‘Focus on enhancing urban resilience, tackling both causes and effects of major global challenges’ – Q&A with Nicola Tollin

A quick Q&A with Nicola Tollin, Professor wsr in Urban Resilience SDU Civil and Architectural Engineering, Department of Technology and Innovation, University of Southern Denmark

What is your most surprising prediction about cities?

Nicola Tollin

Today 50% of the world population lives in urban areas, consuming 60-80% consumption of energy and producing 60-80% greenhouse gas emissions, by using 75% of natural resources and generating 80% of global GDP. By 2050 the world urban population is expected to reach 70%, this meaning 2.5 billion more inhabitants in urban areas in the next 30 years.
The urbanization rate and the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions in cities are representing a challenge for meeting the goal of the Paris Agreement, aiming at keeping the global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius and at pursuing efforts to limit the temperature below 1.5 degrees Celsius, compared to an industrial level.
The increase of global temperature, further exacerbating, the negative impact of climate change that is currently affecting urban areas, from sea level rise to heat waves, that are increasingly putting at risk livelihoods, human life, and the world economy.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think about cities and technology?

Kenneth E. Boulding, economist and author of the Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth’ (1966), clearly outlined the paradox of living on a finite planet, with limited resources, aiming at exponential and unlimited growth. K.E. Boulding is also a key contributor in the development of system thinking and theories.

What 2-3 books / articles / podcasts would you recommend?

  • K. E. Boulding (1956), The Image: Knowledge in Life and Society, Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
  • World Commission on Environment and Development (1987). Our Common Future. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • E. Ostrom (1990); Governing the Commons, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

Where’s the best place for new ideas?

  • Philosophy
  • Theoretical physics
  • Literature

Who inspires you?

Gro Harlem Brundtland, former chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development, for being the role in leading and inspiring the definition of the funding principles of sustainable development.


Christiana Figueres, Former Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, for the key role and facilitation provided in the definition and approval of the Paris Agreement.

What is your call to action for startups?

Climate action in cities

What is the key question you explore in your research?

My group’s research is focusing on enhancing urban resilience, tackling both causes and effects of major global challenges, including urbanization, sustainability, development, pandemics, and climate change.


Learn more about Nicola Tollin
by connecting with him on LinkedIn

You might also want to follow SDU.Resilience vimeo channel with videos from an on-going webinar series on urban resilience.

And check out Nicola’s work: Urban Resilience for Risk and Adaptation Governance: Theory and Practice.