Synchronous Failure: The Emerging Causal Architecture of Global Crisis


The authors argue we are increasingly witnessing a new form global crises they characterize as “synchronous failure.” This form of crisis “is more biophysical in origin, more inter-systemic in manifestation, more global in scope, and more rapid in development” (5). The deep cause of synchronous failure are increases in energy throughput, heightened global connectivity, and increasing homogeneity in global systems. The authors then explore the 2008-9 Global Financial Crisis as a synchronized crisis of financial, energy, and food systems, demonstrating the operation of long fuse, big bang causes (threshold effects), simultaneous stresses, and ramifying cascades of perturbations.


Thomas Homer-Dixon, Brian Walker, Reinette Biggs, Anne-Sophie Crépin, Carl Folke, Eric F. Lambin, Garry D. Peterson, Johan Rockström, Marten Scheffer, Will Steffen, and Max Troell

Publication Date



Ecology and Society (vol. 20, no. 3, art. 6)



Resource Type

Academic Journal Article

Systems Addressed

Economy • Energy • Food • Social Order and Governance
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