Humanity faces an array of grave, long-term challenges, now often labeled “global systemic risks.” While scientific knowledge of the individual risks spawning these crises is deep, our understanding of causal links among risks remains shallow. These observations raise two key questions: What causal processes might be accelerating and amplifying risks within global natural and social systems and synchronizing risks (and their concomitant crises) across these systems? And what might humanity do to mitigate or even reverse these processes? We argue, however, that these trends, by themselves, do not fully explain this moment’s seemingly sharp amplification, acceleration, and synchronization of systemic risks. We offer a novel analytical framework to aid identification of hitherto unrecognized, complex teleconnections and self-reinforcing feedbacks among global systems. Research is urgently needed, because the ultimate result of such unrecognized processes could be a global polycrisis—a single, macro-crisis of interconnected, runaway failures of Earth’s vital natural and social systems that irreversibly degrades humanity’s prospects.
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Homer-Dixon, T., Renn, O., Rockstrom, J., Donges, J. F., & Janzwood, S. (2022). A Call for An International Research Program on the Risk of a Global Polycrisis. doi:10.2139/ssrn.4058592.
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