Synchronous failure: The emerging causal architecture of global crisis

T. Homer-Dixon, B. Walker, R. Biggs, A.S. Crepin, C. Folke, E.F. Lambin, G.D. Peterson, J. Rockstrom, M. Scheffer, M. Troell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

83 Citations (Scopus)


Recent global crises reveal an emerging pattern of causation that could increasingly characterize the birth and progress of future global crises. A conceptual framework identifies this pattern’s deep causes, intermediate processes, and ultimate outcomes. The framework shows how multiple stresses can interact within a single social-ecological system to cause a shift in that system’s behavior, how simultaneous shifts of this kind in several largely discrete social-ecological systems can interact to cause a far larger intersystemic crisis, and how such a larger crisis can then rapidly propagate across multiple system boundaries to the global scale. Case studies of the 2008-2009 financial-energy and food-energy crises illustrate the framework. Suggestions are offered for future research to explore further the framework’s propositions. © 2015 by the author(s).
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages16
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Climate change
  • Conventional oil
  • Financial system
  • Global crises
  • Grain supply
  • Social-ecological system


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