IIASA and Beijing Normal University are co-organizing a symposium titled, The International Symposium on Polycrises and Systemic risks: The need for an integrative approach for assessment and governance. The event will take place in Beijing, China from 9 to 10 May 2024. IIASA Interim Deputy Director General for Science, Wolfgang Lutz, and IIASA Research Group Leader, Reinhard Mechler, will participate in the event to bring together different communities of risk and hazard research, explore their commonalities, and discuss improved policy options for dealing more effectively with systemic risks in the future.

The world is facing multiple crises, referred to as polycrises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change-related disasters, political conflicts, food crises, inflation, and rising energy prices. These crises interconnect and amplify each other, creating systemic risks that threaten the wellbeing of people worldwide. Traditional cause-and-effect models are less effective in this new reality. Addressing these risks requires an interdisciplinary approach that recognizes the dynamic nature of complex systems. These systemic risks have become more severe, disruptive, and dangerous in recent decades, a phenomenon known as risk amplification.

The symposium aims to address the following key characteristics of present challenges in terms of systemic risks:

  • The need to address multiple parallel crises that influence and reinforce each other. The climate crisis is only one of many, albeit a particularly powerful one.
  • The need for a comprehensive systemic understanding of the interactions between social, natural, technological, and cultural hazards and domains.
  • The need to clearly identify conflicting goals and to make appropriate and ethically defensible trade-offs that have a high degree of resilience, especially against existing and future crises.
  • The need to refrain from one-dimensional optimizations, because they are usually associated with disproportionate losses on other equally important criteria.
  • The need for unvarnished comprehensible communication that addresses the conflicting goals.
  • The need to involve stakeholders and affected populations in weighing conflicting goals and to search for common solutions without wasting precious time.

The two-day symposium will bring together renowned experts on systemic risk from various disciplines and application areas. The list of speakers includes:

  1. Prof. Ortwin Renn, Research Institute for Sustainability (Rifs), Potsdam, Germany
  2. Prof. Wolfgang Lutz, Interim Deputy Director General for Science, IIASA
  3. Dr. Reinhard Mechler, Research Group Leader, IIASA
  4. Prof. Norio Okada, Kyoto University, Japan
  5. Prof. Hirokazu Tatano, DPRI, Kyoto University, Japan
  6. Prof. Dimiter Iainazov, Kyoto University, Japan
  7. Prof. Sasa Jovanovic, Steinbeis University Berlin,
  8. Prof. Guoyi Han, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sweden
  9. Prof. Qian Ye, University of Colorado, Boulder & Beijing Normal University
  10. Dr. Pia-Johanna Schweizer, Research Institute for Sustainability, Potsdam, Germany
  11. Dr. Constantin Arnscheidt, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge University, UK

Lutz, who is recognized as an expert in population and development research, will speak about Risks and opportunities arising from global demographic trends. Mechler, a risk and resilience expert, will speak about Transformation for addressing systemic risk: Theory and evidence. The papers prepared for and resulting from the symposium will be published in a special edition of the International Journal of Disaster Risk Science.