.

“The rising tide of populism, nationalism and protectionism pose a whole new raft of risks in furthering divisions in a world that needs more collaboration on transboundary problems – especially now as we need to find ways to combat climate change together. Our symposium will cover the juxtaposition and overlap of several types of risks to natural and human systems, since separating them is no longer possible”, he continues.

What role does research play when it comes to managing risks? And how do we translate science into “action on the ground”?

Professor Mo Hamza.

Research aims to first understand the nature of risk and analyze the contributing vulnerability factors or the weaknesses in the system that generates that risk. In simple terms, there is no risk without vulnerability and no natural, engineering or societal system that is risk free or is at zero risk of failure.

But what science and research aim to reach is not a “fail safe system(s)” because that is virtually impossible.The aim is to reach a more “safe fail systems(s)”. In other words, how can parts of any system fail (e.g. a power cut) without bringing down the entire system with it and leading to cascading domino effect collapse right down to risk to human beings.

Translating that to action on the ground requires commitment from politicians, finance, national and local authorities especially in understanding the importance of investment in safer infrastructure systems, and development of long-term adaptation to climate change be it in energy sources, protection of natural habitat, or assistance to other countries that are more impacted by climate change and natural hazards but lack the technical and/or financial means to respond.

This requires a holistic approach to risk management as outlined above and not seeing risk to one system as separate from another or from the societal structure at large, says Mo Hamza.

The symposium Disasters Evermore: Past, Present and Future Risk in an Uncertain World is held on 7 Mars between 15:00 pm to 18:00 pm in the main University building in Lund.

Speakers include: Margareta Wahlström, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, Helena Lindberg, Director General, Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) and Dan Smith, Director, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Professor Henrik Tehler from the Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety, Lund University will discuss risk to critical infrastructure and technical systems.
”My presentation will focus on some challenges for the management of risk in systems and assets that are vital for the functioning of a society. For example, transportation systems and electric distribution systems. It will also highlight some of the current research efforts focusing on the challenges”, he writes.

Reader Johan Bergström, also from the Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety, Lund University, will talk about risk to human and societal systems. He writes: ”In a society of increasing complexity risk management becomes not only a technological problem but indeed also a social and ethical problem. Three trends currently stand out in the societal risk discourse: (1) that safety and security are treated as the ‘same thing’, (2) that ‘resilience’ is celebrated as the solution to increased complexity and unpredictability of emerging risks, and (3) that risk management is now seen as a process of governance; one in which some will win and some will lose. This is what I will address in my presentation”

Professor Emily Boyd, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS) will give a presentation entitled ”Risk to environmental, livelihoods and eco-systems”.

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