Professor Emerita and former Director, Center for Disaster Management, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh.
Louise K. Comfort is Professor Emerita and former Director, Center for Disaster Management, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Pittsburgh. She is a faculty affiliate with the Policy Lab, Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, University of California, Berkeley and Concurrent Professor, School of Government, Nanjing University, Nanjing, China, 2019. She is a Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration and received the 2020 Fred Riggs Award for Lifetime Achievement, Section on International Comparative Administration, American Society for Public Administration. Her most recent book is The Dynamics of Risk: Changing Technologies and Collective Action in Seismic Events, Princeton University Press, 2019, which received the 2020 Don K. Price Award for Best Book from the Section on Science, Technology, and Environmental Politics, American Political Science Association. She currently serves as Chief Editor, Social Sciences, for the Natural Hazards Review, Board Member, International Comparative Policy Analysis Forum, and on the editorial boards of the American Review of Public Administration and Administration & Society. Her research has focused on decision making in urgent events: earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and most recently, COVID-19.
Presentation: Redesigning Lifeline Systems to Cope with Climate Change: A Sociotechnical Framework for Building Sustainable Resilient Communities Across Regions of Risk
Louise K. Comfort
Professor Emerita, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA 15260
The findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Sixth Assessment, released in July 2021 are clear. The planet is warming, and the increase in temperature of the earth and oceans will inexorably bring more frequent and more severe hazards to human communities. This means extreme drought in some regions that leads to wildfires and desiccated agricultural lands, extreme rainfall in other areas, leading to flash floods, sea level rise and storm surge, and more frequent, intense hurricanes and tornadoes. The consequences for the impact of such events on the aging infrastructure of the nation are evident, and the signals of dysfunction and failure are already clear in the breakdown of electrical grids under intense weather and the limitations in water supply in states enduring drought conditions. These conditions are a prelude to catastrophe, but also an invitation to re-imagine the lifeline systems that have been constructed over the last 100 years to serve the needs of growing metropolitan regions. The challenge is to recognize that the users of lifeline services are an indispensable partner in the redesign of these systems, and can provide a vital social adaptive component to the network of technical systems that provide essential services to human communities.