Projected to experience multiple interrelated risks at 1.5 °C of global warming, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are often referred to as ‘canaries in the climate change coal mine’. The IPCC reports with high-to-medium confidence about the long-term risks of 1.5 °C of global warming on SIDS, with severe impacts on populations, livelihoods, and infrastructure, and critical resources such as food, energy, and water, that will limit adaptation opportunities as well. Enhanced understanding of what might constitute tipping points in the context of SIDS that lend to their vulnerability, therefore, remains crucial. This talk will introduce the concept of “socio-metabolic risk”, or systemic risk related to the availability and circulation of critical resources such as food, water, materials, and energy in a socio-economic system. Socio-metabolic risk is to islands as circulatory health problems are to humans – both constrain the entity’s ability to withstand significant shocks and changes. Maladaptive and climate insensitive development practices – such as coastal squeeze, high import dependency, and centralised energy systems – magnify islands climate vulnerability. Drawing on years of empirical research, this talk will highlight problematic patterns of increasing socio-metabolic risk in the Caribbean SIDS, that could potentially cascade into a metabolic collapse and tip the system to a point of no-return. These insights are crucial not only for small island economies, but also for humanity at large.
Simron Singh is a Professor in the Faculty of Environment, Enterprise and Development, University of Waterloo, Canada and currently visiting fellow at the Field of Excellence Climate Change Graz. Using small islands as a scope, he conducts socio-metabolic research to investigate the systemic links between material and energy use, infrastructure development, and associated risks to the human wellbeing and the economy. He has authored/co-edited 5 books, and published over 75 journal articles, book chapters, and reports. He is the founder and lead of the research program “Metabolism of Islands”, the Executive Secretary of the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE), Chair of the inaugural board of Island Industrial Ecology within ISIE, and Co-chair of Risk-KAN, a global research and action network of Future Earth, Integrated Research on Disaster Risk (IRDR), the World Weather Research Program (WWRP), and the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP).
The guest lecture takes place on 1st of June 2023 16:30-18:00 at SR 15.13 at ReSoWi Building Universitätsstraße 15 Bauteil B, first floor.