The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have raised concerns about the resilience of our interconnected world against major shocks and pressures that are foreseeable but uncertain in timing and effects. This crisis shows that when governments, businesses and communities are taken by surprise, they can adapt or create new strategies on the fly. But these strategies do not prevent large-scale impacts on health, income, wellbeing, the environment and social equality.

Overall, the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that the world is ill-prepared for the ongoing and accelerating societal and environmental risks induced by climate change. A pandemic is just one type of transboundary risk that may be exacerbated by climate change. Other combinations of climate events with environmental degradation will likely have wide-ranging implications for our global systems in the future. This will increase the need for greater international social-ecological resilience.

These lessons, which are explored in this briefing by the CASCADES project, should be taken as a new starting point when planning for future crises.