Thomas F. Homer-Dixon, CIGI Chair of Global Systems, Balsillie School of International Affairs; full Professor, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo
(This event is free and open to everyone. Registration is not required but prompt arrival is advised.)
Summary: Climate policy is gridlocked nationally and globally, with virtually no chance of a breakthrough under current conditions. Policy makers need to accept that societies will not make drastic changes to address climate change until a climate crisis hits. The recent financial crisis showed that when powerful special interests have convinced much of the public that what they are doing is not dangerous, only a disaster that discredits those interests will provide an opportunity for comprehensive policy change.
Societies that have response plans on the shelf will be far better off than those that are blindsided. The task for national and regional leaders, then, is to develop a set of contingency plans for possible climate shocks — what we might call, collectively, Plan Z. Such a plan should include detailed scenarios of plausible climate shocks; close analyses of options for emergency response by governments, corporations and nongovernmental groups; and clear specifics about what resources — financial, technological and organizational — we will need to cope with different types of crises.
Thomas Homer-Dixon holds the Centre for International Governance Innovation Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Canada, and is a Professor in the Centre for Environment and Business in the Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo.