The Science of Climate and Resilience

The challenge

The complex interdependencies of social institutions, diverse natural ecosystems, and modern technology have produced a vast network of nested, hierarchical, self-organizing and adaptive systems that are pillars of modern civilization. Rapid global changes, including both long-term changes such as anthropogenic climate change as well as more short term changes such as natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or other sudden “shocks,” pose an increasing threat to these interdependent systems and the communities that rely on them.  In addition, these agricultural, built infrastructure, ecological, and social systems interact in complex and unpredictable ways, increasing the importance of more scientific understanding of their coupled behaviors and potentially catastrophic failures in the face of large sudden or long term changes in the environment. Resilience is a system’s ability to maintain a desired level of functioning in the face of a wide range of perturbations, such as environmental changes or sudden crises. In this interconnected world facing rapidly changing conditions, understanding the factors that make systems more resilient is crucial.

Scholars working on the science of climate and resilience bring specialized research in the areas of:

Building Sustainable Communities

A new interdisciplinary research community focused on creating community resilience in the face of natural disasters collaborated as a part of the Building Sustainable Communities cluster hire and research initiative. The group concentrated on topics ranging from transportation infrastructure designs, the role of social networks, and how small businesses are able to respond to natural disasters effectively.

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Social Decision-making and Sustainability

A Purdue University-led survey of nearly 700 U.S. scientists from non-climate disciplines shows that more than 90 percent believe that average global temperatures are higher than pre-1800s levels and that human activity has significantly contributed to the rise.

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Coupled Natural-Human Systems Interactions

A mathematical model now allows researchers to better understand and plan infrastructure design to account for human factors in systems ranging from small-scale agriculture to urban infrastructure.

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Policy and Regulation

Purdue researchers traveled to the Paris Climate Summit (COP21) in 2015 to learn about groups who are often marginalized and underrepresented in international decision-making arenas. At the summit, they addressed pressing justice, equity, and rights issues within international environmental negotiations.

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