The new normal

Published on Monday, 19 November 2018

by Carlo Papa, Director of Enel Foundation

Indeed awareness is building up as extreme weather conditions in recent time have focused attention on the human and economic costs of weather-related disasters.

In fact, by examining last year data recorded by the US National Centers for Environmental Information, we can observe that 2017 was the warmest non-El Niño year since 1880 , characterized by larger footprint of severe and extreme heat events, droughts, forest fires, floods and, last but not least, hurricane. Without mentioning the unbearable human toll, just looking at economic losses, according to Munich RE, 2017 was the costliest year ever in terms of global weather disasters with 330-bn USD bill.  

Extending the annual observation horizon to a multi-year frame, records are showing definitive growth paths. The dynamic of relevant loss events with reference to climatological, meteorological and hydrological events shows a threefold growth since 1980.    

Moreover, if we observe the convergence between the different degrees of anthropization – referring to the rapid growth of megacities and more in particular to megacity resource and flows as a percentage of World values - and the geo-localization of natural loss events, it becomes clear how the risk at stake is growing substantially.

Analysing all those data and the many more the scientific community is monitoring - from CO2 emissions to the shrinkage of glaciers from the Andes to the Alps - it is clear a new normal condition, in which humanity around the World is called to operate, is here to stay and it is definitely characterized by increased hazard exposure and vulnerability.

A new normal that is making its way out of the scientific realm and supranational organization into government cabinets and boardrooms globally, starting to be factored in strategic planning and daily operations. A new operating environment that call upon each one of us for a holistic approach to resilience - defined as the capacity of a system to tolerate disturbances while retaining its structure and function – fully assumed with social responsibility  by the business. A community where leading companies wanting to change the World are fully aware of their role of responsible stewards of planet Earth to strive towards a sustainable future based on a circular economy.

Such a vision of a new normal requires awareness and preparation, conscious that companies could not isolate their operations from its interdependencies with society but instead business resilience requires embracing those dependencies. 

Shaping a resilient future for business, such as the one involved in UN Private Sector Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies ARISE, means align interests and inform debate and actions plans. More specifically facilitate the exchange of experience and knowledge on tangible disaster risk reduction projects – e.g. moving from  Run-to-Failure Management  to Preventive Maintenance exploiting the full benefit of digitalization -  as well promote within and outside their extended network the adoption of innovative strategies, investment metrics/benchmarking and standards, legal and regulatory frameworks incorporating the new normal vision.  Conscious that the new normal fundamental changes imply not only appropriate responses but also adequate systemic preparation and prevention.