Let's understand how the world functions

Politics & Society
Wednesday, May 7, 2014 - 18:45 to 19:45
stage A


Short thesis: 

Future climate extremes will hit hard on societies supply chains and thereby probe the stability of our society. It is time to understand how the world functions - not just the physical world - also our economic world. At Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research we set up the citizenscience project zeean to understand and project how our society will be effected by the impact of extreme weather events on global economic flows. In this session we present the project, explain how it works, how everyone can contribute and how each one can use zeean to better understand "how the world functions" as Alan Greenspan put it once.


Extreme weather — including massive storms such as Typhoon Haiyan and Hurricane Sandy, and severe floods and droughts — is likely to become more frequent and intense as global warming accelerates. Links in global economic chains and world markets mean that extreme weather in one place can have repercussions elsewhere. For example, a combination of exceptional rainfall and Cyclone Yasi in 2010–11 paralysed the world’s fourth-largest region of coal exploration in Queensland, Australia. Coking coal prices rose the following year by 25%. In 2011, droughts and floods in Russia, Pakistan and Australia caused global food prices to climb, possibly contributing to the escalation of civil unrest in Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia. The long-term economic impacts of Typhoon Haiyan, which devastated the Philippines in November 2013, are yet to be felt, but are likely to affect global trade and manufacturing. We need to understand how extreme weather impacts our supply chains. To this end, my colleagues and I at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany have set up the citizen science website, zeean (www.zeean.net) to host such information and to help to kick-start a community effort to understand and model it. By making these economic data available, governments and companies will be alerted to crucial bottlenecks in supply chains and can respond accordingly. Factoring in the costs of climate change will, we anticipate, allow market forces to help to stabilize the global supply network and make societies more resilient. The idea was presented in a commentary in Nature magazin (very much understandable for non-scientists) and in The Guardian.

In this session we will motivate why we need zeean, what everyone can do with it already now to better understand the global economic network and how everyone can contribute to it so make the world more sustainable and stable:

  • Why do we need to understand "how the world functions"? (5min talk by Prof. Dr. Anders Levermann)
  • GAP - how to find bottlenecks in the world's supply chains? (5min talk by physicist Sven Willner)
  • How can the world adapt? (5min talk by mathematician Leonie Wenz)
  • How to understand the markets' respond to climate destruction? (5min talk by physicist Robert Bierkandt)
  • How can you contribute? (5min talk by physicist Sven Willner)
  • Questions and Discussion (5min)
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