In GC2, random events and mega events were there to stir the pot, and change the situation in the current game, often times dramaticly. And while I do enjoy the variety and uncertainty these bring, and the ability to destablize the balance of power they could be much more interesting in Elemental.
My biggest issue with random events, is that there is no way to prevent them, and there is generally only one way to deal with them. An allies leader is assassinated and you're implicated in the act, but you have no way to try and stop this from happening, or even attempting to talk your way out of it. Part of your empire is about to defect, and yet you have no idea the jagged knife exists or what they plan. Pirates swarm the galaxy, and somehow you were completely in the dark to the fact they were amassing a large powerful force.
I think the solution is actually rather simple, use quests as a means to prevent and as an alternate solution to some/most random events. The jagged knife is planning to defect, you send a hero to defeat their leader and stop the problem before it becomes one, or should you fail to do that, you recieve a quest from them with what you'll need to do for them to return your planets to you. You find out an assassin his heading for an allies leader, you move to protect your ally or even simply warn them. Pirates are building up, establish a stronghold in the area and take out their bases and send a hero after their leader before they get too strong.
Not all events should have a warning, if a portal suddenly appears for no apparent reason, it should do just that. And to even recieve warning in most cases should require the use of divination oriented magic, or good ol' fashion espionage. None of this type of information should just be thrown into the players lap unless it makes sense for the specific situation, advanced warning should be earned in some fashion. But even if you dont see it coming, it would be nice if there were more then one solid choice for dealing with events.